Motivational interviewing for healthcare providers

Key points about motivational interviewing

  • Motivational interviewing is an effective approach to addressing problematic health behaviours that has been found to be effective in the primary care setting with smoking cessation, hazardous driving, physical activity, nutrition and chronic disease.
  • General practitioners report that motivational interviewing is efficient and about as time-consuming as traditional approaches to advice giving.
  • Research has found that motivational interviewing has a greater effect for ethnocultural groups, particularly those groups who have experienced marginalisation and societal pressure.
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Motivational interviewing is a collaborative conversational approach to behaviour change that is designed to strengthen a patient’s commitment to and motivation for change.

It’s designed to help someone move from feeling ambivalent about needing to change a behaviour, to believing they need to change the behaviour, to believing they can change the behaviour.

Underpinning motivational interviewing is a model of change that goes from pre-contemplation to contemplation, planning, action, maintenance, and, usually, relapse on several occasions before the new behaviour is integrated. Identifying where a person is in this cycle helps ensure the motivational interviewing is well targeted to their needs.

Video: Introduction to Motivational Interviewing

(Bill Matulich, 2013)

Motivational interviewing is particularly useful when someone is reluctant or ambivalent about change, but the change would improve their health outcomes. It is widely used in addiction counselling, and helpful with lifestyle changes around smoking, drinking, eating and exercise. Motivational interviewing can also be useful to help manage medication use and attending appointments, tests and screenings.

Video: Motivational Interviewing - An M.I. Learning Resource

(Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers – MINT)

Rather than providing advice or telling someone they need to change a behaviour, the approach uses skills such as:

  • open-ended questions
  • affirmations
  • reflective listening, and
  • summaries.

Get started with the online video courses under resources in the sidebar. Also, see more information about motivational interviewing in the brochures, videos and books in the sidebar.

Videos about motivational interviewing for healthcare practitioners including strategies, examples, personal views and more.

Video: Motivational interviewing in brief consultations

"Demonstration of a General Practitioner engaging with a patient through motivational interviewing."

(BMJ Learning, UK, 2014)

Video: The Effective Physician – Motivational Interviewing Demonstration

A demonstration of the motivational interviewing approach in a brief medical encounter.

(MerloLab, US, 2009)

Video: Motivational Interviewing – Evoking Commitment to Change

A GP works with a patient to develop a specific focus by asking open-ended questions, providing affirmation, using reflective listening and summarising (OARS). He also helps the patient to scale the importance of the issue and the patient's confidence level for change behaviour.

(Health Team Works, US, 2009)

Video: Difficult Patient and Motivational Interviewing

A doctor uses motivational interviewing with a woman who did not believe she needed to join an alcoholic anonymous programme for her excessive drinking habits, which had lead her to become injured.

(Karen Joyce, US, 2015)

Video: Motivational interviewing in primary care

Dr. Thad Leffingwell demonstrates the use of motivational interviewing strategies during a primary care consultation with a patient who smokes.

(Dr Thad Leffingwell, 2010)

Video: Overview of change talk – Childhood obesity

An interactive role-play simulation for health professionals to build motivational interviewing skills for leading real-life conversations with parents and their children about healthy weight and childhood obesity. Scenarios cover the topics of sugary drinks, breastfeeding and picky eating. This approach builds the capacity of health professionals to harness the power of conversation to drive positive change in health behaviours and reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

(Kognito, US, 2017)

Video: Motivational Interviewing in Primary Health Care, Video clip #1, K. Sciacca. Techniques

The first video of this series includes an introduction, techniques and core skills from client-centred, motivational interviewing communication styles, with examples.

(Kathleen Sciacca, US, 2014)

See more videos:

Motivational interviewing in brief consultations

This module explains what motivational interviewing is, its uses and explanations. Click on the image below, then click Start module.

(external link)
(BMJ Learning, UK, 2014)

  1. Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. Actual causes of death in the United States(external link) 2000. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004;291:1238–1245. doi: 10.1001/jama.291.10.1238.
  2. Midboe AM, Cucciare MA,Trafton JA, Ketroser N, Chardos JF. Implementing motivational interviewing in primary care: the role of provider characteristics(external link) Transl Behav Med. 2011 Dec; 1(4): 588–594. doi:10.1007/s13142-011-0080-9
  3. Motivational interviewing(external link) Best Practice Journal. 2008 Oct
  4. Rubak S, Sandboek A, Lauritzen T, Borch-Johnsen K, Christensen B. An education and training course in motivational interviewing: GP’s professional behaviour(external link) Denmark. British Journal of General Practice. 2006;56:429–436
  5. Britt E, Gregory D, Tohiariki T, Huriwai, T. Takitaki Mai: A guide to motivational interviewing for Māori(external link) Matua Raki, 2014
  6. Transtheoretical model of behaviour change(external link) Pro-charge Behaviour Systems
  7. Stewart EE, Fox C. Encouraging patients to change unhealthy behaviours with motivational interviewing(external link) Fam Pract Manag. 2011 May-June;18(3):21-25.

Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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