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Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse Treatment

Overview of Motivational Interviewing

  • Helps people work through resistance to treatment.
  • Used to treat a number of addictions.
  • Uses questions to help you think about how your addiction has affected your life.
  • May be combined with other treatments.
  • Shown to help people move forward with the recovery process.

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing is a type of psychotherapy that targets your motivation toward change by exploring the internal motivations for your behavior and resolving any ambivalence. In contrast to cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses more on problem-solving, motivational interviewing focuses more on your attitudes and empowering you to make a change.

Motivational interviewing may be used for treating addictions to:

Further, this technique may be used to treat other mental or behavioral health conditions that occur with substance abuse disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.

Call to speak with a treatment support specialist about motivational interviewing or another type of addiction therapy.

How Motivational Interviewing Is Used to Treat Addiction

In the early stages of treatment with motivational interviewing, the focus is on the change process and addressing your ambivalence and resistance to change.

Ambivalence and resistance to change are part of both the addictive process as well as the treatment prescribed for addiction. Accepting this is an important facet of motivational interviewing counseling and provides you with a supportive space to explore your particular situation. You can then more openly examine the pros and cons to change and even identify underlying reinforcements to your own substance abuse.

Some example questions addressing each aspect of the change process are provided in the table below.

Common Motivational Interviewing Questions:

What to Expect in a Therapy Session

Therapy sessions typically last about 1 hour. Your therapist will likely spend the first few minutes of every session checking in on your mood and any difficulties you’re having.

This treatment approach is person-centered and, as such, treatment sessions are generally focused on difficulties you’re facing. Given that the goal of motivational interviewing is to address ambivalence and resistance to change, you are not expected to maintain abstinence while undergoing treatment, though this may be the ultimate goal of therapy.

Cost of Treatment

The cost of treatment can vary widely from program to program, and individual insurance plans will differ in terms of available coverage.

Motivational Interviewing with Other Treatments

Motivational interviewing may be used as a standalone therapy, or as an add-on to another treatment.4

Some examples of other treatments that may be used in combination with motivational interviewing include:

Effectiveness in Treating Addiction

A number of studies have examined whether motivational interviewing is a useful tool in helping individuals with substance abuse and dependence.

Findings from these studies have provided some support for the benefits of motivational interviewing for individuals, particularly those who are initiating treatment for substance abuse or who are demonstrating some resistance to change, compared to either no treatment or comparison approaches.5

Motivational interviewing has also received support as an add-on approach to standard sessions of drug and alcohol addiction treatment.6

Drawbacks of This Approach

While motivational interviewing has received some support for its efficacy in treating a wide range of disorders, it is not for everyone.

In particular, it is recommended that individuals with very severe or long-standing histories of substance dependence or addiction seek more intensive treatment before undergoing a trial of outpatient psychotherapy with a focus of motivational interviewing.

Moreover, motivational interviewing is not recommended for those seeking detoxification.

Where to Get More Information

If you’d like to know more about motivational interviewing, or to locate a therapist in your area who is trained in motivational interviewing, visit the following websites:

Find a Treatment Program

If you’re looking for an addiction treatment program that offers motivational interviewing or another type of behavioral therapy, call to speak with a treatment support specialist.