What is Motivational Interviewing Therapy?

what is motivational interviewing therapy

Drugs and other harmful substances have become a way of life for millions of people around the world. Whether it’s alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, opioids, illegal drugs, stimulants, hallucinogens, or marijuana – drugs are used, misused, and abused daily.

While millions of people require treatment for substance use disorders, only a tiny percentage of those people receive treatment – which usually involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. When done correctly, treatment and recovery are 100% possible.

With that said, New Jersey addiction treatment is generally a long-term commitment. While some people succeed immediately, others are left struggling – even after completing the treatment program. For those that need additional assistance, alternative treatment options are available.  

What are Alternative Addiction Treatment Programs?

Alternative addiction treatment programs, also known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), are additional, non-traditional approaches to helping individuals overcome their drug addiction – outside the typical medication, behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes. 

Although‘ complementary’ and ‘alternative’ are often used interchangeably, they mean different things. Complementary treatments are used in conjunction with the standard approaches to addiction treatment, while alternative treatments are used in place of traditional approaches. 

A good and popular example of alternative or complementary treatment for addiction would be the use of supplements – vitamins, minerals, herbs, probiotics, and other natural ingredients. Supplement formulas ensure the individual is receiving the necessary nutrition daily. 

Other complementary and alternative medicine techniques include yoga, meditation, massage therapy, art therapy, acupuncture, deep breathing, adventure therapy, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), hypnotherapy, movement therapy, and traditional Ayurvedic medicine. 

What is Motivational Interviewing Therapy?

Motivational interviewing therapy was originally theorized by William R. Miller in 1983 when he was treating alcoholics and heavy drinkers. During his treatment of the disorder, he realized that many problem drinkers experienced a lack of motivation to quit drinking, which led to relapse. 

The most traditional definition of motivational interviewing (MI), which dates back to 2009, is “a collaborative, person-centered form of guiding to elicit and strengthen motivation for change.” While the methods and techniques have evolved through the years, the goal remains the same.

There are three main elements to a motivational interviewing program – communication, collaboration, and evocation. There must be a conversation (not a confrontation) about change, a collaboration between patient and doctor, and an evocation of the individual’s motives or goals. 

William R. Miller believed that this change in motivation stems from within. To elicit change, it must come from the individual first and shouldn’t be imposed by the therapist. The goal is to make the individual feel like they’re in the driver’s seat when overcoming bad behavior.

How is Motivational Interviewing Therapy Used in Rehab?

When treating addiction to drugs and other harmful substances, many doctors have realized that motivation and the desire to quit are often the most significant barriers to recovery. Unfortunately, many individuals either don’t want to quit or don’t understand why they should want to quit. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent objectives and steps involved in motivational interviewing for rehab:

  • The motivation to quit drugs must come from the individual, not outsiders. 
  • The individual, not others, must resolve any ambivalence about quitting drugs. 
  • In the face of ambivalence, direct persuasion is never the answer. 
  • The therapist’s role is to guide the individual in realizing and solving ambivalence. 
  • The therapist calmly learns information through interviews, not ‘sessions.’
  • The desire to change isn’t a trait of the individual but rather a result of communication between two people.
  • The therapist and patient must work together if a change is going to happen – it’s not a one-way street.  

The purpose of motivational interviewing in addiction treatment is not to focus on the underlying causes or outcomes of addiction. Instead, the goal is to increase motivation and desire to stop the use of drugs. That way, the individual can better focus on the overall treatment and recovery.

For this reason, a motivational interviewing program is usually used in conjunction with more traditional treatment approaches – it’s a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for addiction treatment. When used correctly, it helps the individual further treatment progress. 

How to Find Motivational Interviewing Programs in New Jersey

Are you interested in combining traditional addiction treatment with a motivational interviewing program? Would you or someone you know to benefit from this alternative treatment method? If so, welcome to Epiphany Wellness – we’re excited to work with you!
Addiction treatment requires a unique, human-based approach – something we take seriously here at Epiphany Wellness. Our Blackwood, New Jersey rehab offers a state-of-the-art outpatient treatment program tailored to each individual patient. Contact us today to learn more!


  1. Powers T. 5 Types of Alternative (Non 12 Step) Addiction Treatment Programs. Sober Nation. Published April 20, 2015. Accessed November 23, 2022. https://sobernation.com/5-types-of-alternative-addiction-treatment-programs/
  2. Findings from NSDUH reveal that only a subset of individuals receive services for substance use and mental health issues. Published September 21, 2017. Accessed November 23, 2022. https://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/20170921
  3. CDC. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Cancer Patients. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published June 9, 2022. Accessed November 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivors/patients/complementary-alternative-medicine.htm
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