Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Millions of Americans struggle with addiction but only a small percentage of them get professional treatment.
Making the decision to change your behavior and get sober is difficult. It sounds easy but giving up drugs and alcohol can be extremely challenging both physically and mentally. Addiction treatment is deeply rooted in psychotherapy, and one of the most effective treatments for recovering addicts is Motivational Interviewing (MI). At its core, MI helps people find the motivation to get sober and live a healthier life.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

MI is a therapy method that is primarily used to treat people with addiction or physical health conditions, like asthma or diabetes. 

As the name suggests, the main goal of MI is to motivate people to drop the unhealthy behaviors that are fueling their addiction or health issue. It’s one of the most common therapy approaches for people with substance abuse disorders.

Not everyone recovering from drug or alcohol abuse is a good candidate for MI. Research shows that MI is particularly beneficial for people who are not motivated to get sober or are unwilling to change their behaviors. This approach is actually less useful for people who are already motivated to get sober when they enter a treatment program.

Part of MI is helping people cope with their feelings around treatment and sobriety. For instance, someone who is being forced to attend treatment by a loved one or a social worker might be very angry and uncooperative. With MI, a therapist can help the person deal with their emotions and eventually uncover their self-motivation.

One of the most important aspects of MI is that the client’s motivation must come from within themselves, rather than from external sources. A spouse, parent, friend, or loved one can support the person in recovery, but they can’t be their main motivator. The person getting treatment must find the motivation within themselves in order for MI to work.

MI is an evidence-based treatment, which is a therapeutic technique that has been validated by scientific research studies and has shown positive results in multiple large-scale randomized controlled trials. The treatment must also be validated by independent researchers in order to receive the evidence-based designation.

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How Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

MI is a multi-step process. The first goal of treatment is to increase a person’s motivation and the second goal is for the person to commit to changing their behavior.

MI is used as a short-term treatment, but a person may need to meet with a motivational interviewer several times before they begin seeing results.

During an MI session, the client does most of the talking. The therapist, who is also called the interviewer, drives the conversation in the direction of change and commitment but mostly refrains from intervening. The interviewer may repeat the client’s thoughts out loud to make their motivations more clearly heard.

The role of the interviewer in MI is very important, despite taking a relatively hands-off approach. Therapists who are trained in MI follow a series of five principles as outlined by the founders of MI, William Miller and Stephen Rollnick. The five principles are: 

  1. Express empathy: The interviewer must be empathetic toward their client, provide support throughout the process, and listen without judgment.
  2. Develop discrepancy: The interviewer must help the client see how their current behaviors are different from their desired behavior.
  3. Avoid argument: If the client is hostile or unwilling to change, the interview shouldn’t argue with the client or try to prove a point in order to shift their perspective.
  4. Roll with resistance: The interviewer needs to recognize resistance and learn to deflect the energy into a more positive conversation.
  5. Support self-efficacy: When clients are hesitant to change or don’t believe they can change, the interviewer should point out their strengths and give the client hope.
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If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

What is Motivational Interviewing for Addiction?

MI can be incredibly powerful for people with addiction.

Lack of motivation is one of the biggest reasons why people fail to get treatment. Some people are intimidated by the thought of recovery, and others simply think they can handle their addiction on their own.

Many addicts also struggle with feelings of ambivalence around the decision to get treatment. They might go back and forth about whether they really want to quit using drugs and alcohol or not. It’s common for people to have moments of motivation, followed by moments of indifference. MI helps people focus on the positive reasons to get treatment so they stay motivated.

In many cases, addicts want to get help for themselves but don’t know where to start. They need that extra boost of confidence to get themselves on the right track. They need to be reminded of how their drug or alcohol use is holding them back from living a better life. Just a few MI sessions can bring those things to light.

Getting sober is hard work that takes dedication, commitment, and sacrifice. That can feel overwhelming for a lot of people. Sobriety is a lifelong journey, so having lifelong commitment and motivation is essential. For people on the fence, MI can help them focus on sobriety and recovery, and stay motivated long after they complete a treatment program.

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MI can also help recovering addicts reduce their risk of relapse. Fundamentally, MI enables people to find the motivation they need to get sober and most importantly, stay sober. Being motivated to stay away from drugs and alcohol takes practice and MI can be a powerful tool in staying committed for the long haul.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, help is available. Contact our treatment facility at (310) 881-9151 to speak to a member of our recovery team.

In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.

Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.

Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.

People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.

Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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