“Motivational interviewing” may sound like just another buzzword in substance abuse treatment, but it describes a therapeutic technique that has had a great deal of success in treating those who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Motivational interviewing speaks to the hardcore drug addict or alcoholic, the person who flatly denies they have a problem that requires treatment or has no problem admitting that they are addicted to drugs and alcohol but expresses zero interest in getting any form of treatment or drug addiction help.
Life-Affirming Behaviors vs. Destructive Behaviors in Addiction
No matter how damaging the individual’s use of drugs and alcohol, somewhere in there, there are also positive choices made every day to promote their own health and wellbeing. Whether it’s an attempt to quit smoking or cut down, an interest in eating healthy food, a desire to get more sleep or stay fit, many addicts are conscious of their overall health and/or appearance and interested in taking steps to improve those. Many addicts are extremely intelligent, intellectual people who love reading and dream of having a job where they are respected and can express their opinions. These are all positive behaviors and motivational interviewing techniques seek to encourage the addict to express those thoughts and desires during therapy and build them up so that they eventually override the destructive drug-using behaviors.
The Benefits of Motivational Interviewing
Despite the name, motivational interviewing is less like an interview and more like a series of discussions. It doesn’t work overnight and it doesn’t work in every case, but it has been proven to be very effective. It offers two benefits no matter the end result of treatment:
- The therapist learns more about the individual. Throughout treatment, given the structure of the conversations that occur, the treating physician or therapist is able to learn quite a bit about who the addict is as a person. Identifying problem areas as well as the addict’s strengths can help a therapist create an effective treatment plan.
- The individual focuses on the good things. Too many addicts are bogged down by the negative choices they’ve made, their identification as a victim in their own lives and by the inevitability of their continued drug abuse.
- The therapist has an opportunity to encourage the individual to change her behavior. When the addict begins talking about her strengths, interests, past successes or hopes for the future, it’s a great way to broach the conversation of change and get down to what exactly is stopping the individual from getting the help she needs.
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