Motivating Individuals in Addiction Recovery through Inspiring Interviews

Motivating Individuals in Addiction Recovery through Inspiring Interviews

In recent decades there have been a number of techniques that have been developed, tested and used in order to help people to recover from the addictions caused by substance use disorders.

Recent research and techniques take into account that we are not all the same, and the nature and makeup of peoples’ personalities and life histories mean that some techniques work better than others for some people.

This article will look at the increasingly important role played in addition recovery by Motivational Interviewing (MI), what it is, and how it can help recovering addicts.

The Purpose of Motivation

Motivation is one of the most important factors in getting things done in our lives. Motivation may be defined as ‘enthusiasm for doing something’ or a ‘stimulus, or influence’.

Motivation can be the drive that gets things done, that gets people to change the situation that they are in and make improvements. This of course makes it a vital part of addiction recovery.

Understanding the role of motivation and Motivational Interviewing can provide a powerful tool and resource that will help individuals in their recovery and minimise the possibility of relapse.

What is Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing is a therapeutic technique that was first developed in 1983. Its central purpose is to strengthen the motivation of addicts in recovery through a series of interviews. In this technique, sessions are referred to as interviews to provide a more nurturing environment.

It is believed that Motivational Interviewing will, by encouraging addicts to improve their motivation, be able to resource them through improving their motivation to resist some of the impulses that can lead to relapses and help them to move forwards and grow.

Motivational Interviewing is part of social psychology, first pioneered by Dr. William R. Miller, a well-respected psychology professor, and he has written about it extensively since and spoken around the world.

In Motivational Interviewing, motivation is seen not as a personality trait, i.e., something that someone does or does not have. Instead, it is viewed as a mindset and part of an interpersonal process that anyone can learn and be encouraged in.

Addicts at the early stages of recovery can often be pessimistic about the chances of their success in recovery, and they can feel that the odds are stacked against them. Motivational Interviewing seeks to replace that pessimism with optimism based upon a positive growth-based mindset.

Motivational Interviewing is intended to be a collaborative process where the therapist and patient work together to help the patient to solve problems for themselves, rather than the therapist trying to solve problems for the patient. This is why such sessions are usually referred to as interviews, in order to encourage the patient to take more control of the process and their own destiny within the recovery process by giving agency to them and their situation.

Motivation interviewing is often used alongside other therapeutic processes. This is because it does not focus on the reasons and underlying causes of addiction but works best alongside other forms of treatment that may focus on those areas.

As with any other form of therapeutic treatment in addiction recovery, Motivational Interviewing has particular processes and stages that are followed. In this method there are four stages.

  • Engaging – this first stage is based around gaining knowledge of the patient and beginning to establish trust and rapport. This stage is vital for ensuring the patient’s engagement with the process, due to its different methodology. It also helps in setting a strong foundation for the later stages.
  • Focusing – this second stage involves starting to come to shared ideas and thoughts about what the central point of focus will be for the patient’s recovery. This will be based on the individual needs and situation of the patient and will help them to start to focus on what motivation will mean for them.
  • Evoking – this third stage looks at what arguments the patient will have for change. What is it in their own life that will encourage and motivate them towards the change that they need in order to improve their chances of recovery?
  • Planning – this final stage begins once the patient begins to realise the possibility of change, what it means to them personally, and how they can go about it.

As with many therapeutic processes that have been developed in the past forty years or so, it follows a much more patient or client-centred strand than many earlier medical interventions, that were imposed on the patient rather than developed alongside them and owned by them.

How Motivation Interviewing Helps Addicts

Motivational Interviewing works on the principle that addicts in whatever stage of recovery are aware of the negative connotations of their situation. This could be an awareness of the damage caused in the past to themselves as well as others, as well as the potential negative consequences of a relapse.

This method therefore works to focus the mind of the addict in recovery, providing a catalyst for change and giving them the structure, support and focus that they need. Many addicts who are in early stages of recovery struggle to impose their own positive structures on themselves and other conditions such as depression and anxiety make it difficult to make positive changes without external help.

Motivational Interviewing therefore helps to provide addicts in recovery with the structure that they need, within the context of the supportive help alongside of a trained and skilled therapist to guide them through the process of increasing their motivation and agency.


Motivational Interviewing is an established and proven technique that can help recovering addicts to discover and nurture the motivations within them that will enable them to move forward in their recovery from substance use.

By providing them with a clear structure that can help them to move from a negative to a positive mindset, the interview-based technique can help them maximise their recovery changes and give them the positive boost required to step forward into recovery.