Motivational Interviewing

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Motivational Interviewing

What is motivational interviewing? Motivational interviewing is an evidence-based behavioral therapy technique that helps motivate individuals to make positive behavioral changes. The technique has proven effective for the treatment of substance abuse and dependence.

This unique approach to addiction treatment was initially developed to help people become motivated to commit to a positive behavioral change. At Guardian Recovery we believe in the efficacy of this specific approach and we are dedicated to providing our clients with a comprehensive program of therapeutic intervention. Depending on what level of care a client is currently in they will have access to motivational interviewing. This technique generally takes place in a one-on-one therapy setting.

At Guardian Recovery we value the autonomy of each of our clients and believe that healing should be considered a collaborative effort between the client and the clinical team. Clients build rapport with their therapists as they work together to develop attainable and personalized treatment goals. The collaboration lends itself to a trusting and open environment and is often more beneficial than more confrontational styles of therapy. To learn more about motivational interviewing and how we incorporate this technique into our comprehensive treatment programs, contact us today.

Key Qualities of Motivational Interviewing

There are four key qualities of motivational interviewing outlined by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick (the men who developed the technique) in Motivational Interviewing: Helping people to change

motivational interviewing
  1. This therapeutic method sits somewhere between a directing style of therapy and a following style of therapy. The licensed therapist does not direct the client on which actions to take, but instead guides the conversation so the therapist and the client can come to a collaborative conclusion.
  2. Motivational interviewing is geared towards motivating people to make changes that are going to benefit them in the long run. Clients become empowered to make decisions that are in their own best interest. They learn how to take positive control of their own lives.
  3. This therapeutic technique honors the natural process of change while encouraging clients to further develop and maintain a sense of autonomy.
  4. This therapeutic technique avoids confrontation, warning, directing and the offering of unsolicited advice. Rather than say, “If you fail to do this, then this will happen,” the therapist might say something more along the lines of, “What do you think is going to happen if this doesn’t change? Will it bother you if that does happen; why or why not?” The goal is to facilitate a healthy conversation that encourages clients to make their own decisions.

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

There are numerous benefits that go hand-in-hand with motivational interviewing, especially for certain clients.

Motivational Interviewing is especially beneficial for clients who:

  • Experience a high level of ambivalence – A client might not care whether or not they maintain sobriety. Ambivalence is extremely detrimental to long-term recovery. It is crucial that this ambivalence is gone by the time a client leaves treatment. At Guardian Recovery we work to show our clients how fun and fulfilling sobriety can be so that they will strive to maintain their recovery.
  • Lack self-confidence and a sense of self-worth – Clients often doubt their ability to change. They might succumb to negative and self-destructive thoughts such as, “This is just the way I am.” Or, “I’ll never be able to stay sober, no matter what I do.” We focus on breaking these unhealthy patterns of thinking and replacing them with thoughts and behaviors that are going to benefit them.
  • Experience a lack of desire to stay sober long-term – Many of our clients come to us with the fear of staying sober for the remainder of their lives. We teach them how to take things one day at a time and eventually transition from fearing sobriety to embracing sobriety.
  • Don’t understand why or how changing their current circumstances will be beneficial – Addiction is a disease of denial. Many people who struggle with addiction sincerely believe that things “aren’t that bad,” or that they can “quit anytime they want, they just don’t want to.” We help our clients understand how detrimental substance abuse can be while helping them shift away from a nonchalant perspective.

How is Motivational Interviewing Used in Treatment?

When motivational interviewing is used in an addiction treatment setting, several techniques are actively employed.

Motivational Interviewing Techniques

  • Using open-ended questions – When addressing the client the therapist uses questions that encourage deep thought and contemplation. Rather than asking questions that warrant a simple “yes” or “no” answer, the therapist asks personal questions that encourage the client to dig deeper. “How have you tried to improve your quality of life in the past?” “What areas of life would you like to improve upon?”
  • Using affirmations – During every stage of the recovery process we focus on constantly affirming our clients on what they are doing well. It is crucial that people who are new to recovery have positive reinforcement that they are making strides, doing their best and succeeding in staying sober one day at a time.
  • Reflective listening techniques – This is an important part of motivational interviewing. Rather than simply nodding in agreement as the client shares his or her personal experiences, the therapist reflects on what is being said in order to better understand it and show the client that they are listening attentively.
  • Providing summaries at the end of the therapy session – The therapist might also provide summaries throughout the therapy session by recollecting what the client has said, making connections between two distinct parts of the discussion and smoothly transitioning from one subject to another if the conversation becomes derailed.

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

This therapeutic method was originally developed to help people overcome addictive disorders like alcoholism and drug addiction. Since it was first developed it has found to have a variety of other benefits, including helping individuals struggling with anxiety disorders, unresolved trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (which often coincide with addiction). Benefits of motivational interviewing include:

  • Helping clients build a higher level of self-confidence.
  • Teaching clients how to trust their ability to make positive decisions on their own.
  • Teaching clients how to take responsibility for themselves and their own actions.
  • Reducing the risk of relapse or of a return to old, self-destructive behaviors.
  • Showing clients that if they put their energy towards something they are capable of achieving it.
  • Teaching clients how to make the most out of their addiction recovery experience.
  • To learn more about the benefits of motivational interviewing, contact us today.

At Guardian Recovery we utilize motivational interviewing techniques to help our clients feel heard and understood as they learn how to make healthy  decisions. To learn more about our comprehensive, therapeutic addiction recovery program, contact us today.

Get Motivated to Change

Many of our clients have experienced a relapse in the past and are looking for an addiction treatment program that is going to successfully help them prevent relapse in the future. At Guardian Recovery we understand that in order for a person to avoid relapse they must start wanting to stay sober. How is someone supposed to stay sober long-term if they have no desire to do so? Of course, this desire doesn’t always occur naturally. We equip each and every one of our clients with the tools and insight they need to understand the immense benefits of recovery, and to begin reaping the rewards of sobriety long before the treatment process has come to an end. To learn more about motivational interviewing and its role in our overall recovery program, contact us today.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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