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What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Man asks another person, "What is motivational interviewing?"

Changing self-defeating behavior patterns caused by addiction can be challenging. Frequently, addiction and harmful self-talk feed into one another in a very hard-to-break cycle. Fortunately, evidence-based therapeutic techniques are available to support the process.

If you or your loved one is searching for a recovery program and you wonder what motivational interviewing is and how it could help, reach out today. What is motivational interviewing, though? The caring team at NuLife Behavioral Health Services Massachusetts is excited to tell you more about this profound tool for change. Call us at 888.568.2057 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about our motivational interviewing program (MI program) and range of treatment options.

What Is an MI Program?

A motivational interviewing (MI) program is an excellent addition to many addiction recovery plans. But what is motivational interviewing, exactly? The technique is guided by the acronym OARS, in which each letter stands for a communication skill the practitioner will apply during sessions called “interviews” in this context:

  • “O” stands for open-ended questions, meaning the interview will encourage clients to expand on their goals through responses that a simple yes or no can’t cover.
  • “A” is for affirmations, meaning the interviewer will validate the interviewee’s contributions and emotions throughout the experience. Expressing empathy and understanding for interviewees’ input builds the therapeutic relationship and paves the way for further sharing.
  • “R” stands for reflective listening. Interviewers use this celebrated restorative justice technique to help clients feel seen and heard. To practice reflective listening, the interviewer repeats what they believe they’ve just heard using a sentence like, “I believe you’re saying ___.” After reflecting a statement, the interviewer then asks whether or not they got it right. This allows the interviewee to ensure their statements are being received correctly and revise if needed.
  • “S” stands for summaries. This OARS component can be considered an expanded form of reflective listening. The interviewer summarizes the interviewee’s statements after longer shares and adds some reflection of their own to the mix. A strategy with a potentially huge impact, summaries allow interviewees to recognize patterns in their content as seen through their interviewer’s eyes.

This one-on-one therapeutic intervention teaches clients to find motivation and resolve to continue their vital recovery journey. This client-centric approach effectively treats a range of addictions, with smoking and alcohol being among the most responsive.

How Does Motivational Interviewing Work Within Addiction Treatment?

A skilled interviewer can help clients struggling with addiction in many ways, including the following:

  • Growing self-confidence and agency – Interviewers help their interviewees contend with the low self-esteem common in addiction recovery. This step often includes recounting the past successes that have brought the interviewee to this crucial moment in life where healing truly is within reach. It can be hard to see the forest for the trees during recovery, and MI is a powerful tool for fostering perspective.
  • Approaching internal resistance productively – It’s always tough to challenge how things have been for a long time. Coming to grips with one’s natural tendency toward resisting changes in harmful substance use behaviors is thus a significant thrust in MI. One of the top methods here involves asking clients to name the reasons they, themselves, have for wanting change in the first place.
  • Finding sustainable change from within – Autonomy is fundamental in MI, and a good interviewer will help refine and share a skill set that works best for the interviewee. This means that the latter comes away with something they can use going forward and feel appropriately confident when they ultimately strike out on their own.
  • Identifying discrepancy – Interviewers help interviewees work with cognitive dissonance. This phenomenon is common in those struggling with addiction and can be understood as contradictory beliefs. For example, many in recovery know how dangerous their drug of choice is yet still partly believe they need it to cope. Working toward honesty about one’s internal contradictions and finding a throughline of personal truth are crucial to lasting sobriety.

MI can work wonders as part of an addiction treatment plan that includes other effective approaches like group therapy, medication management, and holistic offerings.

Find an MI Program in Massachusetts at NuLife Behavioral Health

Motivational interviewing can make a great addition to substance abuse and mental health treatment. By reaching out to us today, you can learn more about this technique and the array of impactful offerings at NuLife Behavioral Health in Massachusetts. Contact NuLife Behavioral Health today at 888.568.2057 or online. Our caring team members are standing by to talk to you about our programs and services that can help you get on the path to recovery as soon as possible.