Motivational interviewing is based upon a decades-old, person-centered approach first introduced by Carl Rodgers – where it was identified that clients change when engaged with a counselor who warmly approaches with the appropriate empathy. Many components may affect the outcome of a client’s treatment. Still, ambivalence towards their substance use and behavioral change is a common challenge for providers – one that motivational interviewing can address. In this article, we’ll discuss motivational interviewing for SUD treatment clients.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing is the process of using questions to explore a client’s intrinsic motivations and values. According to SAMHSA, “You can use MI to effectively reduce or eliminate client substance use and other health-risk behaviors in many settings and across genders, ages, races, and ethnicities.”

What are the Best Practices for Motivational Interviewing?

There are a few key components to ensure a successful motivational interview:

  • Partnership – there should be engagement with you and the client, where trust is established, and empathy expressed.
  • Acceptance – counselors should actively display their understanding of the client’s concerns and viewpoints while acknowledging their potential.
  • Compassion – while exploring client needs, counselors should focus on prioritizing the welfare of the individual.
  • Evocation – here is where you look to elicit the client’s motivations and values while exploring the resources and strengths the client has at their disposal.

What Skills are Needed for Motivational Interviewing?

The easiest way to remember the skills needed for motivational interviewing is to use the acronym OARS. Here’s what it stands for:

  • Open Questions – these are questions that require more thorough answers and explanations. Ideally, your client will need to reflect, answer, and then elaborate on areas as you interview further.
  • Affirming – here, you will express your acceptance and appreciation for the information your client shares.
  • Reflective – this demonstrates that you are actively listening by reiterating or paraphrasing key statements the client has made.
  • Summarizing – here, you will use related statements that the client made in order to create a narrative in which they can reflect on.

What are the Benefits of Motivational Interviewing for SUD Treatment Clients?

The research around motivational interviewing has been steadily growing over the years. The overall scientific evidence suggests that the main benefit is that it has small to substantial effects for positive behavioral outcomes. Next, motivational interviewing is cost-effective and easy to use, making it simple to implement for treatment providers. Finally, motivational interviewing has been broadly adopted, produces positive results with various behavioral changes, and complements other treatment approaches well.

In Conclusion

Motivational interviewing is an excellent tool for ensuring SUD treatment clients achieve positive outcomes. Because of its patient-centered approach, it can be very effective in helping clients change behaviors. Using the core skills (OARS) and components (partnership, acceptance, compassion, and evocation) will help your team be successful in motivational interviewing for many years to come.

To learn more about motivational interviewing, visit the SAMHSA Tip 35 document, chapter 3.

If you’re interested in seeing how Sunwave can help document and report on your motivational interviews, schedule a demo with one of our platform experts.

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