A common aspect to all healthy change is ambivalence, both wanting to make the change and yet still seeing reasons for maintaining old behaviours. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based counselling approach particularly suited for helping people move beyond such ambivalence and into action. A drastic departure from shame-based approaches to instill morality and motivation, MI embraces a research-supported belief that people’s internal motivation and wisdom regarding healthy change already exists and simply needs a compassionate, directional approach. Similarly, rather than a coercive approach, MI emphasizes a collaborative spirit, a partnership in which our counsellor recognizes that every person is ultimately responsible for their autonomous direction.
In addition to the above “spirit” that weaves through MI, there is a fundamental emphasis on conversations about change. We’ve all experienced conversations about change that didn’t go as planned – “making” someone change by putting enough knowledge, fear, etc into them only to find our efforts have backfired. The skillful MI counsellor avoids confrontation, and instead offers directional assistance through the discrepancies between values and present behaviours, goals and present reality. The conversation becomes focused on the person’s own narratives about change possibilities rooted in their own values, interests, beliefs, and attitudes. In summary, MI has been defined as “a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change”.