What is motivational interviewing?

MI is a collaborative communication style for strengthening a person's own motivation and commitment to change. In brief, the role of helping professionals is to assist clients to become more aware of the implications of change, and/or of not changing, through a non-judgmental conversation in which clients do most of the talking.

According to the founders of motivational interviewing, “Motivational interviewing is a directive, client-centered counseling style for eliciting behavior change by helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence. Compared with non-directive counseling, it is more focused and goal-directed. The examination and resolution of ambivalence is its central purpose, and the counselor is intentionally directive in pursuing this goal.” Rollnick, S., & Miller, W. (1995). What is Motivational Interviewing? Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(4), 325-334.

MI, which originated in the early 1980s, has become a well-recognized brand of counseling. Interest in MI continues to grow at a rapid pace, perhaps because it is short term, teachable, and has a humanistic philosophy. Many factors contribute to the wide implementation of MI. The scientific evidence base for MI is growing, yet the primary appeal may be its wide application in many different behavioral domains and client categories. 

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing

Who utilizes motivational interviewing?


Probation officers

School counselors

Physical therapists

Addiction professionals




Anyone seeking behavior change!


“Virtually anytime MI has been tested empirically in new areas, it has shown positive and significant effects. Thus, we have likely not yet found the limits of the types of problems and symptoms to which MI can be applied.”

Dr. Brad Lundahl in the journal 'Research on Social Work Practice'

Is motivational interviewing evidence-based?

Published Studies

Published Studies

Published Studies

motivational interviewing, motivational interviewing training

With nearly 3,000 published studies in the past 10 years, motivational interviewing is one of the most studied areas in patient-centered care.


Published Studies

Published Studies

motivational interviewing, motivational interviewing training

MI also works for clients regardless of problem severity, age, or gender, and may even work better for ethnic minority clients and without a specific treatment manual

motivational interviewing, motivational interviewing training

'MI is not a way of tricking people into changing; it is a way of activating their own motivation and resources for change.'

Miller & Rollnick, 2013

What problems does motivational interviewing solve?

  1. Where to focus in counseling
  2. Lifting clients' motivation through promoting change talk
  3. Lifting clients' confidence through planning
  4. Reducing frustration with clients via Philosophy about Change
  5. Skills to increase client engagement and reduce or prevent resistance
  6. Utilizing an evidence-based approach