History of Motivational Interviewing

In a 1983 Dr. William Miller first described a way of talking with people to evoke and strengthen personal motivation for change in an article (Miller, 1983).  This original article focused on using this approach for people with alcohol problems, where motivation for change is often described as an obstacle to and key component of change.  It was in sharp contrast with the confrontational counseling methods that were popular at the time (White & Miller, 2007).  The first description of motivational interviewing (MI) did not arise from a particular theory, but rather was a set of principles derived from observation of Dr. Miller’s practice in role-playing cases with Norwegian colleagues at the Hjellestad Clinic near Bergen, where he was on sabbatical leave at the time (Miller, 1996). Dr. Miller met  Dr. Steve Rollnick during a second sabbatical at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Sydney, Australia.  Dr. Rollnick indicated that MI had become a popular counseling approach for problem drinking in the United Kingdom, and he had been responding to requests for training in MI.  He encouraged Dr. Miller to write more about MI, and they decided to write a book together (Miller & Rollnick, 1991).  Applications of MI soon spread well beyond the addiction field, so that the second edition (Miller & Rollnick, 2002) focused on behavior change more generally.  More specific books followed on MI in health care (Rollnick, Miller & Butler, 2008) and in treating psychological problems (Arkowitz et al., 2008). In 2013 they developed the processes of Motivational Interviewing and further expanded on its practice in their book Helping People Change, thus developing applications to schools, social justice and institutional settings.

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing is a collaborative conversational style that strengthens a person’s motivation and commitment to change.  MI is designed to strengthen an individual's movement toward a specific goal by eliciting and exploring the person's own reasons for change within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion. (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). 

MI is an evidenced based practice, that  has been shown to outperform traditional persuasion strategies (such as advice-giving, education, and confrontation) for promoting sustainable behavior change. In contrast to persuasion strategies that seek to compel change through external mechanisms, MI strengthens an individual's internal motivation through enhancing desire, willingness, ability and commitment for positive change. MI does not impose change, but rather supports sustainable change in a manner congruent with the person's own values, concerns, beliefs and wishes.  For example, in a MI conversation or counseling session,  one may feel strongly that they want to make a change around alcohol. One is given the freedom to explore both the reasons to continue with their drinking patterns and their reasons to change their patterns.

MI affords a variety of potential benefits to the MI practitioner as well. Implementation of MI in your practice/setting will likely be beneficial to your patients, improve clinical outcomes, and may magnify your own experience of compassion.

What Motivational Interviewing is NOT?

Motivational interviewing is not a tool to manipulate others to further the clinicians own goals.  Compassion is at the foundation of MI motivational interviewing.

For More information you can visit the official MINT Website at: www.motivationinterviewing.org