When you are early in your recovery, you might not be aware of all the forms of addiction treatment used to facilitate your sobriety. For instance, you might be introduced to the 12-step program, relaxation techniques, ways to increase your self-care, psychiatric services, drug counseling, and therapy that specifically addresses addiction.
Specifically, a type of therapy that facilitates change in those who either want or need to make a change is Motivational Interviewing. This is a therapeutic method that is not coercive or judgmental, which some addicts still run into when they are open about their addiction. It’s common to think that sobriety is the “right” way and as a result some therapists might coerce the client into getting sober.
Rather, the essence of Motivational Interviewing is to elicit in a person his or her authentic desire to change. When doing so, often a significant amount of ambivalence will arise. Yet, the aim of the therapy is to recognize that ambivalence as a normal part of the process of change. In fact, the principles of Motivational Interviewing include the following:
- Point out discrepancies or inconsistencies between what a person wants to do and what he or she is currently doing.
- Express empathy in order to build a connection and accept a person where he or she is at in their process towards change.
- Amplify ambivalence in order to point out that ambivalence is normal when trying to initiate change. However, if not recognized, ambivalence can stand in the way of moving ahead.
- Roll with resistances when a person gives reasons to not change. It’s clear that he or she is not yet ready to move forward.
In order to facilitate the above, there are core techniques that facilitators of Motivational Interviewing use. They are known by the acronym OARS and are described below:
- Open-Ended Questions: The therapist uses open-ended questions in order to invite personal story, establish rapport, elicit what is important, provide an opportunity for an individual to hear his or her own struggle regarding drug abuse, and increase understanding.
- Affirmations: Affirming a person’s strengths wherever possible provides validation, encouragement, and support. It increases confidence in his or her ability to create change. One of the many dysfunctional patters of addiction is powerlessness. Affirmations can promote a feeling of inner power and the ability to make change.
- Reflective Statements: These are statements that mirror what a person just said without actually repeating his or her words. For instance, if that person expressed difficulty in making a decision, the therapist might respond with, “It sounds like you’re having trouble making the right choice.” These statements allow the client to hear his or her own struggles and the ambivalence he or she is experiencing. Depending on where an individual is in the process of change and also on the depth of the therapeutic relationship, the use of different types of reflections may vary.
- Summaries: A therapist might provide a summary of the therapeutic discussion to highlight any changes, insights, or shifts that a person experienced during a session. Summaries might also include both sides of ambivalence and communicate empathy towards his or her difficult position.
Motivational Interviewing is not a therapy that attempts to convince someone to do something he or she is not ready for. Instead, it facilitates what a person might already be considering. Because ambivalence and fear often get in the way, this therapeutic technique can help someone move past their inner obstacles in order to achieve what they want. Making a change such as seeking sobriety when you’re in the middle of an addiction can feel like it’s light years away. However, with a strong network of support, therapy, and a willingness to look inward, change such as sobriety is possible.