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Motivational Interviewing (MI) for Addiction Treatment

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When a person uses drugs or alcohol, the substances can have a significant impact on their thought patterns. Not only does addiction interfere with the body’s everyday functions, but substance use can also affect a person’s ability to clearly understand themselves and their purpose.

Family members often struggle with loved ones who aren’t willing to examine their drinking or drug use. Unfortunately, the more a person is pushed, the less they may want to talk about it. With MI, the focus is placed on encouraging patients to examine their own behavior, rather than immediately focusing on how to change it.

This form of therapy often begins with a conversation about a person’s life goals and values. Where do they see themselves in the future? What kind of work is meaningful to them? Next, the counselor may ask the person to discuss how these values align (or don’t align) with their current substance use.

MI relies heavily on reflective listening, which includes repeating back what the patient said and allowing the patient to steer the conversation. Motivational interviewing can be highly effective among clients who desire to have a voice in determining their own course of addiction therapy .

At Vertava Health, our compassionate treatment teams use this form of therapy to inspire clients toward a mindset of recovery.

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What Is Motivational Interviewing (MI)?

Motivational interviewing is defined as a “person-centered method” that guides patients toward their own realizations about their behavior. This form of therapy aims to strengthen the patient’s personal motivation for change. In other words, MI increases a patient’s “buy-in,” by providing them the opportunity to state their goals for treatment and long-term recovery.

Before most people are able to achieve long-term recovery, they have to access their internal motivation. Willingness is key, and people who struggle with substance use disorders may become more willing if they are encouraged to take an active role in their own recovery.

Motivational interviewing uses research-based techniques and strategies such as shared decision-making. By involving patients in their own treatment plan, internal motivation is built. This creates a sense of achievement, which is vital to sustaining sobriety.

MI also changes a person’s focus. Instead of another person telling them what they should do, MI relies on an internal viewpoint. This helps set the stage for lasting change.

If the patient is hesitant to get honest or take an active role, therapists that practice MI are trained to “roll with resistance.” This technique allows patients the time and space to arrive at their own conclusions.

Another strategy MI-trained therapists utilize is to “comfort the afflicted.” By affirming what the patient is feeling, counselors help them feel seen and heard. In another session, if the patient seems to be disengaged, the counselor may choose to “afflict the comfortable,” and remind them of the values they discussed in an earlier session.

Benefits Of Motivational Interviewing (MI) In Drug And Alcohol Rehab Settings

One of the unique aspects of MI is that this therapy requires setting a concrete goal. Whether that is abstinence from alcohol or drugs or a specific behavioral change in relationships, this form of treatment is goal-driven. Clear and positive behavioral outcomes are decided on by the therapist as well as the patient.

This focus on goal setting is unique to MI, as many other counseling models rely heavily on the therapist’s insight. Instead of directly attempting to change the person’s thoughts, a therapist using MI would help patients to examine any contradictions between their thoughts and their actions.

Addiction often robs people of making wise choices about who they want to be. A person in active addiction (currently abusing drugs or alcohol) may struggle with crime, dishonesty, or other behaviors that go against their values. In MI, patients are encouraged to uncover and return to their goals and core values. Motivational interviewing has additional benefits, that include:

Intentional Decision-Making

When a person struggles with drugs or alcohol, they may do things they regret. Some may even make important decisions about relationships or work while under the influence. Realizing that you may have hurt yourself or others while in an altered state can be a difficult thing to confront in treatment.

With motivational interviewing, patients are guided to take back their power. The National Institutes of Health state that “MI encourages clients to make fully informed and deeply contemplated life choices,” which is a skill that will serve them both during and after treatment.

Internal Regulation

MI is a therapeutic approach that is considered “client-centered.” Unlike many other forms of counseling, this treatment approach does not build off external regulation. Instead of a focus on receiving rewards or punishments, MI encourages patients to look within for the motivation they need to change.

As researchers have realized, external pressure can only do so much. Rewards and punishment may spark temporary change but are not viewed as a path to enduring change. Similarly, MI encourages patients away from self-judgment and shame as motivation. Instead, therapists help patients to slowly align their behavior with the positive visions they have for their future.

Improved Relationships

It feels good to make your mind up about something and accomplish that goal. In fact, this behavior can cause the brain to release feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. This satisfying and enjoyable feeling can improve a person’s relationship with themselves, even early in the treatment process.

As a person heals their own self-image and interpersonal communication, they may experience a ripple effect in their other relationships. Suddenly, the parent that drove them to treatment is seen as caring rather than controlling. Therapy sessions are now viewed as a tool for change, rather than disciplinary action.

Motivational interviewing helps patients examine themselves and their behavior in a non-threatening atmosphere. Experiencing more harmonic decisions and relationships, as a result, can greatly ease a person’s recovery journey.

Finding A Rehab Program That Uses Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Vertava Health recognize the value of internal motivation, and we utilize this therapy method at our facilities across the U.S. In addition to MI, our treatment centers provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), adventure therapy, mindfulness education, nutrition and wellness support, and medication-assisted treatment.

Motivational interviewing sets a person up for a positive, effective treatment experience. Once a person has completed addiction treatment, the introspective skills they develop are theirs to take and apply in the future.

To learn more about motivational interviewing (MI), or to find a Vertava Health rehab center near you, contact one of our representatives today.