Increasing Your Motivation for Positive Change

Change can be difficult in the best of circumstances. This may seem especially true to you if you are struggling with drug or alcohol problems. Formal treatment is the gold standard for dealing with these kinds of problems. However, you may have trouble building or sustaining your motivation to start or complete a treatment program. That can be true even if you know that you need professional help and this is where motivational interviewing steps in.

A form of treatment called motivational interviewing, or MI, was created specifically for this kind of situation. MI can help you overcome any internal conflicts you have about enrolling in a recovery program. It can also help you increase your personal motivation to become an active participant in your program and successfully complete it.

What Is Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a form of treatment designed to address ambivalence toward change. When you are ambivalent, you hold conflicting or contradictory opinions about something. This internal conflict can interfere with your ability to make firm decisions. It can also hinder your motivation to follow through on the decisions you do make.

In motivational interviewing, ambivalence to change is not viewed as an unexpected thing. Instead, it is viewed as a natural part of the process of learning how to change. MI takes a conflicted frame of mind as a starting point. Through a variety of methods, it helps you overcome this conflicted state. The process is not coercive. In other words, your MI therapist does not try to force you to change. Instead, you discover for yourself why change is important and necessary.

Motivational interviewing is a relatively new form of treatment. It was created in the early 1980s to help people recovering from alcohol problems. However, it is now used for a much wider range of purposes. Despite its short history, MI is evidence-based. This means that its usefulness is back by significant, high-quality scientific research.

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Processes of Motivational Interviewing

The Three Fundamental Factors

The processes of motivational interviewing are based on a set of three fundamental factors:

  • Extensive collaboration between you and your therapist
  • Helping you express your feelings about change
  • Making sure you maintain autonomy and feel empowered while changing

Each of these factors is crucial in its own way. Guidance through collaboration emphasizes the partnership needed for effective motivational interviewing. Your therapist’s goal is not to tell you what to do or how to do it. Instead, the two of you work together to build a trusting, mutual therapeutic relationship. Your therapist will likely not agree with you in all circumstances. Nevertheless, the focus always remain on collaboration, not confrontation.

When you express your own feelings about change, you can speak honestly about your sense of ambivalence. This honest information is critical, since it serves as the starting point for the rest of your MI treatment. In this area, your therapist’s job is to help you express yourself as clearly and truthfully as possible.

Autonomy makes you the focal point of your MI treatment. This is essential, since you are the source of your own capacity to change. Your therapist will encourage you to take the lead and make your own decisions. You will also be encouraged to take responsibility for the results of those decisions.

The Four Core Principles

All MI therapists are guided by four core principles. These principles are:

  • Expressing empathy for you and your unique situation and experiences
  • Supporting your inner belief that change is a real possibility
  • Taking your resistance to change as part of the process, not a sign of failure
  • Helping you recognize the contradictions in your current point of view

Each of these principles helps make motivational interviewing an effective form of treatment. The recognition of contradictions in your viewpoint is especially important. It allows you to see for yourself how your current outlook interferes with your stated goals. This discrepancy between your goals and your reality helps inspire you to change for the better.

Talking About Change

Talking about change in constructive ways is a must for successful motivational interviewing. The more clearly you articulate yourself, the greater the chance you will benefit from the treatment. Your therapist will first focus on conversations that help prepare you to change. These conversations put an emphasis on things such as your:

  • Desire to make a change
  • Capacity to change
  • Personal reasons for changing
  • Self-identified need to change

The next phase of talking about change focuses on making your intentions a reality. Conversations here emphasize:

  • Your commitment to change
  • Active preparation to make that change
  • Actually doing the things needed to bring change about

The OARS Concept

To help ensure that the principles of MI are applied, your therapist will rely on a concept called OARS. This is an acronym for a set of guidelines used by motivational interviewing professionals. It stands for:

  • Open-ended questioning
  • Affirmation
  • Reflective listening
  • Summarization

Open-ended questions do not require you to give a yes or no answer. Instead, they allow you to express yourself as you see fit. Affirmation helps you feel supported while you work through your feelings about change.

Reflective listening allows your therapist to respond to your statements without telling you what to do. Summarization acts as a kind of recap of what has happened during a session of MI. It highlights important points of your conversation with your therapist. It also clarifies issues you may want to focus on in future sessions.


Applications for Motivational Interviews

Motivational interviewing is unique in that it has a broad range of uses and applications. This means that you may find it being used for a wide variety of purposes. MI is often used in treatment plans for drug and alcohol problems. It can also play an important part in the treatment of non-substance-related mental illnesses. Other kinds of institutions and programs in which MI is used include:

  • Hospitals and health clinics
  • Vocational rehab programs
  • Various parts of the criminal justice system
  • Employment programs
  • Housing agencies

Who Does Motivational Interviewing

It takes considerable training to work effectively as a motivational interviewer. This is true because competent MI interviewers must master a complex set of skills. As a rule, training takes place in stages. At each stage, the MI professional-in-training focuses on developing a new skill set. The goal is not only to become a capable interviewer. In addition, trainees focus on integrating MI into larger treatment plans.

Who trains to do motivational interviewing? The list of professionals who may fall into this category includes:

  • Addiction specialists and therapists
  • Mental health experts
  • Social workers
  • Counselors
  • Psychologists
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners
  • Doctors
  • Medical assistants
  • Case workers

Finding Your Voice With Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing increases the odds that you will accept your need for substance and/or mental health treatment. It also increases the odds that you will stick to your treatment plan and complete your program.

But MI can also help you in other ways. One of its main goals is to help you find your own voice and express yourself. This is not only necessary for motivational interviewing to work as intended. It can also provide you with a more general sense of agency and self-control. Even when your treatment program ends, you can continue to draw upon these empowering feelings.

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Seek Motivational Interviewing Treatment at Emerald Isle

Motivational interviewing is designed to prepare you for the challenges of substance or mental health treatment. It do so by doing several things. First, it allows you to explore your mixed feelings about entering a treatment program. When you explore those feelings, you have a chance to clarify them. You also have a chance to see how they may be holding you back from getting the help you need.

In sessions of MI, your therapist does not take the lead. Instead, the two of you work together and collaborate throughout the process. Your therapist will not confront you with rigid statements or instructions. On the contrary, you will be encouraged to think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. As MI progresses, you will first prepare yourself to change. You will then begin to take the actual steps need for positive change.

Research shows that this supported, self-directed approach works for significant numbers of people. Not everyone will benefit from MI. However, it may be just what you need to commit yourself to the treatment process. In turn, motivational interviewing may help form the basis of a lasting addiction or mental health recovery.

At Emerald Isle, we use motivational interviewing as one of our many options for substance and mental health treatment. With our expert help, it is possible to overcome your ambivalence and participate fully in your own recovery. Our MI services are customized and geared to fit your specific needs. No matter your reason for seeking help, we can incorporate these services into your larger treatment plan.

Have further questions about motivational interviewing? Call us today. We will be happy to answer those questions and clarify the benefits of MI. The specialists at Emerald Isle are also standing by when you are ready to get the treatment process under way.