What Is Motivational Interviewing and How Is It Used? - Rehab Guide

What Is Motivational Interviewing and How Is It Used?

How motivational interviewing can help alcohol addiction

Motivational Interviewing is a style of patient-centred counselling developed to facilitate change in various health-related behaviours and is a technique used in treating alcohol addiction.

When it comes to getting sober, a few factors will help increase your chances of success.

If you are ambivalent about your behaviour and unwilling to make a change, the start of your recovery journey will be rocky. Studies show that your readiness for change and level of self-efficacy are integral elements in recovery success.

One of the ways that you can address these is by using motivational interviewing. If you’re thinking about getting sober, you might be wondering, “what is motivational interviewing”? This is an interviewing technique that can help you get ready for the road to recovery.

Whether you’re getting sober for the first time or you’ve exhausted other options, motivational interviewing can be beneficial for you.

Stay with us to learn more about motivational interviewing and how it can inspire you to make meaningful changes in your life.

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing is a client-centred approach to counselling. The dynamic between the counsellor and the client is meant to encourage and motivate change through productive questioning.

The goal of motivational interviewing is to address the uncertainty surrounding negative behaviour patterns. It is also used as an effective tool to instil motivation for meaningful change.

Using a variety of techniques, the counsellor helps to guide the patient to take responsibility for their behaviour.

The Basis of Motivational Interviewing for Drug Addiction

If you’re wondering: what is motivational interviewing used for, and how does it relate to addiction? First, you must understand the nature of addiction. Deciding to become sober comes in stages, and the process is not always linear.

Those who struggle with substance addiction might have a sense of hesitation around change and sobriety, particularly during the contemplation stage of recovery.

Motivational interviewing helps to resolve this uncertainty. It allows the client to work through the doubt and ambiguity they feel about their addiction. Many will make excuses for addictive behaviour and deny that it is problematic.

The underlying basis for motivational interviewing is to:

  • Accept that ambivalence is a part of the recovery process
  • Reveal the deep-rooted motivation for recovery
  • Allow the counsellor and patient to collaborate on the recovery

This model helps to find the motivation for change rather than explore the reason for the addiction. Giving the client an active role in motivating their own recovery can lead to success in treatment and other areas of life.

The Four Essential Processes Of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing can be an effective tool in addiction treatment when carried out correctly.

There are four processes that the counsellor can use when someone is showing reluctance to change. These can help the client analyse the addictive behaviour, create a bond with the counsellor, and start to envision change:

  • Engaging the client to develop a rapport and trusting relationship
  • Focusing on the client’s recovery intention
  • Evoking dialogue and reasoning for recovery concerns
  • Planning for recovery and envisioning success

These allow the patient to discuss all of their concerns with sobriety. It also gives them a platform to reason with their own indecision.

The FRAMES Model of Motivational Interviewing

The FRAMES model is an integral part of the motivational interviewing process. It is the structure for an effective interview that can help guide a client towards rehabilitation.


Feedback allows the client to know that the counsellor is actively listening.

This element of the interview process also gives the client a safe space to talk about their issues and concerns. The counsellor should give productive feedback but be careful not to take over the conversation. Feedback should be based on what the client has shared.


This is a chance for the counsellor to reiterate that the responsibility for change lies solely with the client. It is not the role of the counsellor to convince the client that they have to get sober.

While the counsellor is there to offer support and encouragement, the decision for recovery must come from the client.


Advice from the counsellor should surround the effects of substance abuse and other areas of life. It should be an opportunity to impart wisdom about addiction, but not to tell the client what they need to do.

The advice element of the conversation should focus on open-ended questions and collaboration between the client and counsellor.

Menu of Options

Here, the counsellor and client can discuss what the treatment options are. This can give the client a picture of what the recovery process could look like.

For many, it might be the first time they envision a life of sobriety, and seeing a clear path can make it more attainable. The counsellor can give recommendations that are suitable to the specific needs of the client.


Empathy should be used by the counsellor throughout the interview but especially during challenging conversations.

The client might show some defensive behaviour, and offering emotional support can help. Acknowledging that seeking help is difficult and actively listening to the client are both effective empathetic tools.


One of the main goals of motivational interviewing is to give the client the confidence to take on recovery. Self-efficacy, as previously mentioned, is one of the most vital factors in recovery success.

Self-efficacy is the ability to believe that you can overcome the challenges that come with change. Draw on the client’s strengths and allow them to see the power they have within them.

OARS For Motivational Interviewing

While FRAMES is a great guideline for motivational interviewing, remembering OARS is an effective way to elevate the interview. The following are four techniques you can use throughout the interview process.

Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions involved answers that require more than a one-word answer. For effective interview questions to ask an alcoholic, you have to give them an opportunity to share and think deeply. You can use questions such as:

  • What is your relationship like with your spouse when you drink?
  • How has your life changed since you started using drugs?
  • What other treatment methods have you tried in the past?

These can help jog the client’s mind because they require thought. Close-ended questions allow the client to respond with a “yes” or “no” and don’t lead to further dialogue.


Affirmations are a great way to highlight the client’s strengths. With an effective interview, clients are reminded of some of their positive traits, which can help boost their self-esteem. Here are some ways to use affirmations:

  • You obviously value your health if you’re seeking help
  • It takes a lot of courage to talk about difficult emotions
  • You must have felt very proud when you resisted the urge to drink in that tough situation

These are statements of positive reinforcement that can help promote positive feelings. They can increase the client’s confidence and readiness for change.

Reflective Listening

This is a valuable technique in the interviewing process because it lets the client know that they are being heard. It gives the counsellor the opportunity to ask the client to elaborate and clarify any parts of what they’ve shared.

Listening and reflecting is a way for the client and counsellor to bond. It is also a way that the counsellor shows empathy.

Our experienced staff at Rehab Guide are empathetic listeners and can help guide a successful motivational interview.


Summarising is a way to help tie together the important information that is gathered throughout the interview.

The counsellor can reinforce the collected information and reiterate it to the client. They can then link together several parts of the conversation and gently transition onto a new topic.

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

There are several advantages of motivational interviewing, especially when it comes to addiction recovery. It can help:

  • Boost the client’s self-esteem and confident
  • Reinforce the client’s self-efficacy and ability to take responsibility for their recovery
  • Equip the client with effective tools for motivation in other life areas
  • Prevent the risk of relapse
  • Encourage the client’s participation in rehab

Motivational interviewing can empower and prepare clients for an active role in rehab. It gives them the courage to move forward with change.

Find Inspiration for Recovery With Motivational Interviewing

So, what is motivational interviewing? It’s a great way to help you change for the better.

Overcoming addiction is no small feat, and for many, finding the inner motivation can be challenging. Motivational interviewing is an effective technique to help work through the ambivalence of getting sober. It can also help boost confidence, strengthen recovery commitment, and help prevent relapse.

If you’re thinking about making a sober change, start the process now with admissions at Rehab Guide and get motivated for a long-lasting change!









Author 'Jason


Jason has been writing expert articles and blog posts on issues related to addiction and mental health for Rehab Guide. Jason has a BA in Psychology, a Masters of Social Work and is currently working on his doctorate in social work.


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