Unlock Lasting Change With Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse Recovery

Learn more about the benefits of motivational interviewing for substance abuse at Vista Taos Renewal Center.


Substance abuse disorder (SUD) is becoming a common problem all over the world. A 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report showed 19.7 million Americans battled SUD.1

This report accounted for American adults as young as 12 years old. With SUD becoming a widespread problem among all ages, providing help is important.
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Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse: A Beacon of Hope

Offering a range of treatment options helps people begin their journey to a healthier lifestyle. One of the treatment options for unlocking lasting changes is motivational interviewing (MI). At Vista Taos Renewal Center, our MI treatment plan paves the road for recovery and better living.

But what exactly is motivational interviewing? What role does it play in solving substance use disorders? Below is everything you need to know about motivational interviewing for substance abuse.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based counseling approach for encouraging positive behavioral changes. It’s a treatment method that addresses negative behaviors that prevent change.

The Struggle of Ambivalence

For behavioral change to occur, people need to show readiness for change. When they have mixed feelings about change, making the intended changes becomes difficult. This is known as ambivalence.
A person’s ambivalent negative attitude limits their ability to make changes. This causes an internal struggle of wanting to change but an inability to achieve it. Motivational interviewing resolves this ambivalence by building motivation for change.

Theoretical Stages of Behavioral Change

There are five theoretical stages of behavioral change. These stages are:2
  1. Pre-contemplation
  2. Contemplation
  3. Preparation
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance
In the first stage, people haven’t yet considered changing. In the final stage, they work to sustain or maintain the long-term change.

Battling Ambivalence

Before reaching the maintenance stage, people undergoing behavioral change continue to battle ambivalence. This ambivalence is often more pronounced during the contemplation stage of change.

Resolving Ambivalence Through MI

MI is a person-centered strategy. It aims to resolve the ambivalence a person might feel during their quest for change. It addresses a person’s feelings toward change across all stages. This ensures they can successfully achieve their behavioral transition goals.

Motivation is Key

MI focuses on the principle that a person’s motivation to change is integral to making change. For example, a person who wants to lose weight has to make the unwavering decision that they need to lose weight. Likewise, people with SUD must be intentional about their need to change.

The Non-Confrontational Approach of MI

Oftentimes, intentionality toward making positive behavioral changes can be challenging to harness. MI uses a non-confrontational approach to solve this problem.
It does so by driving a person toward being intentional about change. This enables the client to channel this intentionality toward progressive lifestyle changes.

Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse

Repeated substance misuse changes the brain and weakens the brain’s circuitry. The grip of addiction then creates a cycle of drug dependence. This is because the brain associates these substances with pleasure.3
People who use substances may feel shame, guilt, and fear of withdrawal. These cause the person to be unmotivated about quitting substance use.
MI serves as an effective SUD treatment approach that encourages positive behavioral changes. It does so by placing emphasis on empathy and collaboration.

Developing a Plan

Motivational interviewing adopts a collaborative approach where therapists and patients forge a partnership. The mutual goal is to ensure successful behavioral changes.
Using collaborative conversations, MI enables therapists to develop a plan based on the client’s goals and values. This customized treatment method:
  1. Sets realistic goals
  2. Identifies coping mechanisms
  3. Outlines steps necessary for a client’s long-term recovery

Eliciting Change Talk

Motivational interviewing focuses on encouraging clients to verbalize their motivations for change. It does so through open-ended questions and reflective listening techniques. These methods encourage “change talk.”
Through these conversations, MI strengthens a client’s resolve toward change. This can increase their commitment to making healthier substance-free decisions.

Focusing on Autonomy

Motivational interviewing recognizes only a client can motivate themselves to make necessary changes.
By respecting this autonomy, MI shows clients they’re strong enough to make the behavioral changes they need. This makes clients more invested in their recovery than with other methods.

Amplifying Hope

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse increases a client’s faith in their ability to achieve sobriety. By encouraging clients to see that behavioral change is possible, MI motivates them to work toward recovery. This empowerment through hope encourages clients to live a healthier life.

Motivating behavioral change is an effective way to empower people when:
  • Ambivalence and mixed feelings about sobriety are high
  • Confidence in their ability to begin their recovery journey is low
  • Desire to abstain from these harmful substances is dwindling
  • The benefits of this change (sobriety) are unclear

Defining Principles and Techniques of Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse is an intuitive communication method for treating SUD. It’s an effective treatment that’s useful alone or paired with other treatment methods.

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse is a goal-directed form of SUD treatment. Based on several principles, MI focuses on the collaboration between provider and client. These principles form the psychological path to recovery.

Four fundamental principles define motivational interviewing for substance abuse. These principles include:

1. Express Empathy

The first principle of MI emphasizes the need for the therapist to express empathy. They do this through undivided attention, careful listening, and nonjudgmental curiosity.
Typical therapy sessions focus on therapy through verbal expressions. MI strives for non-judgemental compassion to understand clients’ ambivalence. This understanding comes through a distinctive reflective listening style.
Using this style, the therapist listens to the client’s perspective without labeling them. The goal is to explore all sides of a patient’s struggle with SUD. This includes their experiences, values, and motivations.

2. Develop Discrepancy

This principle is based on a client’s tendency to change when their actions do not align with their values. It involves developing value discrepancy, a tool used to motivate the subconscious toward positive change.
Developing discrepancy highlights the gaps between a client’s current behavior and their goals. It helps them see the difference between what they say they want and what they do. Therapists use motivational interviewing for substance abuse to help clients identify bad behaviors.

How to Develop Discrepancy

To achieve this, clinicians use careful questioning processes. These questions reveal consideration, motivation, and a need for commitment to change.
It also plays a role in helping a client expose their true value. Using active listening, an MI therapist will help clients define these values and find motivation for recovery.

3. Roll with Resistance

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse does not impose change on clients’ decisions. Instead, it focuses on “rolling” with the client’s natural resistance to change. It shifts the client’s negative perspective to a more positive one. This can build motivation for positive results.
Seeing a person make wrong decisions can awaken a need to convince them otherwise. Sometimes, this “righting reflex” might worsen a client’s resistance to positive changes. This principle emphasizes the importance of preventing confrontations that may provoke resistance.
Motivational interviewing for substance abuse is a non-confrontational approach. It supports a patient’s desire to change on their own accord. This innate motivation serves as encouragement to help clients achieve their recovery goals.

4. Support Self-Efficacy

The fourth principle of motivational interviewing for substance abuse focuses on empowering clients. It does this through encouragement. This often occurs in a supportive environment like Vista Taos Renewal Center.
Supporting self-efficacy puts clients in charge of carrying out personal change. The therapist does so with empathy and guidance.
In doing so, the therapist shows clients they have the strength to make necessary changes. More importantly, it shows them they have the strength to achieve their recovery goals.

Four Techniques of Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse

The four techniques that form the basis for the application of MI in substance abuse disorders include:
  1. Engaging to create a foundational relationship with the client
  2. Focusing on identifying values, highlighting agendas, and changing goals
  3. Evoking feelings through core motivational interviewing skills and strategies to motivate change
  4. Planning the journey toward behavioral change

How Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse Helps with Ambivalence

MI uses empathetic listening, open-ended questions, and reflective techniques to encourage change and reduce ambivalence. It helps create a non-confrontational environment for clients to discover motivation toward change.
This environment promotes self-awareness about a client’s problems with SUD, encouraging changes.
MI resolves ambivalence by guiding people to explore their motivations, values, and goals. It then aligns them with positive change. This encourages them to enjoy self-motivated change toward healthier lifestyles and habits.

Roles of the Therapist in Motivational Interviewing

The therapist or clinician plays a vital role of a subtle cheerleader. They guide a patient toward overcoming SUD and making lasting changes. In motivational interviewing for substance abuse, the therapist helps clients make positive informed decisions.
During motivational interviewing for substance abuse, the therapist listens and interacts. They do this using the OARS skill. This includes:
  • Open questions
  • Affirmations
  • Reflective listening
  • Summarizations
MI uses these skills and various client-based approaches to encourage positive changes. Doing this, MI therapists help clients explore and conquer their ambivalence. This strengthens the person’s resolve toward changing self-destructive substance abuse behaviors.

How Does Their Approach Differ From Traditional Counseling?

Traditional counseling methods focus on using coercive approaches to cause behavioral changes. The purpose of such approaches is to “break through” a disorder through confrontation.

While they may evoke positive changes, these methods are sometimes ineffective. This is because they may cause resistance and reduce autonomy in the recovery process.

Building Resistance in Clients

When traditional therapists use “force,” they build resistance in clients. This may be due to the mounting pressure on clients toward forcing them to change. This resistance may also increase when clients feel the therapist’s perspective and values contradict theirs.

A Joint Partnership Through MI

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse internalizes the change through motivation. It does this by adopting a more collaborative and client-centered approach.
MI creates a joint partnership between a therapist and the client. This partnership explores the client’s motivation and encourages ambivalence resolution. In doing so, it creates long-term success and a more sustainable behavioral shift.

How Motivational Interviewing Fosters Collaboration Between Therapist and Client

Motivational interviewing emphasizes the need for a therapist to act as a client’s partner. This is different from other approaches where therapists are a counselor or leader.
MI therapists take a non-judgemental stance throughout the treatment process. This facilitates collaboration on the client’s journey to recovery.

Empathetic and Reflective Listening

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse employs empathetic and reflective listening. It uses open-ended questions to create a non-confrontational and safe environment. This environment encourages the client to be open about SUD-related thoughts, feelings, and concerns.
This collaborative environment encourages clients’ active engagement in exploring motivations for positive change.
During motivational interviewing for substance abuse, the therapist’s role shifts from an authoritative figure to a supportive partner. This fosters a sense of collaboration and creates a partnership for successful recovery.

Applying Motivational Interviewing to Varying Stages of Addiction

Studies show there are about 76.3 million people with alcohol use disorders worldwide. Additionally, there are approximately 15.3 million with drug use disorders. But, not everyone who struggles with these disorders gets the help they need.4

When struggling with SUD, it’s crucial to seek help from treatment facilities like Vista Taos Renewal Center. They provide necessary treatments for recovery, such as motivational interviewing for substance abuse.
Motivational interviewing for substance abuse has proven to be a long-standing treatment for substance abuse. Regardless, it’s important to consider the stages of addiction before MI application in SUD treatment.

Considerations When Using MI for Different Levels of SUD

MI is not a linear treatment and needs to align with a client’s situation. Some factors to consider when applying MI for different SUD levels include:
  • Substance Effects: Consider the side effects of the substance on the person.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Recognize potential withdrawal symptoms and challenges associated with quitting the substance.
  • Health Risks: Address the adverse effects of these substances on the client’s health.
  • Triggers: Be familiar with the person’s SUD triggers. These triggers will likely vary based on individual needs, experiences, and circumstances.
  • Social Support: Assess the person’s social network. Determine its role in their substance use disorder.
  • Coping Strategies: Partner with the client to create alternative solutions to using substances.
  • Cultural Context: Explore what roles cultural norms play in their substance use patterns.
  • Personal Goals: Align the person’s goals with their motivation for change.
  • Treatment Options: Explore and discuss the different personalized treatment opportunities for their addiction.

How Does Motivational Interviewing Complement Other Evidence-Based Treatments?

A study showed that people who received MI reduced substance usage. This shows motivational interviewing for substance abuse is an effective stand-alone treatment.5

But, it sometimes supplements other treatments for improved recovery results. These other treatment methods may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, or group therapy.

Combining MI with Other Treatments

Combining MI with other evidence-based treatments is typical in modern treatment facilities. It’s often used to help clients achieve long-term changes.
Vista Taos Renewal Center uses this method, blending MI with other effective treatments. This provides a holistic approach to long-term recovery.

Benefits of Combining MI with Other Treatments

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse complements other active, evidence-based treatment methods. It helps with increasing treatment interest and positive feedback from clients.
It does this by fostering intrinsic motivation and establishing a solid foundation for therapy engagement. This encouragement helps clients be active in other SUD intervention programs they’re taking part in. Doing this increases the likelihood of a positive lifestyle change occurring.

How Can It Get Integrated into a Holistic Recovery Plan?

Holistic recovery plans like those provided at Vista Taos Recovery Center aid effective SUD treatment. They focus on comprehensive addiction recovery, helping people live healthier lives. These plans combine MI with evidence-based treatments to heal the mind, body, and spirit.

MI is useful as a mindful approach for collaborative recovery. Combined with other treatments, it helps goal-setting, alignment with recovery, and self-efficacy building in clients.
MI is also a useful tool for monitoring client’s recovery. This plays a part in recovery progress and ensures long-term stability.
motivational interviewing for substance abuse

Unlock Lasting Change with Motivational Interviewing through Vista Taos Renewal Center

Motivational interviewing for substance abuse is an effective treatment option. It focuses on encouraging motivation and reducing doubts about recovery created by behavioral ambivalence. This encourages positive behavioral changes, paving the way for long-lasting recovery.

The road to recovery from substance abuse is challenging. But, with adequate help and a structured environment like Vista Taos Renewal Center, recovery is achievable.

About Us

Vista Taos Renewal Center offers comprehensive treatment for effective recovery from substance abuse. Treatments range from medical detox to primary treatment and an extended care program. Our facility is equipped with resources necessary for making lasting positive behavioral changes
Vista Taos Renewal Center combines quality accommodations and supervision to help clients meet their recovery goals. Regardless of your recovery needs, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve your goals.

Contact Vista Taos Today

For more information, reach out to us today at (571) 586-5078 or info@vistataos.com to begin your healing journey.

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Ready to Renew Your Life and Well-Being?

Reach out to Vista Taos Renewal Center today and let us guide you toward sustainable recovery. We will help you heal from the addictions and substance use challenges that hinder you from leading your most fulfilled life through personalized, whole-person treatment.