Treating Addiction With Motivational Interviewing

Addiction is a complex disease that can have devastating consequences for the suffering individual and their loved ones. It is important to seek treatment for addiction as soon as possible. Addiction treatment is multi-faceted and addresses substance use disorder in many different ways. Therapy is a large part of addiction treatment, and one of the most effective forms of therapy is motivational interviewing. This blog post will discuss motivational interviewing, its concepts, and how it can be used to treat addiction.

What is motivational interviewing?

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a type of therapy that aims to help people increase their motivation and commitment to achieve a particular goal or outcome. Whether a person is struggling with substance abuse, a gambling addiction, an eating disorder, or low self-esteem, motivational interviewing can be a helpful treatment.

Even when people recognize that they have a problem, they don’t always have the motivation to change. This type of therapy helps people  explore and resolve their ambivalence about making changes in their lives.

The therapist works with the individual to help them articulate their goals and values. The therapist then helps the individual explore the discrepancy between their current behavior and their desired goal. This process can help to increase motivation for change.

This type of therapy was originally described William R. Miller, Ph.D. in a 1983 edition of “Behavioral Psychotherapy.” Miller this type of human-centered treatment developed during research on a more empathetic and less confrontational style of therapy.

Key concepts of motivational interviewing

There are a few key concepts that differentiate motivational interviewing from other types of therapy or addiction counseling. First off, the sessions between the therapist and patient are called “interviews.” This creates a spirit of collaboration between the patient and the interviewer. Both are working together to figure out how to set and achieve goals.

The second key concept of motivational interviewing is that the patient is encouraged to set their own goals. In motivational interviewing, it is not the therapists job to tell the patient what they need to do or what goals they need to set. Rather, the therapist allows the patient to set their own goals and take ownership of their own recovery.

The third key concept of motivational interviewing is that this type of therapy focuses on the patient’s autonomy. These session shouldn’t feel like something the patient is being forced to attend or comply with. The patient should feel like they are taking control of their own lives and striving toward goals on their own accord. Empowerment, not dependency, is the feeling that patients should have after these session.

Motivational interviewing for addiction treatment

As you may have guessed, motivational interviewing can be a very effective type of therapy for those suffering from substance use disorder. People struggling with addiction often need help exploring and resolving their ambivalence about making changes in their lives. Even if they recognize that their addiction is harming them and the people they love, they still may not be motivated to change.

A person may not have motivation to get sober because they don’t want to give up their drug of choice. They also may have fear that if they did try, they would fail. Pessimism may plague their mind and they may be convinced that efforts to change are futile. All of these could be potential reasons that a person isn’t motivated to change.

Motivational interviewing helps people struggling with addiction overcome all these obstacles that stand in the way of motivation. This treatment is meant to foster patients’ ambition to get clean and live a drug-free life.

Motivational interviewing should not be the only form of therapy that a person receives. This type of therapy works best as a supplement to other types of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy that go deeper into the client’s life get to the root of issues.

The four processes of motivational interviewing

There are four main processes that occur during motivational interviewing that help the client identify their goals and star working toward those goals:

  1. Engaging
  2. Focusing
  3. Evoking
  4. Planning

1) Engaging

During the engaging process, the therapist is gets to know the patient. The two establish a relationship and build report to set a strong foundation for the rest of the processes.

2) Focusing

In the focusing process, the client and therapist start to zone in on the specific behaviors or habits that the client wants to change.

3) Evoking

In the evoking process, the therapist tries to elicit the client’s specific motivation for change. This helps the client for a logical argument for why they should change, which helps fuel motivation.

4) Planning

In this final process, the client and therapist develop a vision for what success looks like and they outline practical steps for the client to take to achieve that goal

Motivational interviewing at Isaiah House

For over 20 years, Isaiah House has been helping people escape the grip of addiction. We do this through a holistic approach to treatment. Part of this holistic treatment involves therapy. We use multiple different types of individual and group therapies as a part of our strategy to help clients achieve recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling to find the motivation to live a sober life, call us today. We know that recovery is possible and we want to walk with you through every step of the journey.


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