Motivational Interviewing for Addiction Recovery

Silvermist Recovery uses motivational interviewing in combination with various traditional treatments and therapies to enhance outcomes for people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. Originally defined back in 1983 by clinical psychologist William Miller, motivational interviewing is a specific type of counseling approach used to treat people overcoming drug or alcohol addictions.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a goal-oriented style of therapy designed to help people in recovery prepare for making positive behavior changes. The approach is patient-centered, so each session will be different for each person’s own needs.

The therapist works to encourage people to discover their own underlying motivation to change harmful or self-destructive behaviors. Everyone’s motivations for change are unique to them. The goals they hope to achieve by changing negative behaviors are also individual.

 

 

When the underlying motivation to change has been uncovered, recovering people are then encouraged to develop action plans that help them achieve their goals. Therapy also works to help the person find positive resolutions for ambivalence, as it’s common for many people to feel ambivalent about the whole idea of change.

In fact, research indicates that motivational interviewing therapy is particularly effective for those people who are initially ambivalent or resistant to change1.

What Happens in Motivational Interviewing Sessions?

Every motivational interviewing therapy session will be different, as the entire premise is patient-centered. As each recovering person’s underlying reasons for change are unique to them, the structure of each session is based on discussions between counselor and patient and where those talks lead.

Opened-Ended Questions

A licensed mental health therapist will ask a series of open-ended questions designed to encourage a more in-depth response than simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The basis for asking questions in this way is to initiate and establish a dialogue between the therapist and the person in recovery.

Develop Trust

Other types of therapy might rely on the therapist offering advice or guidance or direction. By comparison, motivational interviewing is more about developing trust and rapport between counselor and patient. The entire basis behind MI therapy is goal-driven, so the recovering person is encouraged to develop their own goals.

Identify Goals

When those goals have been identified, sessions can begin to focus on the relationship between the recovering person’s behaviors and how they may affect achieving those goals. The recovering person may also be invited to make suggestions about what specific actions they could take to help them achieve those goals and eventually become the person they want to be.

It may seem as though discussions focus on positive aspects of change and aiming towards achieving goals. However, MI counselors will also encourage discussion about negative behaviors or thoughts that may arise.

Overall, each session is a non-judgmental and non-confrontational discussion session designed to make recovering people feel comfortable expressing their past, present and future behaviors, as well as developing and aiming towards their hopes and dreams. It’s up to the individual person to make their own decisions about their reasons for wanting to change and the choices they make, even if they decide in the end not to change.

It’s up to each person in recovery to choose their own path.

5 Motivational Interviewing Principles

Express and show empathy

Many people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction may feel as though no one truly understands what they’re going through. Yet a motivational interviewing therapist will always express and show empathy to every patient.

While the goal of MI therapy is to resolve ambivalence, a counselor will always reassure a recovering person that ambivalence itself is quite normal. In fact, almost every person who is in early recovery and new to MI counseling techniques will be ambivalent and reluctant to change.

Develop Discrepancy

During MI therapy sessions, the person in recovery is encouraged to uncover their underlying reasons for wanting to change their behaviors. Rather than being ordered to change, the person in recovery is taught to be aware of consequences as they relate to wanting to change.

For example, a person might choose to stop drinking alcohol in order to rebuild damaged relationships with family members. Alternatively, if a person makes a choice to stop drinking alcohol, but begins displaying behaviors that are likely to hinder achieving their desired goal, counseling works to highlight the discrepancy between their present behavior and how their goals are affected as a consequence.

By discussing motivations and discovering discrepancies in behaviors that hinder progress, the recovering person learns to be more mindful of their behaviors and choices and how they affect outcomes.

Deal with Resistance

It’s normal for many recovering people to resist changing their behaviors. In fact, resistance is often a signal that the therapist may need to adjust their approach.

In a motivational interviewing therapy session, a counselor will not confront that resistance to change. Instead, therapy works to find alternative ways to get the person to explore different points of view, inviting new perspectives but not imposing or demanding them.

It’s up to the person in recovery to examine the different points of view discussed during therapy and choose the one they want to stay with. Any momentum achieved during the therapy session can be used to good advantage throughout the recovery process.

Support Self-Efficacy

Motivational interviewing therapy is designed to help people in recovery to realize and truly believe that they are capable of achieving the change they want in their own lives. During early recovery, many people have a deep-seated belief that they simply can’t change. Many are also willing to outwardly express that they really don’t want to change who they are.

However, throughout the course of therapy, a counselor will work towards finding positive strengths and previous successes each person has already achieved in their lives. Those successes and strengths are all translatable into almost every area of life, which highlights that the recovering person already possesses the skills to change and achieve the goals they want.

By discovering an inner belief that they really are capable of achieving change on their own, recovering people develop a stronger motivation to reach their goals.

Developing Autonomy

Real change comes from within. It doesn’t come from a counselor or a therapist. It takes time and patience to help a person in recovery to believe they are capable of achieving personal change.

Therapy also demonstrates to each person that they are individually responsible for the actions and decisions they make while carrying out those changes. Discovering the underlying motivations for wanting to change are a good start, but taking ownership of the decisions and actions needed to change behaviors requires therapy and guidance.

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing for Addiction Recovery

In motivational interviewing therapy sessions, the person in recovery does much of the psychological work themselves. After all, only the person in recovery knows what they hope to achieve by changing negative or self-destructive behaviors. Their goals for the future are solely their own and only they can determine what they hope to achieve.

A counselor will guide each person to think about some of their own personal reasons for or against change and consider potential outcomes they’d like to see happen. For example, one person may choose to give up drinking and stay sober in order to rebuild relationships with family or friends, while another may choose to stay abstinent from drugs in an effort to build a different type of life than they experienced prior to rehab treatment.

The primary benefit of motivational interviewing techniques is that the individual person is responsible for the choices they make for changing behaviors. The counselor’s role is to help each person detect and understand any contradictions between current beliefs, thoughts and actions that could be standing in the way of them achieving the goals they want to reach.

Motivational Interviewing for Recovery

When You Leave Treatment

Graduating from a comprehensive addiction rehab treatment program is a significant achievement. However, leaving rehab doesn’t mean treatment should end. Rather, recovery is an ongoing process that requires management.

Addiction treatment specialists work closely with each recovering person to help them build a strong aftercare program before they leave rehab. The actual programs in each person’s aftercare plan will be different, based on their own individual needs.

Long-Term Benefits

The majority of people in recovery will have learned a variety of coping skills and gained plenty of recovery resources and tools designed to help them put newly-learned strategies into practice in everyday life.

Despite those new skills and tools, it’s also important to continue participating in treatments and therapies that provided support and guidance through the recovery process.

It’s possible for most people to continue using motivational interviewing techniques learned in rehab treatments even when they return to independent living. Instead of focusing on the ‘why’ of doing something, the person has the skills and tools to focus instead on the ‘how’.

Reflecting on certain behaviors and actions and how they impact or impede achieving certain goals is a valuable skill. Those in recovery can continue to use lessons learned in motivational interviewing long after leaving rehab, not just to remain abstinent, but in many other goal-directed areas of life too.