4.2 Communication Framework II: Motivational Interviewing

4.2 Communication Framework II: Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing is a counselling approach designed to help people find the motivation to make a positive behaviour change.

Miller and Rollnick define motivational interviewing as a client-centred method for enhancing intrinsic motivation to change by exploring and resolving ambivalence.[1] In other words, it is a counselling approach to help people find the motivation to make a positive behaviour change. MI was originally developed by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick to treat addiction (alcohol, nicotine addiction). Motivational interviewing is unique in the way in which people are expected to take responsibility for their life.


The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing

The basis is voluntary cooperation on the change that the mentee wishes to achieve.

Collaboration (Instead of Confrontation)

Collaboration is a partnership between the mentor and the mentee. The relationship is based on the point of view and experiences of the mentee. Collaboration builds rapport and facilitates trust in the mentoring relationship. It does not necessarily mean that the mentor agrees with the mentee about the nature of the problem. Although the mentor and the mentee may see things differently, the counselling process is focused on mutual understanding.

Evocation (Rather Than Education)

The method assumes that the motivation for change is in the mentees, inside them. Such intrinsic motivation for change is enhanced by drawing on the mentee’s own perceptions, goals, and values.

Autonomy (Over Authority)

Simply put, it is up to the mentee to take the actions necessary to change their behaviour. They must put in the work. This approach gives mentees personal responsibility for their actions. The mentor reinforces that there are multiple ways that change can occur, not just a single “right way”.


Four Fundamental Processes

MI consists of four key, client-centred processes that work together to help the individual define his or her goals and begin to move toward them. These processes work together to guide mentees toward their motivation for change.

1. Engaging
Establishing a good relationship between mentee and mentor is a foundational component of motivational interviewing. Qualities like empathy, acceptance, a focus on the mentee’s strengths and mutual respect create the foundation for such a relationship. The mentor tries to think and feel like the mentee. To be heard and understood is very important for the mentee. This attitude facilitates sharing the mentee’s experiences, thoughts and feelings in depth.

2. Focusing
Some mentees know exactly what they want to change in their lives, others do not know what they want to or should change. They only feel dissatisfied, but they do not know the causes or ways to make changes for the better. Focusing is about helping the mentees determine what is truly important to them and using that information to set the goal of mutual cooperation. The goals should, of course, be mutually agreed upon by both mentee and mentor.

3. Evoking
Once a focus has been identified and is mutually agreed upon, evoking involves discovering the mentee’s personal interest and motivation to change. Being able to recognize when mentees say something that suggests they may be willing or ready to move toward change is an integral part of the evoking process.

4. Planning
The important thing about the planning process in motivational interviewing is that the plan comes from the mentees and is based on their unique values, needs and self-knowledge. Each of the four processes is geared toward fostering and building the mentee’s motivation to change. Any attempts on behalf of the mentor to “take the reins” during the planning process may undermine or reverse the mentee’s sense of empowerment.

That said, as a mentor, you are responsible for inserting your expertise when warranted. For example, mentees may express clearly that they want to change, have to change, or are ready to change, but they may be stuck, not knowing how to do so. This situation is where your expertise comes in.


Reflective questions for the reader:

  1. What are the four fundamental processes of the Motivational Interviewing method and how can you successfully apply them?
  2. Why must the goals of counselling be based on the needs and motivation of the mentee and not on the needs and motivation of the mentor?


[1] MILLER, William and Stephen ROLLNICK. Motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing: Preparing people for change. 2nd edition. 72 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012: The Guilford Press, 2002, p. 25. ISBN 1-57230-563-0.