Motivational Interviewing is an evidence-based counseling approach that helps people explore and resolve ambivalence about changing behaviors. It is a collaborative process between you and your client in which both parties work together to identify goals, plan for change, and develop strategies to reach those goals.
In this guide, we'll discuss Motivational Interviewing Questions and how to use them effectively in therapy sessions. We'll also provide examples of MI questions to help you get started.
What are Motivational Interviewing Questions?
Motivational Interviewing Questions are open-ended, non-judgmental questions used to explore a person's feelings and thoughts about behavior change. They aim to create an atmosphere of acceptance, understanding, and trust.
MI questions encourage individuals to reflect on their current behavior, identify any discrepancies between their current behavior and their desired goals, and develop a deeper understanding of the impact of their actions.
When used correctly, Motivational Interviewing Questions can help your client become more motivated for change and to take ownership of their personal growth journey. As such, Motivational Interviewing is a powerful tool that can support individuals in achieving their personal goals and living their best life.
Why are Motivational Interviewing Questions Helpful?
Motivational Interviewing Questions can help create a safe, non-judgmental space where individuals can openly express themselves. MI questions are also helpful because:
They can help individuals uncover inner strengths and resources
Using MI questions, you can guide your client in exploring their inner motivations and resources, which can be essential for making a successful change.
They are an effective way to identify areas of ambivalence
MI questions can help individuals identify any ambivalence about making a change and explore why they feel unsure. This can help individuals better understand their emotions and take ownership of their choices.
They can open up a dialogue between you and your client
Motivational Interviewing Questions can foster open, non-judgmental dialogue with your client. It allows for meaningful conversations and a deeper understanding of the person's needs and goals.
They help clients explore options and develop plans for change
Using MI questions, you can encourage your client to explore options and create a viable plan for change. This can help them better understand the change process, and you can provide better support in making lasting changes.
MI questions can help individuals explore their own feelings and thoughts about behavior change. With the right approach to motivational interviewing, such as the OARS Motivational Interviewing technique, you can provide your client with the tools and support to make meaningful life changes.
24 Motivational Interviewing Questions Examples
Motivational Interviewing uses the Stages of Change Model (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983) to encourage people to make positive changes. With the help of these questions, it’s possible to understand a person’s motivations and how to use them to foster positive change.
Here are some Motivational Interviewing Questions examples you can use for each stage:
- Can you tell me more about your current thoughts and feelings about the behavior you're considering changing?
- What have you noticed about the impact of this behavior on your life, relationships, and well-being?
- How important is it to change this behavior, and why?
- What are some of the potential consequences of not changing this behavior, and how concerned are you about these consequences?
In this stage, the individual is not yet considering a change. You can use these questions to help them move forward.
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of changing this behavior that you are currently weighing in your mind?
- How confident do you feel you could change this behavior, and what factors contribute to your confidence or lack thereof?
- What do you feel is holding you back from changing this behavior, and how might you overcome these obstacles?
- How might making changes to this behavior impact your life and the lives of those around you? How do you feel about these potential impacts?
Your client is considering change but has yet to commit to action. These questions can help facilitate their decision-making process.
- What specific steps are you considering taking to make changes to this behavior, and how do you feel about these steps?
- What kind of support would be helpful for you as you prepare to change this behavior, and how might you seek this support?
- What potential challenges or barriers do you anticipate as you change this behavior, and how might you work to overcome these challenges?
- How will you measure progress as you make changes to this behavior, and what will success look like for you?
The individual is preparing to take action and has a plan in place. These questions can be utilized to further explore and clarify the steps your client is taking to prepare for their desired change.
- What changes have you made so far, and how do you feel about these changes?
- How are you tracking your progress as you change this behavior, and what are you learning from this process?
- What challenges or setbacks have you encountered during this process, and how have you worked to overcome them?
- How are you staying motivated as you make changes to this behavior, and what strategies are you finding helpful?
Your client is actively taking steps toward behavior change. You can ask these questions to support them better as they take more steps to achieve their goals.
- What are you doing to maintain the changes you have made so far, and how do you feel about your progress?
- What have you learned about yourself and your ability to make changes during this process, and how might you apply this learning to other areas of your life?
- What potential triggers or situations might put you at risk for relapse, and how can you prepare to navigate these situations?
- What support do you need to maintain your changes, and how might you get this support?
In this stage, your client has successfully made the behavior change and is working to sustain it over time. These questions can aid in supporting their progress and sustaining the behavior change over time.
- What led to the relapse, and how do you feel about this setback?
- What have you learned from this experience, and how might you apply this learning to future attempts to make changes to this behavior?
- What strategies have you found helpful in the past for overcoming setbacks and getting back on track, and how might you use these strategies now?
- What kind of support do you need to prevent future relapses, and how might you get this support?
During this stage, the individual returns to old habits or behaviors after a period of progress. These questions can be utilized to assist your client in getting back on track.
Note that MI uses different techniques to help clients move through each stage of change with ease and support. These Motivational Interviewing Techniques include affirmation, reflection, and developing discrepancy.
Benefits of Motivational Interviewing Questions
Motivational Interviewing Questions provide heaps of benefits for you and your practice. Some of these are the following:
It increases client participation
Miller and Rollnick (2013) found that Motivational Interviewing Questions can help generate important information during sessions. These types of questions encourage clients to share more details and provide a better understanding of their thoughts, experiences, and motivations.
Using these questions, you can build better relationships with their clients and gain insights that inform their treatment strategies. It ultimately helps clients make positive changes in their lives.
It helps clients develop their own decisions
According to Resnicow and colleagues (2002), Motivational Interviewing Questions can help individuals build their self-efficacy, which is the belief in their ability to achieve their goals. By exploring a client's reasons for wanting to make a change and their beliefs about their ability to do so, MI can help build their confidence and motivation to take action.
This is important because individuals confident in making changes are more likely to follow through with their goals. By increasing self-efficacy, MI can help clients achieve their desired outcomes and improve their overall well-being.
It increases treatment adherence
A study by Amrhein et al. (2003) found that MI effectively increased treatment adherence among individuals with alcohol use disorders.
MI questions can help to increase treatment adherence by promoting a collaborative and respectful approach to counseling. By involving clients in the decision-making process, MI can help increase their commitment to treatment and willingness to follow through on recommended actions.
Motivational Interviewing Question App – How Can Carepatron Help?
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Amrhein, P. C., Miller, W. R., Yahne, C. E., Palmer, M., & Fulcher, L. (2003). Client commitment language during motivational interviewing predicts drug use outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(5), 862-878. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.71.5.862
Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: Helping people change (3rd edition). Guilford Press.
Prochaska, J., & DiClemente, C. (1983). Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51(3), 390–395.
Resnicow, K., DiIorio, C., Soet, J. E., Borrelli, B., Hecht, J., & Ernst, D. (2002). Motivational interviewing in health promotion: It sounds like something is changing. Health Psychology, 21(5), 444-451.