University at Buffalo

Why Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing (MI) is an empirically supported approach for promoting individual change. Because MI is as much a “way of being” as it is a set of communication skills and strategies, it can serve as a foundation for improving engagement with and effectiveness of other helping methods and approaches. In healthcare and human services:

  • MI operationalizes essential elements of client/patient-centered care
  • MI is useful at all stages of the helping process:
    • establishing trust and openness
    • choosing a behavior to address
    • strengthening motivation to change
    • developing and implementing specific plans for change
  • Skill at MI can be objectively evaluated using validated measures
  • MI addresses the triple aims of healthcare improvement
    • enhancing patient experience
    • improving population health
    • reducing costs
  • MI can also address a fourth aim:  
    • improving the work life of health care providers, clinicians, and staff, by increasing their ability to engage patients in collaborative, productive conversations about health behavior change
Bridge over Back Cove, New Harbor, Maine. Photographer: Kurt Dermen

In what areas has MI been applied?

Motivational interviewing has been applied to a broad range of topics, including:

  • Alcohol, tobacco, and other substance use
  • Asthma/COPD
  • Brain injury
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Criminal justice
  • Dentistry
  • Diabetes
  • Diet
  • Domestic violence
  • Eating disorders
  • Education
  • Emergency department/Trauma/Injury prevention
  • Family/Relationships
  • Gambling
  • Health promotion/Exercise/Fitness
  • Management and supervision
  • Medical adherence
  • Mental health
  • Pain
  • Speech/Vocal therapy
  • Sports performance
Spicebush swallowtail butterfly on bull-thistle flower, Boston, New York. Photographer: Kurt Dermen

Who can learn MI?

People who have learned MI include:

  • Undergraduate and graduate students
  • Postdoctoral fellows and residents
  • Paraprofessionals
  • Clients, patients, peer counselors
  • Medical providers
  • Behavioral health workers, case managers, counselors, outreach workers
  • Advisors, coaches
  • Support staff 
  • Supervisors, managers, executives
Eastern painted turtle, Pemaquid River, Bristol, Maine. Photographer: Kurt Dermen