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Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a counseling style for effecting behavior change, and for helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence by evoking their personal motivations for change (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). It is defined as a “collaborative, goal-oriented type of communication with particular attention to the language or change” and “is designed to strengthen personal motivation for change” (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). Miller and Rollnick propose that MI can be understood in terms of: overarching principles (the ‘MI spirit’); four processes; and five core skills. Read more
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Recommended Reading

  • Treasure, J. (2004). Motivational interviewing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10, 331-337 download

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Overarching Principles of MI (the MI Spirit)

  • Partnership: an attitude of collaboration rather than an authoritarian style.
  • Acceptance: respect for the autonomy of the patient/client.
  • Compassion: promotion of the patient’s welfare and the prioritization of his/her needs.
  • Evocation: the evocation of the patient’s own motivation.

The Four Processes of MI

  • Engagement: using a person-centered empathic listening.
  • Focusing: identifying a target for change that is to be the primary subject of discussion in therapy.
  • Evoking: eliciting ‘change talk’ to support patient motivation.
  • Planning: implementing change by using client expertise.

Five Core Skills of MI

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Affirming
  • Reflective listening
  • Summarizing
  • Informing and advising

De Almeida Neto (2017) argues that four micro-counseling skills are important in MI:

  • The ability to ask open-ended questions that assist clients to explore the need for and possibility of change, supporting their autonomy.
  • The ability to provide affirmations that assist counselors in building rapport and supporting clients’ self-efficacy or confidence in their ability to master change, with personal strengths and prior successes being highlighted.
  • The capacity for active listening, which assists counselors to portray empathy and to guide clients toward making a change.
  • The ability to provide summary statements to the client which communicate interest and understanding and draw attention to important elements of the discussion.


  • De Almeida Neto, A. C. (2017). Understanding motivational interviewing: An evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 3(4), 379–389.
  • Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: Helping people change. New York: Guilford Press.