Types of psychotherapies treating mental illnesses- Part 2: Motivational Interviewing

Types of psychotherapies treating mental illnesses- Part 2: Motivational Interviewing

Treating mental disorders is a painstaking process. While there are medicines and drugs available to cure mental conditions, psychotherapies are actually a preferred mode of treatment since such disorders often affect an individual’s behavior. Amongst them, motivational interviewing has emerged as a popular form of psychotherapy to deal with the change in health-related behaviors due to mental illness.

Motivational interviewing is patient-centered counseling that involves exploring and resolving behavioral issues due to mental ailments. It primarily focuses on listening to the patient, understanding the conflict and motivating the patient to resolve the issue by negotiating and articulating the benefits and cost involved. Warmth and empathy combined with technique are the two essential components of this therapy as it deals with reflective listening and the development of discrepancy.

Evolution of motivational interviewing

Motivational interviewing was initially developed by Bill Miller, an American psychologist. Of late, the therapy has been widely used to treat mental disorders. The theory came into existence when Miller along with his colleagues from Norway brainstormed to identify therapeutic approaches to treat people with alcohol abuse. The discussion followed a pattern- a gradual process of listening, reflecting to check understanding and clarification, which became the technique of the therapy itself.

The technique was subjected to academic questioning which included queries such as what, how, when, why and for whom. Initially, the process was fitted with various theoretical models relating to interpersonal processes and behavior change. However, in the current times, it has been evaluated in a variety of settings.

Four principles of motivational therapy

Motivational therapy is guided by four basic principles which not only describe the functioning of the therapy but also standardize the process. The four principles are:

  • Expressing empathy: The success of the therapy depends a lot on the relationship between the patient and the counselor. During the process, it is important for both to win each other’s trust. Hence, it becomes imperative for the counselor to show empathy towards the patient which is achieved by reflective listening. This involves listening to the concerns of the patient and understanding his or her fears, point of view and underlying motivation. Notably, arguments are avoided during reflective listening.
  • Developing discrepancy: This principle involves creating a discrepancy between the patient’s present behavior and original personal goals. The process helps the patient identify personal goals and purpose of life, and motivates him or her to struggle hard to achieve them. This principle primarily aims at amplifying the discrepancy between the behavior and personal goals. It is important that the counselor helps the patient recognize his or her own goals and not force one on him or her.
  • Rolling with resistance: The principle includes empathy and understanding instead of confrontation, as it may lead to additional barriers. Hence, during the process, the counselor does not counter the resistance which may take the form of negating, blaming, excusing, minimizing, arguing, challenging, interrupting, and ignoring. Instead, the counselor extracts the reason that is dampening or fostering the patient’s motivation to bring about the behavioral change. Once the factors are identified, the person can consider change as a possibility.
  • Support self-efficacy: This principle involves building self-confidence in the patients and making them believe in their ability to change their behavior for good. The process works to induce confidence of being capable of overcoming barriers, in the patient. Hence, during the process, the counselor sets reasonable goals, which are easy for the patients to accomplish, thereby building their self-confidence.

Road to recovery

Motivational interviewing is widely used in people suffering from depression. While the therapy has largely been successful, however, in many cases, it is used along with medication depending upon the severity of the mental illness. A mental disorder necessarily needs medical treatment, as it may lead to permanent physical or mental impairment.

If your loved one is suffering from any kind of mental illness or anxiety disorder or depression, contact the California Mental Health Helpline to know about the reputed mental health facilities in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online to speak with our representatives who are committed to guide you in knowing the best mental health centers in California.

Read the other articles of the series “Types of psychotherapies treating mental illnesses” :

Part 1: Exposure Therapy


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