Motivational Interviewing - What is it and what is it not

Motivational Interviewing – What it is and What it is not

Motivational Interviewing is a strategy that originated in the field of addiction.  It was originally articulated and developed by Dr William Miller (1983) when psychology students he was supervising reflected that he had a unique method of interacting therapeutically with clients.

Use of Motivational Interviewing in Health Care

Motivational Interviewing has now been adapted and used across the health care continuum in the management and prevention of chronic disease, management of lifestyle factors that influence the development of illness, and adherence to treatment (Hohman et al 2021)  Further it has been proven to enhance clinician’s effectiveness in initiating and supporting change (Bischof et al 2021). Randomized controlled trials have found that motivational interviewing has a greater impact on lifestyle choices such as smoking cessation, diet and exercise, hazardous drinking and chronic disease management compared to ‘standard’ approaches such as client education and risk reduction interventions.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Miller and Rollnick (2013), explain motivational interviewing as being collaborative and goal oriented, with particular attention to the language of change, and designed to strengthen personal motivation for and commitment to change. All of this is done within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion. Motivational interviewing also utilises a Rogerian (1965) approach to working with people, including using a non judgemental and empathic style.

What Motivational Interviewing Is Not

It is also helpful to know what motivational interviewing is not.  Motivational interviewing is more than just being nice to someone. Being nice is fine, but we need to do more than that.   Motivational interviewing is not just a general conversation but is directed towards the person moving toward their goals.  Rather than a technique, it is a way of being with a person on their change journey. Neither is it a solution or cure all, rather motivational interviewing helps people resolve conflicting beliefs, attitudes or behaviours so they can move forward towards change. Trying to influence someone to change by being coercive or controlling is not motivational interviewing.

Motivational Interviewing and Veriti

Veriti directors are experts in delivering motivational interviewing training and assist organisations to strategically implement motivational interviewing as their intervention of choice.

If you would like to know more about how we can assist you or your organisation, please contact us.


Bischof, G., Bischof, A., & Rumpf, H. J. (2021). Motivational interviewing: An evidence-based approach for use in medical practice. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International118(7), 109.

Hohman, M., McMaster, F. & Woodruff, S.I. Contact Tracing for COVID-19: The Use of Motivational Interviewing and the Role of Social Work. Clin Soc Work J 49, 419–428 (2021).

Miller, W. (1983). Motivational Interviewing with Problem Drinkers. Behavioural Psychotherapy, 11(2), 147-172. doi:10.1017/S0141347300006583

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2009). Ten things that motivational interviewing is not. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychology, 37, 129-140. doi: 10.1017/S1352465809005128

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational Interviewing: Helping people change (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Press, p. 35.

Resnicow, K., & McMaster, F. (2012). Motivational interviewing: Moving from why to how with autonomy support. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9, 1-9.

Rogers, C. R. (1965). Client-centered therapy. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

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