Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a client centered counseling form that assists the practitioner in eliciting behavior change. Clients are helped in exploring and resolving ambivalence. Motivational interviewing is more focused and goal directed, which sets it apart from other methods in which therapists attempt to influence clients to consider making changes.

Motivational interviewing has a wide variety of applications and has been used in areas of substance abuse, health coaching, mental illness, problematic gambling, parenting, coaching, classroom management, intervention for behavior change and dual diagnosis.

Steps of Motivational Interviewing:

  1. Engaging: the process of establishing a working relationship based on trust and respect. The client should be doing most of the talking, as the counselor utilizes the skill of reflective listening throughout the process. Both the client and counselor make an agreement on treatment goals and collaborate on the tasks that will help the client reach those goals.

  2. Focusing: the ongoing process of seeking and maintaining direction.

  3. Evoking: eliciting the client's own motivations for change, while evoking hope and confidence.

  4. Planning: involves the client making a commitment to change, and together with the counselor, developing a specific plan of action. 

Interaction techniques used with Motivational Interviewing include open questions, affirmation, reflective listening, and summary reflections.

Open Questions: invite people to tell their story.

Affirmations: Build confidence in one’s ability to change. They also recognize strengths and behaviors that can lead someone to change.

Reflective Listening: Three types of reflective listening allow for rapport building, building trust and fostering motivation to change. The three types of reflective listening include repeating/rephrasing, paraphrasing and reflection of feeling.

Summary Reflection: Summarizing assists with ensuring that there is clear understanding between the speaker and listening.


Homeless Resource Center. 2007.