Motivational Interviewing is a fairly simple process that can be completed in a small number of sessions. The typical steps are as follows:
Engaging: Talking to the client about issues, concerns, and hopes, and establishing a trusting relationship
Focusing: Narrowing the conversation to the topic of patterns and habits the client desires to change
Evoking: Eliciting client motivation for change by increasing the sense of the importance of change, confidence that change can occur, and readiness for change
Planning: Developing a set of practical steps the client can use to implement the desired changes
MI is a client-centered model of counseling, meaning that the focus is on figuring out what clients want, not what the counselor thinks is best for them. This requires high levels of empathy, reflective listening, and the ability to form a strong bond with the client in a short period of time. In one study, students addicted to tobacco who received this treatment were four times more likely than those in the control group to either attempt quitting or cutting down.
The main point of MI is overcoming the internal battle over whether one really wants to quit or not. Even though there are clearly many reasons to stop abusing drugs or get serious treatment for an addiction, to an addicted individual, there are also many reasons not to. Clients may go back and forth many times, feeling motivated to quit after encountering health or legal consequences of drug abuse or a conversation with a loved one, but losing that motivation the next morning.
MI aims to clearly lay out the pros and cons of quitting based on what the client feels is important. Once clients overcome denial and come to their own conclusions about the pros and cons of drug abuse, their desire to change, what that change looks like, and how they want to implement that change, it becomes a lot easier for that change to take place. Clients don’t feel forced to give up something they love. Instead, they’re pursuing a life change that they themselves have chosen.