Motivational Interviewing

An introduction to Motivational Interviewing and how it can be used with a directory of MI Resources below.

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An introduction to Motivational Interviewing (MI)

By Ben Metcalfe

My name is Ben Metcalfe.  I work as the Dual Diagnosis Lead for a liaison service in Manchester. One of the things I most rely on in my work is Motivational Interviewing.  In short, this is a way of having helpful conversations with people about things that are important to them.  I am a member of MINT (The Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers) and have been delivering training in MI for about 10 years.

What MI does for me is that it helps understand the person I am speaking to (I hope).  In MI we enter a conversation with people with a certain heart set and mind set.  For me, MI isn’t about getting somebody to do the things they don’t want to do – that suits me because I don’t need an agenda, a questionnaire, or a list of things I need to get.  It isn’t about me, but about a partnership.  MI links well with person centred counselling and Carl Rogers work in that I meet people with that unconditional positive regard, with acceptance for who they are, on that day, time and place. MI doesn’t judge and I try to see their world through their eyes.

This takes careful listening, a curiosity and permission from the person I speak to explore their experience, their wisdom and their hopes & fears.  That’s a personal journey if you ask me and MI helps me respect that.  In fact, I try never to forget that if people are telling me something personal about themselves then that is a privilege to respect. MI allows me to support them through this process. I don’t try and fix, I don’t try to make it about me (however relatable), I don’t offer advice or tell them what they should do, what they need to do.  I don’t tell people what might happen if they don’t do certain things.  Again, MI isn’t about me wanting to feel better and saying, ‘Well I told them to do x, y and z and they didn’t listen.’  Mi is the opposite, it’s something to do “for” or “with” someone.  It’s not something we “do” on people.  It’s not some kind of verbal Jiu Jitsu that gets somebody to miraculously change.

Learning MI has helped me gently enquire with a curious mind (you need empathy for that), it has helped me listen reflectively (you need empathy for that), it’s helped me see people’s strength through adversity (you need empathy for that) and it helps me check with them that I’ve listened and got it.  I guess I want people to feel heard, to feel understood. MI taught me empathy.  This was something I figured I always had but I wonder if empathy is actually any use unless the person you are speaking to senses you have empathy too?  I know when I connect with others who make me feel heard and understood way, it feels pretty helpful.

I don’t see MI as being a soft skill either, in fact it can be really challenging at times. We try and understand the inner uncertainty one faces when ones actions perhaps don’t match how one would like or want their lives to be. 

Mi helps me meet people where they are, not where I think they should be, or a service ‘needs’ them to be.  There is equal worth amongst us, regardless of what stage in our journeys we may be. Also, I think MI can be tricky to learn.  I certainly don’t feel I’ve finished learning it, I hope I never stop learning.

MI fits with dual diagnosis well.  These issues are complicated and navigating through them is a challenge not to be underestimated or solved with a quick fix.  MI can help a person explore where they want to be and try to unravel the things before them that prevent them in getting that small step closer. If you have ever changed anything in your life, its worth thinking about what the first steps were, where the thoughts started about that change, who helped, what you did well and what you learned. If there are things that I want to change (I have lots) then I give myself time to understand these issues, I try to be compassionate to myself, I try to see value in steps I make (forwards and backwards) and I feel more able to go again.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to learn more about MI, I would recommend reading about Motivational Interviewing by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, or visit this website

Motivational Interviewing, Third Edition: Helping People Change (Applications of Motivational Interviewing)

Now in a fully rewritten fourth edition, this is the authoritative presentation of motivational interviewing (MI), the powerful approach to facilitating change.

It has been updated and streamlined to be even more user-friendly as a practitioner guide and course text. MI originators William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick elucidate the four tasks of MI–engaging, focusing, evoking, and planning–and vividly demonstrate what they look like in action.

A wealth of vignettes and interview examples illustrate the dos and don’ts of successful implementation in diverse contexts. The book reviews the evidence base for the approach and covers ways to assess the quality of MI. The companion website provides reflection questions, annotated case material, and additional helpful resources.

New to This Edition:

  • Most of the book is entirely new.
  • Addresses the breadth of MI applications not only in counselling and psychotherapy, but also in health care, education, coaching, management, and other contexts.
  • Discusses delivering MI remotely, simple versus complex affirmations, strategic use of directional questions, ethical considerations, and other new or expanded topics.
  • Increased emphasis on using MI throughout a client’s process of change and growth, not just in the preparatory stage.

Pedagogical Features

  • New or updated online materials, including reflection questions and annotated cases.
  • Key points at the end of each chapter.
  • “Personal Perspective” and “For Therapists” boxes in every chapter.
  • Extensive glossary.
  • New self-assessment tool that targets the component skills of MI.

This book is in the Applications of Motivational Interviewing series, edited by Stephen Rollnick, William R. Miller, and Theresa B. Moyers.


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