Published on 27 September 2021

Motivational Interviewing: Fundamentals, Importance

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Table of Contents

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a style of communicating where the practitioner has open communication with the patient to study the priorities, wisdom, and goals of the patient.

It is a collaborative process and a form of partnership that sits between the therapist being a good listener and giving the right advice. In contrast, the patient providing all the information honestly without hiding anything.

It is indeed the most important thing for a person to live a clarity-free life. Perspectives change, but the confusion of life increases as you grow older. This process is needed for a person to get off all the insecurities he/she is going through.

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing in the counseling process helps people find the motivation to make positive behavioral changes.

Sometimes you are willing to change your behavior, but you can't do that, motivational interview may help you to change your behavior. Like, If you are an alcohol addict you want to quit alcohol but can't do it, motivational interviewing can help you to change your habit.

Motivational interviewing need to follow the word RULE. It represents

  • Resist the righting reflex;
  • Understanding the patient's own motivations;
  • Listening with empathy;
  • Empower the patient.

Fundamental Processes Involved In Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing mainly consist of four processes that are followed by all the experts. But the important point here to note is that though these four processes are different and have their personal significance, they are not discrete from each other. They overlap each other, meaning they do not have a specific start or end.


The most important aspect from the therapist's point of view is developing a good rapport with the clients so that they can trust the therapist.

The people who come for counseling face issues emotionally, which are uncommon,, so they hesitate to explain it to anyone. So the therapist first builds trust with the client. Mutual respect is built by instilling a sense of equality in the client's mind.

Open questions are asked and from the answers received, the therapist gets an idea of strengths and weaknesses, which are then conveyed to the client.


Once the initial process is completed, here in this step, the therapist helps the client in determining what actually is good for him or her.

The focus or the goal to be achieved is set by mutual understanding between both sides. But usually, the therapist encourages the person to determine what he wants to achieve from the counseling by using the information given by him like group counselling.

Sometimes the client comes with a pre-defined goal like leaving an addiction, mental illness, overcoming a relationship breakdown or some other condition. But when the client is unclear about what he actually needs to do, it is the responsibility of the therapist to aid him in deciding the goal.


Once the focus has been decided by both the sides, now the therapist have to figure out exactly when the patient is motivated and ready to make a change. This can be figured out by speaking patiently to the person that suggests he is ready or willing to move in a direction, ultimately changing his life for good.

It is the job of a therapist to make patients aware of the consequences if they don't bring a change in their lifestyle. Knowing how to make the patient speak about his eagerness to make a shift from his normal lifestyle is the responsibility of the therapist.


A unique feature of this final process is that the plan comes from the patient's side. The caliber and nature of the plan depend on the understanding, maturity, and intelligence level of the patient.

The therapist's main focus is to make the patient think by himself and plan out which would be very effective in the future.

Importance Of OARS

Various skills define a good practitioner, but the four main skills are Open Questioning, Affirming, Reflecting and Summarizing. These four terms are summed up together in an acronym generally called OARS.

Open Questioning

These type of questions generates momentum as they cannot be answered in yes/no pattern. They basically demand a long and elaborative answer, thus paving a path for the client to speak about his side of the story.

Though closed questions to have their importance but as the answers are short, they mostly give a feeling of interrogation. In contrast, open questions create a conversation, thus building mutual respect and trust.


It involves agreeing with the client's views and showing empathy towards his views. This helps build a rapport with the patient and makes him easily share his feelings and life story without shying away.

The patient is made to believe that the struggles and failures he has gone through were a one-off case and that he can succeed in the near future.


Reflective listening is a very important aspect when it comes to MI. The therapist needs to show interest in what the client is saying and desire to understand his point of view.


Summaries strengthen a belief in patient that the therapist is paying attention to what has been said and is really interested in knowing your opinions and views.
Small summaries can be given throughout the session, and a concluding summary is given at the end, which sums up all the topics discussed in that particular session.

What Motivational Interviewing Can Help?

Initially, motivational interviewing was focused additional on treating substance use disorders by preparing people to change related to their unwanted behavior. However, motivational interviewing has been a helpful strategy in addressing other health conditions and behaviors, such as:

  • Physical activity
  • Sexual behavior
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes control
  • Diet
  • Obesity prevention

Motivational interviewing can also be an add-on to (CBT) cognitive behavioral therapy. To treat general Anxiety disorder, Social Anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Benefits Of Motivational Interviewing

There are some reasons why motivational interviewing is used for mental health therapy, including

  • Helping people to feel self-confident and trust in themselves
  • Making them take responsibility for themselves.
  • Lowering the chance of future problems.
  • Boost the clients that they can change their lives themselves
  • Teach clients to take responsibility for themselves

Also, read

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solution

Many people want to make a change in their life, but low self-esteem and low confidence become a hindrance for them. MI creates collaboration between the therapist and the client, evoking or drawing out the client's ideas about the change they need, and emphasizing their autonomy.

MI makes them self-reliant on themselves and makes them visualize a future free of negative behavior. MI is a slow process, so you cannot expect a result overnight. You need to show patience with the consultation and treatment that is being provided. But in the long run, it is one of the best solutions and has shown more positive results.

  • Diallo, A. (2015). J. A. Schumacher and M. B. Madson (2015). Fundamentals of Motivational Interviewing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-935463-4. The Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling, 21(1), 8889.
  • Hettema, J., Steele, J., & Miller, W. R. (2005). Motivational Interviewing. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1(1), 91111.
  • Rollnick, S., & Miller, W. R. (1995). What is Motivational Interviewing? Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(04), 325.
  • Schumacher, J. A., & Madson, M. B. (2014). Fundamentals of Motivational Interviewing: Tips and Strategies for Addressing Common Clinical Challenges. In Google Books. Oxford University Press.