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Motivational Interviewing. Richard Rawson, Ph.D. Pacific Southwest ATTC UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs 2008. Traditional approach (1). The Stick. Change is motivated by discomfort. If you can make people feel bad enough, they will change.

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motivational interviewing

Motivational Interviewing

Richard Rawson, Ph.D.

Pacific Southwest ATTC

UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs


traditional approach 1
Traditional approach (1)

The Stick

  • Change is motivated by discomfort.
  • If you can make people feel bad enough, they will change.
  • People have to “hit bottom” to be ready for change
  • Corollary: People don’t change if they haven’t suffered enough
traditional approach 2
Traditional approach (2)

You better!

Or else!

If the stick is big enough,

there is no need for a carrot.

traditional approach 3
Traditional approach (3)

Someone who continues to use is

“in denial.”

The best way to “break through” the

denial is direct confrontation.

another approach motivating 1
Another approach: Motivating (1)
  • People are ambivalent about change
  • People continue their drug use because of their ambivalence

The carrot

another approach motivating 16
Another approach: Motivating (1)
  • Motivation for change can be fostered by an accepting, empowering, and safe atmosphere

The carrot


Ambivalence: Feeling two ways about something.

  • All change contains an element of ambivalence.
  • Resolving ambivalence in the direction of change is a key element of motivational interviewing
what is the problem
What is the problem?

It is NOT that…

  • they don’t want to see (denial)
  • they don’t care (no motivation)

They are just early in the stages of change

Addiction is a brain disease that disables the brain from functioning normally in areas such as motivation, attention, perception, memory, planning, etc.

activity 1 reflection
Activity 1: Reflection

Take some time to think about the most difficult change that you had to make in your live.

How much time did it take you to move from considering that change to actually taking action.

stages of change
Stages of Change

Recognizing the need to change and understanding how to change doesn’t happen all at once. It usually takes time and patience.

People often go through a series of “stages” as they begin to recognise that they have a problem.

helping people change 1
Helping people change (1)

Helping people change involves increasing their awareness of their need to change and helping them to start moving through the stages of change.

  • Start “where the client is”
  • Positive approaches are more effective than confrontation – particularly in an outpatient setting.
helping people change 2
Helping people change (2)

Motivational interviewing is the process of helping people moving through the stages of change.

first stage pre contemplation
First Stage: Pre-contemplation

People at this stage:

  • Are unaware of any problem related to their drug use
  • Are unconcerned about their drug-use
  • Ignore anyone else’s belief that they are doing something harmful
second stage contemplation
Second Stage: Contemplation

People at this stage are considering whether or not to change:

  • They enjoy using drugs, but
  • They are sometimes worried about the increasing difficulties the use is causing.
  • They are constantly debating with themselves whether or not they have a problem.
third stage determination preparation
Third Stage: Determination/preparation


People at this stage aredeciding how they aregoing to change

  • May be ready to change their


  • Getting ready to make the change

It may take a long time to move to the next stage (action).

fourth stage action
Fourth Stage: Action

People at this stage:

  • Have begun the process of changing
  • Need help identifying realistic steps, high-risk situations, and new coping strategies
fifth stage maintenance
Fifth Stage: Maintenance

People in this stage:

  • Have made a change and
  • Are working on maintaining the change

People at this stage have reinitiated the identified behaviour.

  • People usually make several attempts to quit before being successful.
  • The process of changing is rarely the same in subsequent attempts. Each attempt incorporates new information gained from the previous attempts.

Someone who has relapsed

is NOT a failure!

Relapse is part of the recovery process.

principles of motivational interviewing22
Principles of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is founded on 4 basic principles:

  • Express empathy
  • Develop discrepancy
  • Roll with resistance
  • Support self-efficacy
principle 1 express empathy
Principle 1: Express empathy
  • The crucial attitude is one of acceptance
  • Skilful reflective listening is fundamental to the client’s feeling understood and cared about.
  • Client ambivalence is normal; the clinician should demonstrate an understanding of the client’s perspective
  • Labelling is unnecessary
example of expressing empathy
Example of expressing empathy

I am so tired that I cannot even sleep… So I drink some wine.

You drink wine to help you sleep.

…When I wake up…I am too late for work already…

Yesterday my boss fired me.

So you are concerned about not having a job.

...but I do not have a drinking problem!

principle 2 develop discrepancy
Principle 2: Develop discrepancy
  • Clarify important goals for the client
  • Explore the consequences or potential consequences of the client’s current behaviours.
  • Create and amplify in the client’s mind a discrepancy between current behaviour and life goals
example of developing discrepancy
Example of developing discrepancy

I only enjoy having some drinks with my friends…that’s all. Drinking helps me relax and have fun…I think that I deserve that for a change…

So drinking has some good things for you…Now tell me about the not-so-good things you have experienced because of drinking.

Well…as I said, I lost my job because of my drinking problem…and I often feel sick.

principle 3 roll with resistance
Principle 3: Roll with resistance
  • Avoid resistance
  • If it arises, stop and find another way to proceed
  • Avoid confrontation
  • Shift perceptions
  • Invite, but do not impose, new perspectives
  • Value the client as a resource for finding solutions to problems
example of not rolling with resistance
Example of NOT rolling with resistance

I do not want to stop drinking…as I said, I do not have a drinking problem…I want to drink when I feel like it.

But, Anna, I think it is clear that drinking has caused you problems.

You do not have the right to judge me. You don’t understand me.

example of rolling with resistance
Example of rolling with resistance

I do not want to stop drinking…as I said, I do not have a drinking problem…I want to drink when I feel like it.

You do have a drinking problem

Others may think you have a problem, but you don’t.

That’s right, my mother thinks that I have a problem, but she’s wrong.

principle 4 support self efficacy
Principle 4: Support self-efficacy
  • Belief in the ability to change (self-efficacy) is an important motivator
  • The client is responsible for choosing and carrying out personal change
  • There is hope in the range of alternative approaches available
example of supporting self efficacy
Example of supporting self-efficacy

I am wondering if you can help me. I have failed many times.

Anna, I don’t think you have failed because you are still here, hoping things can be better. As long as you are willing to stay in the process, I will support you. You have been successful before and you will be again.

I hope things will be better this time. I’m willing to give it a try.


The OARS are the skills that can be used by interviewers to help move clients through the process of change.

Open-ended questions


Reflective listening


oars open ended questions
OARS: Open-ended questions

Close Versus Open-ended questions:

  • “Are there good things about using?” vs.
    • “What are the good things about your substance use?”
  • “Are there bad things about using?” vs.
    • “Tell me about the not-so-good things about using”
  • “Do you have concerns about your substance use?” vs.
    • “You seem to have some concerns about your substance use. Tell me more about them.”
  • “Do you worry a lot about using substances?” vs.
    • “What most concerns you about that?”
oars affirmation
OARS: Affirmation
  • “Thanks for coming today.”
  • “I appreciate that you are willing to talk to me about your substance use.”
  • “You are obviously a resourceful person to have coped with those difficulties.”
  • “That’s a good idea.”
  • “It’s hard to talk about....I really appreciate your keeping on with this.”
oars reflective listening
OARS: Reflective listening

Reflective listening is used to:

  • Check out whether you really understood the client
  • Highlight the client’s ambivalence about their substance use
  • Steer the client towards a greater recognition of her or his problems and concerns, and
  • Reinforce statements indicating that the client is thinking about change.
oars summarize
OARS: Summarize

Summarizing is an important way of gathering together what has already been said, making sure you understood the client correctly, and preparing the client to move on. Summarising is putting together a group of reflections.

motivational interviewing37

Motivational Interviewing

Eliciting Change Talk

oars what is change talk
OARS: What is “change talk”?

Change talk: An indication that you are successfully using motivational interviewing.

If you are using MI successfully you will hear statements that indicate the client:

  • Recognises the disadvantages of staying the same
  • Recognises the advantages of change
  • Expresses optimism about change
  • Expresses the intention to change
helping to elicit change talk 1
Helping to elicit “change talk” (1)

Ask the client to clarify their statements or elaborate:

  • “Describe the last time this happened,”
  • “Give me an example of that,” or “Tell me more about that.”
helping to elicit change talk 2
Helping to elicit “change talk” (2)

Ask the client to imagine the worst consequences of not changing and the best consequences of changing.

helping to elicit change talk 3
Helping to elicit “change talk” (3)

Explore the client’s goals and values to identify discrepancies between the client’s values and their current substance use.

  • “What are the most important things in your life?”
contingency management

Contingency Management

…also known as

Motivational Incentives



Continued Use


solution methods to enhance motivation for abstinence
Solution: Methods to Enhance Motivation for Abstinence

• Natural aversive consequences (“hitting bottom”)

• Feedback re problems/consequences - Confrontation - Motivational Enhancement Therapy

  • Positive reinforcement for behavior change

Part 1:

Behavior can be modified by:



rewards to shape behavior in everyday life
Rewards to shape behavior in everyday life…….
  • Child rearing
      • Praise, money, food
  • Education
      • Grades and honors
  • Business and work settings
      • Bonuses and promotions
  • Criminal justice
      • Early release for good behavior
examples of punishers
Examples of Punishers
  • Child rearing
    • Time out, grounding
  • Education
    • Bad grades, detention, suspension
  • Business and work settings
    • Demotions
  • Criminal justice
    • Fines, tickets, jail
rewards versus punishments
Rewards versus Punishments

Both can change behavior…..

But most people prefer rewards.

  • Do no teach what to do; only what not to do.
  • Promote harsh and demeaning atmosphere.
  • May also do harm (e.g. promote aggression).
  • In criminal just settings, punishers often do not occur immediately after the inappropriate behavior.
  • Often the inappropriate behavior occurs multiple times prior to the punishment. Punishment, when delivered inconsistently, can actually encourage inappropriate behaviors.

• Teach new behaviors and promote growth

• Promote self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Promote positive atmosphere & communication
incentives in health care
Incentives in Health Care
  • Mammography screening
  • Child immunization


Mammography Screening

Recommendation for Women Ages 50 and older:


With physician advice alone, few women receive an annual mammogram

(Stoner et al., 1998)

mammogram compliance
Mammogram Compliance

Rate of Compliance

Rates of mammogram screening were 2.5 times higher for the

incentive as compared to the control women.

(Stoner et al., 1998)


In 1989-91, immunization rates

were as low as 23% for two-year

olds in the Chicago area.



immunization rates
Immunization Rates


Rates increased when WIC food vouchers were given to those who had their children immunized.

(Hoekstra et al., 1998)

incentives in drug abuse treatment
Incentives in Drug Abuse Treatment


- award ceremonies - extra therapy

- certificates; key chains - time restriction

- status/recognition - dismissal

- take-homes in methadone - probation, referral to judge


How Incentives

Could Work For You

Patient attends


Gives negative samples

Give Incentive

More patients

  • attend treatment
  • stay clean
  • stay out of jail!
contingency management61

Making abstinence a more

attractive option through

positive reinforcement of

behavior change



that matters……….



Giving things away for free

does NOT change behavior


Later Studies: Motivational Incentives with Monetary Rewards

Research has shown that monetary incentives can :

• Increase treatment retention

• Decrease drug use during treatment

motivational incentives research with vouchers
Motivational Incentives Research with Vouchers
  • Vouchers earned for achieving therapeutic goals
    • e.g. cocaine-free urines
  • Vouchers are worth money
  • Vouchers are exchanged for
    • retail items (e.g. clothing, sports equipment)
    • services (e.g. rent; bill payments)
research on motivational incentives
Research on Motivational Incentives

Cocaine Alcohol Marijuana

motivational incentives
Motivational Incentives

Research studies have

tested incentives for

ability to improve

drug abuse

treatment outcomes

and shown they work

addressing the cost barrier
Addressing the Cost Barrier
  • Society can’t afford this
  • Our program can’t afford this
steps to designing a contingency management intervention
Steps to designing a contingency management intervention
  • 1. Pick a behavior you want to change
  • 2. Pick a reinforcer
  • 3. Design a monitoring and reinforcing schedule and decide upon a time frame for re-assessment
  • 4. Ensure consistent application of procedure
implementation guidelines
Implementation Guidelines
  • Typically, it is recommended that the contingency management component of therapy be carried out in the first 5 minutes of the session, so therapy can proceed after the reward has been given (if achieved)
  • Maintain a positive attitude, be encouraging, and remain non-confrontational
  • Praise consumers for keeping their appointments (even when they are late or drug tests are positive)
discontinuation of contingency management procedures
Discontinuation of Contingency Management Procedures
  • Providing incentives indefinitely can be expensive and the benefits of contingency management may decrease over time
  • Most contingency management programs offer incentives for at least 3 months
  • At the end of the contingency management treatment, the reinforcement scheduled should be tapered off or eliminated entirely
  • Little research is available to provide support for which method is optimal
suggestions for the discontinuation of contingency management procedures
Suggestions for the Discontinuation of Contingency Management Procedures
  • Consumers should be informed about how long the incentives will last
  • During the final 1-2 weeks speak with the consumer about how they feel about maintaining the behavior after the incentives end
  • At this point the consumer can be reminded of their progress throughout the course of treatment
  • Providing a certificate of completion is a popular approach when incentives are discontinued