What is the Primary Goal of Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a therapy approach that facilitates and engages a client’s intrinsic motivation to change behavior. While it is goal-oriented, it is also client-centered, meaning that a therapist directs the course and focuses on the level of the client. The therapist and client are more of a partnership than an expert/client relationship. MI starts by targeting, exploring, and resolving ambivalence about treatment, behavior, or change.

Unlike other client-centered approaches, it is not entirely non-directive. Still, the goal-oriented nature allows the therapist to attempt to influence clients to consider making necessary changes by reaching their level of motivation. The therapist is intentionally directive in achieving the primary goal of resolving ambivalence. It is essential to balance that directive nature with the idea that MI is non-judgmental, non-confrontational, and non-adversarial.

In this article, we will explore what is the primary goal of motivational interviewing with some tips.

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing involves stoking a client’s intrinsic motivation. It was initially designed to help substance abusers. Currently, this technique is used in the fitness industry. A personal training program can help you lose weight, increase physical activity, and stick to it more easily.

In motivational interviewing, it is assumed that everyone can reach their full potential. Additionally, the behavioral change model recognizes that ambivalence- having contradictory beliefs and behaviors- is a normal part of the process. Moreover, the coach helps clients identify their ambivalence. In the next step, positive change is matched with their beliefs.

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

There are several benefits to motivational interviewing, including:

  • Enhanced motivation for making personal changes
  • Preparing for treatment better
  • Increasing your treatment participation
  • Enhancing your drug and alcohol rehab program’s success
  • If you relapse, help you return to the right level of care

It is possible to teach motivational interviewing goals before beginning a drug and alcohol treatment program to increase the likelihood of successful completion. Motivating interviewing is one of the many therapies that clients can choose from when they start a program of drug or alcohol rehabilitation.

What is the Primary Goal of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing has a primary goal. The purpose of motivational interviewing is to assist clients in identifying and making positive changes. By focusing on personalized care, motivational interviewing accomplishes its goals. Your program’s engagement can be increased by a factor of four with this customized care.

Personalized Care

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse treatment aims to achieve what? Partnering with the patient and focusing on compassion and partnership. Motivational interviewing needs to meet the following goals:

  • Affirmations are offered
  • Make sure you ask open-ended questions
  • Briefly summarize the feelings of their clients
  • Listen in a reflective manner

Rather than being authoritative or judgmental, counselors use empathy to encourage lasting change.

Accepting Ambivalence

Motivational interviewing recognizes that people may feel ambivalent about change for various reasons. Regarding substance abuse or mental health disorders, being adverse to change should not be met with judgment but compassion. Motivational interviewers are not authoritative but seek to engage you through collaboration and trust.
The counselor helps you identify this ambivalence and resolve it. The following tactics might be used:

  • Changing the conversation
  • Positive behavior encouragement
  • Enhancing your understanding of the stage of change as a client

Change Talk

In your sessions, you talk about change, how you might change, and why you want to change. You can make goals using this part of the communication.

Sustain Talk

Sustain talk is another way to discuss maintaining your chosen changes. It helps you reach your goals when you talk like this.

Discord Talk

Here, you discuss possible discords and your ambivalence toward change. You can discuss these discords within the confines of motivational interviewing regardless of the level of change.

Stages of Change

Motivational interviewing considers the five stages of change.

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

There is evidence that motivational counseling increases the success rate of drug abuse treatment, decreases alcohol consumption, and reduces health risks. When clients express ambivalence, treating them with a supportive partnership is one of the best ways to motivate them to change. Any ambivalence toward change can be resolved using techniques that focus on the individual. A motivational interview can help clients stay motivated no matter where they are in their journey.

General Processes:

In Motivational Interviewing (MI), individuals are helped to resolve their ambivalence and find the motivation to change their lives. The following are the general processes involved in Motivational Interviewing:


The therapist hopes to establish a trusting relationship with clients by involving them in discussing issues and concerns. It is the client’s responsibility to articulate and resolve their ambivalence. In other words, direct persuasion does not work, and therapy must involve an engaged interaction between therapist and client.


Focusing on what clients want to change in their habits or patterns.


Motivating clients to make a change by increasing their importance of change, their confidence about the change they need to make, and readiness for the difference. To motivate change, one needs to look inside the client, not outside, and focus on the client’s intrinsic values and goals.


To begin and make changes the client wants, we identify and develop the practical steps they need or want to take. The therapist helps the client resolve ambivalence and determine how to change.

Create Environment:

In MI, the therapist is generally more quiet and encouraging. The focus is on quiet encouragement rather than confrontation and persuasion.

Assessing Readiness:

Assessing readiness to change is ongoing and fluctuates over time. As a therapist, paying attention and responding to motivational signs is essential. It is also important to avoid jumping ahead of the client to avoid generating resistance.

Basic Skills:

Motivating Interviewing uses core skills strategically to address various topics, including the importance of change, confidence, the future, and a typical day. These activities are conducted in a warm, genuine, and empathetic environment while encouraging positive growth. Here are some basic examples: asking open-ended questions, affirming, reflecting, and summarizing.

  • Reflective Listening: Engaging in a dialogue to better understand the person’s perspective.
  • Providing Affirmations: Assuring clients they are accepted and affirming their ability to self-direct their lives.
  • Providing Summary Statements: Summarizing the client’s self-motivational statements, expressions of recognition of the problem, concern, desire, intention to change, and ability to change, and reinforcing them selectively.

Tips for Enhancing Your Clients’ Motivation

In a motivational interview, you aim to increase the client’s desire to achieve their fitness objectives. It’s about raising their motivation to the highest possible level. What is the best way to do this?
Motivating factors include autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In other words, they make these changes because they want to, not because they need to satisfy someone else. When you have mastery, you feel as if you understand exactly how to achieve your goals, and when you have purpose, you have a profound, compelling reason to change.

Combining all three elements in your fitness program will help your clients achieve lasting results. To motivate your client, you need to educate them on their importance. Once you have assessed their autonomy, mastery, and purpose level, you can determine where they are. After identifying these three elements:

  • Identify any barriers they may have.
  • If someone else is forcing them to eat healthier or exercise more, ask who it is.
  • Ask them if they have any fears or insecurities about changing their behavior.

Finalize by reinforcing their autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Improve their fitness and nutrition by helping them establish more control. Exercise and diet should be taught to them with knowledge. It may be necessary to refer them to a nutrition therapist or a dietician.

Also, it helps them discover their larger purpose. What lifestyle changes would help them better connect with others? In what ways would it contribute to a more positive outlook on life?
By training in motivational interviewing, you will be better prepared to help clients change their behaviors over time. It is offered as part of the ISSA’s Transformation Specialist certification course. A motivational interviewing training program provides you with many ways to improve your motivational interviewing skills.

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