In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Motivational Interviewing

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Workbooks
  • Non-English Language Books
  • DVD/Video Resources
  • Online Resources
  • History and Overview
  • Meta-analyses and Systematic Reviews
  • Active Ingredients and Mechanisms
  • Training and Learning
  • Implementation
  • Measuring Skills and Fidelity
  • Cultural Adaptations
  • Group Work
  • Adolescents
  • Screening and Brief Interventions
  • Alcohol and Other Drugs
  • Child Welfare
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Criminal Justice
  • Mental Health and Co-occurring Disorders
  • Social Work
  • Older Adults

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Social Work Motivational Interviewing
Melinda Hohman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 August 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0209


Motivational interviewing (MI) is a communication/counseling style that was developed initially as an alternative to the more traditional confrontational methods employed in substance use disorder treatment in the 1980s. It was based on psychologist Carl Roger’s client-centered model with the focus on demonstrating empathy to clients in an atmosphere of acceptance and collaboration and with an emphasis on client autonomy. These elements have been captured in what is called the “spirit” of MI. Other important aspects are the skills involved in creating this spirit, including the use of open-ended questions, affirmations, reflective listening statements, and summaries. In MI the practitioner listens for and highlights the client’s language of change, known as “change talk.” Listening skills are used to reflect and learn about the desires, abilities, reasons, and needs for change in clients. Emphasis is placed on evoking from the client their ideas about how change should occur, keeping the client as the expert in solving their problem. MI had been used as a stand-alone counseling method, a pretreatment method to engage clients, or in combination with other evidence-based practices. Initial publications regarding MI primarily explained the method, with early research demonstrating its efficacy in addressing substance use disorders. MI has been adopted and utilized by other fields of practice, especially health behavior change. Currently over 2,000 clinical trials of MI and over 200 meta-analyses/systematic reviews have been published, attesting to its broad reach and range. This annotated bibliography on MI provides resources for social workers, psychologists, counselors, and their educators. A review of the literature regarding elements of MI includes a section on its history, meta-analyses of research, training and implementation studies, and an overview of how MI works or its mechanisms of change and how to measure fidelity to MI skills. Other sections include Cultural Adaptations of MI, applications of MI in Screening and Brief Interventions, and MI with Adolescents, Older Adults, and in group settings. Also reviewed are areas of interest to social workers, including Social Work in general, alcohol and other drug misuse, Mental Health and Co-occurring Disorders, Criminal Justice, and Intimate Partner Violence. Included are randomized controlled trials, other study designs, qualitative designs, case studies, and conceptual articles. The research on MI has been so abundant that many meta-analyses have been conducted and most are included in this review, not only in the Meta-analyses and Systematic Reviews section but under other sections as well. Not only do they provide information from a wide swath of studies but they also point the reader to the various studies that were included in the analyses.


The following books provide a good overview of MI. Readers who are interested in learning about MI and its skill components, along with example dialogues, will find these helpful. The recent fourth edition of Miller and Rollnick 2023 is the go-to book for those interested in learning about MI as well as understanding changes in current practice. Rollnick, et al. 2023 explores MI methods in health care that include helpful conversational tools that can be applied to any context. As MI practice has evolved, other authors have applied MI concepts and skills to specific fields of practice such as mental illness (Arkowitz, et al. 2017); Adolescents (Naar-King and Suarez 2021); families (Forrester, et al. 2021); Criminal Justice (Stinson and Clark 2017); and work in schools (Rollnick, et al. 2016). Hohman 2021 provides applications of MI to various Social Work settings and Schumacher and Madson 2015 examine MI in counseling with clinical examples. Wagner and Ingersoll 2013 address MI specifically in group work. All of these books could be used as textbooks in specific courses that need some skill-based material.

  • Arkowitz, Hal, Henny Westra, William Miller, and Stephen Rollnick, eds. 2017. Motivational interviewing in the treatment of psychological problems. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

    This edited text provides information regarding the application of MI to a variety of psychological problems, including anxiety, depression, suicidality, eating disorders, and substance use disorders, among others. Provides an updated overview of the research of MI in each area as well as clinical examples of its use. See also Mental Health and Co-occurring Disorders.

  • Forrester, Donald, David Wilkins, and Charlotte Whitaker. 2021. Motivational interviewing for working with children and families: A practical guide for early intervention and child protection. London: Jessica Kingsley.

    Provides information regarding MI and its applicability in working with families, particularly those in the child protection system. It addresses having difficult conversations in the context of authority while still maintaining the spirit and skills of MI.

  • Hohman, Melinda. 2021. Motivational interviewing in social work practice. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

    This updated version contains information on the four processes and applications of MI in various social work contexts, with accompanying learning competencies. It is a guide to learning MI with new example dialogues drawn from micro- , mezzo-, and macro-social work contexts. Includes a chapter on learning and implementing MI. Practicing social workers contributed their experiences with MI in textboxes. See also Social Work.

  • Miller, William R., and Stephen Rollnick. 2023. Motivational interviewing: Helping people change and grow. 4th ed. New York: Guilford.

    Written by the founders of MI, this new edition adds updated concepts and practices in using the method, based on cumulative research studies and thinking of the authors, including the use of simple and complex affirmations. A learning MI chapter also covers artificial intelligence methods. Sample dialogues are provided to demonstrate skills. This book has been translated into at least twenty-eight languages.

  • Naar-King, Sylvie, and Mariann Suarez. 2021. Motivational interviewing with adolescents and young adults. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

    Provides an overview of the use of MI with adolescents and places it in the context of developmental needs. Clinical issues and needs are interwoven throughout with a new focus on the four processes. Use of MI in adolescent group work is included along with updated research and skill building exercises. See also Adolescents.

  • Rollnick, Stephen, Sebastian G. Kaplan, and Richard Rutschman. 2016. Motivational interviewing in schools: Conversations in improve behavior and learning. New York: Guilford.

    Conversations about change in the context of school settings, learning MI skills, and applying MI to specific problems, such as bullying and dropout prevention. (Translated into Czech.)

  • Rollnick, Stephen, William R. Miller, and Christopher C. Butler. 2023. Motivational interviewing in health care: Helping patients change behavior. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

    Written as a user-friendly teaching guide to learning MI with a focus on MI skills that can be used in interprofessional settings. Sample vignettes and dialogues with new examples regarding advice giving and brief consultations, mostly in medical settings.

  • Schumacher, Julie A., and Michael B. Madson. 2015. Fundamentals of motivational interviewing: Tips and strategies for addressing common clinical challenges. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Written for those in the helping professions with various MI skills levels, this book provides information on the use of MI in setting with clinical challenges, such as missed appointments, mental health issues, and working with parents and groups.

  • Stinson, Jill D., and Michael D. Clark. 2017. Motivational interviewing with offenders: Engagement, rehabilitation, and reentry. New York: Guilford.

    Provides application of MI to the setting for those working in the criminal justice system. How to do so within the four processes is covered along with how to implement and sustain MI in probation and parole settings. See Criminal Justice.

  • Wagner, Christopher C., and Karen S. Ingersoll. 2013. Motivational interviewing in groups. New York: Guilford.

    Book describing MI, group work, and how the two fit together. Good details regarding implementing MI groups along with chapters on specific population applications. Useful for group work courses. See also Group Work.

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