What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a method of talking with people about change. It is “a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change.” (Miller & Rollnick, 2013).  

The individual determines the focus or change goal while the practitioner serves as a guide. 

MI assumes that people already possess what they need to be motivated to change. They are not an empty vessel in need of being filled by an external source. They’re already filled with desires, life experience, values, hopes, knowledge, skills, wisdom, and more.

The desire to help people improve their health and well-being is a noble calling. However, all too often our efforts to help are spent trying to get people to change, rather than using a guiding approach to tap into a client’s own motivations for change.

Many of us have ample experience in trying to persuade, educate, entice, cajole, guilt trip, or use other means to get people to change. It is a natural human instinct to fix, or make right, what we perceive as misguided or harmful. However, such efforts to persuade someone to change are typically counterproductive, especially if the person is not convinced that making a change is desired or needed. 

It turns out that people don’t like being pressured to do something because someone else thinks they should do it, even if it’s in their best interest. The desire for self-determination runs deep in the human spirit.

MI helps shine a light on and explore the rich resources people already possess, in order to help them make decisions about next steps in their life’s journey. According to positive psychology, this process builds positive emotions, which in turn opens people up to their internal and external resources that they can use to improve their lives.


Attribution: Ken Kraybill