One of the newest psychological tools a clinical counsellor has to offer a client today is Motivational Interviewing (MI). The best definition of MI is a simple one. In a book written by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick called Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change, they write:  “Motivational Interviewing is a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change.” So basically it’s a conversation about change. If we look more in depth, Motivational Interviewing is person or client centered that addresses the common problem of ambivalence about change (Miller & Rollnick, 2013, 29). The technical definition is more comprehensive and states that MI is:

“a collaborative, goal oriented style of communication with particular attention to the language of change. It is designed to strengthen personal motivation for and commitment to a specific goal by eliciting and exploring the person’s own reasons for change within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion.” (Miller & Rollnick, 2013, 29)

A clinician who uses Motivational Interviewing with clients would ask themselves a series of questions built around a 4 stage process. A clinician would develop a therapeutic alliance through the use of a series of open ended questions, affirmations, reflective listening and summaries or OARS for short, to move the process forward.

In the engaging stage, a counsellor establishes the therapeutic relationship and may ask themselves, “Does this feel like a collaborative partnership?” Then they move on to the focusing stage which helps develop and maintain a specific direction about change, with a question to themselves like, “Are we moving together with a common purpose, or in a different direction?” In the evoking stage, a clinician would elicit the client’s own motivations to change and may ask themselves, “What are this person’s own reasons for change?” And then in the planning stage, a counsellor helps the client commit to change and formulates a plan of action. They may ask themselves, “What would be a reasonable next step toward change?” Or, “What would help this person to move forward?”

This type of intervention can be especially effective in lowering the rate of an overdose event with clients with opioid use or other substance use disorders. It has also been shown to benefit patients with type 2 diabetes, obesity issues, and tobacco use. Motivational Interviewing is therefore likely to become popular practice among clinicians, especially in light of the opioid crisis in British Columbia.



Miller, William & Rollnick, Stephen. Motivational Interviewing. Helping People Change. New York:The Guilford Press, 2013.

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