In motivational interviewing, the staff does not assume an authoritarian role — responsibility for change is left to the individual. The strategies of motivational interviewing are more persuasive than coercive, more supportive than argumentative. The staff understands that the choice to change is up to the individual. Motivational Interviewing believes that people change when they are interested or concerned about the need for change, convinced it is in their best interest and believe the benefits outweigh the cost. The overall goal is to increase the tenant’s intrinsic motivation for change.

In this approach, the tenant is treated with great respect and as a partner, creating an opportunity to engage in their own language in favor of change (change talk). Motivational interviewing is about helping to free people from the ambivalence that entraps them, ending repetitive cycles of self-defeating and self-destructive behavior. The following are five guiding principles of motivational interviewing:

  • Express Empathy: This is the ability to reflect accurate understanding back to tenant not expressing identification with the tenant. Acceptance facilitates change. Skillful reflective listening is fundamental. Ambivalence is normal.
  • Develop Discrepancy: Awareness of consequences is important. Discrepancy may exist between present behavior and important personal goals. Tenant should present the arguments for change.
  • Avoid Argumentation: Arguments are counterproductive. Defending breeds defensiveness. Resistance is a signal to change strategies. Labeling is unnecessary and creates a barrier between the staff and tenant.
  • Roll with Resistance: Avoid arguing; resistance is not directly opposed. Momentum can be used to good advantage. New perspectives are invited but not imposed. Tenant is the primary resource in finding solutions to problems. Resistance is usually a signal that the staff should respond differently.
  • Support Self-Efficacy: Belief in the possibility of change is an important motivator. Tenant is responsible for choosing and carrying out personal change. There is hope in the range of alternative approaches available.

Adapted from Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People to Change Addictive Behavior, by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick.

Click here to learn more about Effective Communication Techniques that Support Motivational Interviewing.

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