Using motivational interviewing in substance use disorder treatment

Effective substance use disorder (SUD) treatment requires providers to understand what an individual genuinely needs to do to change substance use behaviours. An essential element in motivational SUD interventions is helping people who misuse substances raise awareness of their values and hopes for a healthy life. Using strategic conversational approaches can increase clients’ internal motivations to take actions toward wellness.

Motivational interviewing (MI) is an effective, evidence-based technique for helping clients resolve ambivalence about behaviours that prevent change. The core goals of MI are to express empathy and elicit clients’ reasons for and commitment to changing substance use and other unhealthy behaviours (Miller & Rollnick, 2013).

This Advisory is based on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 35, Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Use Disorder Treatment. It addresses the spirit, application, and fundamentals of MI; how practitioners can effectively employ MI in SUD treatment; and the tools practitioners can use to encourage and promote lasting positive outcomes for their clients.

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