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Motivational Interviewing Therapy for Addiction

Motivational interviewing therapy (also called motivational enhancement therapy) is one of the important techniques utilized by the clinicians and counselors at Infinite Recovery. At its core, motivational interviewing is a communication style that focuses on finding and supporting a person’s intrinsic motivation to change. [1] It is a useful approach in an addiction treatment setting where newly sober individuals are learning to build lives that don’t revolve around the use of substances.

When combined with the other holistic, evidence-based therapies offered through our inpatient and outpatient treatment services, motivational interviewing therapy can help individuals create meaningful and healthy lives that are worth staying sober for.

Clinician performing motivational interviewing therapy session

What is Motivational Interviewing Therapy?

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The motivational interviewing approach is a client-centered counseling style that is versatile and can be applied across a number of settings, including clinical psychology environments, healthcare settings, correctional institutions, education settings, and more. [1]

It is a collaborative style of communication that balances listening with advice-giving and emphasizes respect, curiosity, compassion and enhancing motivation. Instead of confronting individuals or telling them what they need to do, motivational interviewing focuses on understanding them and supporting their own sense of awareness, self-efficacy and motivation.

Motivational interviewing therapy with recovery specialist

Core Elements of Motivational Interviewing

A man and a laughing woman

Motivational interviewing has proven to be a useful framework for those struggling with substance use disorders and mental health disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. [2]


The motivational enhancement therapy process is one of equality and respect, recognizing that each person is an expert on their own mind and behavior and intrinsically possesses all they need to make positive changes. Partnership is the spirit of the motivational interviewing counseling approach, which is based on a trusting therapeutic relationship and a safe clinical setting.


The role of a motivational therapy professional is to help uncover and draw out a client’s values and own personal motivation to find success. Their role is not to direct and control the client’s experience. Therapists utilizing the motivational interviewing counseling approach may incorporate reflective listening and try expressing empathy to support the client’s intrinsic motivation.


Motivational interviewing therapy is rooted in validation and acceptance. Throughout motivational counseling sessions, the therapist seeks to empathize and encourage clients to make the decisions and changes that are right for them. This helps increase self efficacy and elicit change talk instigated from the client themselves.


Compassion is a key concept of motivational therapy when used in a substance abuse treatment setting. At all times the client should feel safe and supported, with no sense that their actions or thoughts are being judged or that their inherent worth is being questioned. This client centered approach helps create a safe and trusting relationship between the client and the therapist, which supports the recovery process.

What to Expect During a Motivational Therapy Session

A motivational enhancement therapy session may feel similar to other talk therapy sessions, depending on what other therapeutic modalities the practitioner uses to guide the experience.

One key exception is that, unlike some forms of therapy, motivational interviewing does not focus on certain thoughts and actions as “problems” that need to be corrected. Instead, it focuses on the strengths and inherent value that each client brings to the table and helps harness that person’s motivation to create positive behavior change.

During a motivational interviewing therapy session, a therapist may use the following techniques to help understand the client’s experiences, express empathy for their situation, and encourage behavior change:

  • Open questions
  • Affirmation
  • Reflective listening
  • Summarizing
  • Exchanging information [1]

In addition, the practitioner may pay specific attention to “change talk” or the words that a client is using that either support their current behavior or support making positive changes.

By supporting the client’s ability to identify their own motivations and personal values, the motivational interviewing therapy practitioner becomes an ally as opposed to an authority figure. They can repeat a client’s own ideas and change talk back to them and facilitate behavior change through the client’s point of view instead of direct advice.

How Motivational Enhancement Therapy Supports Substance Abuse Treatment

Motivational interviewing therapy has been shown to reduce substance abuse [3] and help individuals on the path to recovery create the coping mechanisms and lifestyle changes necessary to support their sobriety. Its primary goal is enhancing motivation and increasing a person’s self efficacy through the stages of change.

This approach can be especially useful for individuals experiencing any of the following:

  • Mixed feelings about change
  • Doubt in their abilities to change
  • Low desire to make a change
  • Uncertainty about the benefits of change or the disadvantages of their current situation [1]

For individuals with a substance use disorder, any or all of these conditions may be true. A newly-sober person may doubt their ability to maintain abstinence from drug and alcohol use, especially if they have attempted to get sober in the past and relapsed. They may also feel out of control or powerless against their addiction and unclear about how they can find happiness or relaxation without the use of substances.

Through motivational interviewing therapy, a person in recovery from a substance use disorder can learn to trust themselves and their abilities once again. With the support and guidance of a therapist, they can get in touch with their intrinsic motivation, improve their sense of self-efficacy and take personal responsibility for developing into the best and healthiest version of themselves.

Other Therapies We Offer

Infinite Recovery takes a holistic approach to addiction recovery, which means we support healing and transformation on a body, mind, and soul level, instead of just treating symptoms. We know that the recovery process looks different for every person, so we customize treatment to meet the unique needs and preferences of each and every client.

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Motivational interviewing therapy session
Motivational interviewing therapy specialist

Individualized Treatment from a Caring Team

During intake, we conduct a comprehensive assessment of each client’s emotional and mental health, as well as any physical health conditions. This helps us create their individualized treatment plan and determine what counseling approach will be best suited to their needs.

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Get Help for Yourself or Someone You Love

If you or a loved one are seeking addiction treatment with a focus on motivational interviewing therapy, Infinite Recovery is here to help. Our individual and group therapy sessions are the cornerstone of our treatment programs and help clients uncover the root causes of their addictive behaviors while improving their sense of agency and confidence.

Our person-centered approach means that we customize our services to meet the unique needs of each client and work with them at whatever level they are comfortable, instead of applying generic treatments.
We offer a full continuum of care for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders, from detox to inpatient rehab to outpatient services. All of our programs accept health insurance as an in-network provider and we have a 24/7 admissions process so that we can connect you or your loved one with the services you need as quickly as possible.

For a complimentary and confidential consultation, reach out to our admissions team today. We would be happy to provide more information about our services and answer any questions you may have.

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