Module 9: working with young people on AOD issues: learner's workbook

4.1 Introduction to motivational interviewing

Page last updated: 2004

Issue of motivation
What is motivational interviewing?
Key principles of motivational interviewing

Issue of motivation

The issue of motivation is often raised in discussions about young people and also in relation to AOD use. Although it is an important concept in the behaviour change context, it is difficult to define. Workers' perceptions of motivation may differ, not only from each other but also from that of the young person.

The main idea of motivational interviewing is to purposefully create a conversation around change, without attempting to convince the person of the need to change or instructing them about how to change.

Motivational interviewing is a therapeutic approach that was originally developed in the alcohol and other drug field by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick (Miller, 1983; Miller & Rollnick, 1991). Previous approaches to the treatment of addiction behaviours tended to view continued substance use as evidence of inherent personality defects, such as denial.

This approach utilises the principles and practices of personcentred counselling to encourage the young person to move through the stages of change and to make personal choices along the way. A young person's resistance is viewed as evidence of conflict or ambivalence and is met with reflection rather than a confrontational style (Rollnick and Miller, 1995).

In this topic we will be discussing some of the fundamental aspects of motivational interviewing and some techniques that may be helpful for you in your work with young people. It is not, however, a comprehensive course in motivational interviewing as this requires far more information and skills which are beyond the scope of this module.

What is motivational interviewing?

Workplace learning activity

Please read the article 'What is motivational Interviewing?' (Rollnick and Miller, 1995) before answering the following questions:

Question - Reflect on the points made in the article under the subheading 'The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing'. How do these ideas compare with your current work with young people?

Question - How might motivational interviewing be used in your work with young people?Top of page

Key principles of motivational interviewing

The following are the key principles of motivational interviewing.

Express empathy

  • Acceptance facilitates change
  • Skilful reflection is fundamental
  • Ambivalence is normal

Develop discrepancy

  • Awareness of consequences is important
  • A discrepancy between present behaviour and important goals will motivate change

Avoid argument

  • Arguments are counterproductive
  • Defending breeds defensiveness
  • Resistance is a signal to change strategies
  • Labelling is unnecessary for change

Roll with resistance

  • Momentum can be used to good advantage
  • Perceptions can be shifted
  • New perspectives are invited but not imposed

Support self-efficacy

  • The belief in the possibility of change is an important motivator
  • The young person is responsible for choosing and carrying out personal change
  • The young person should present arguments for change