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

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Manuals and Workbooks
  • DVD Resources
  • Journal and Bibliographies
  • History and Overview
  • Meta-Analyses and Systematic Reviews
  • Active Ingredients and Mechanisms
  • Training and Learning
  • Implementation
  • Measuring Skills and Fidelity
  • Cultural Competency and 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: 29 October 2013
  • 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 social worker 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 his or her ideas about how change should occur, keeping the client as the expert in solving his or her 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 such as cognitive behavioral therapy. 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. Research studies have grown exponentially since its early development with a focus on improved client outcomes. More recent studies include research regarding methods on how to learn MI and integrate it into practice, as well as the mechanisms of how MI works. MI continues to evolve and become more refined as the developers of MI integrate new research findings into clinical work. This annotated bibliography on MI provides resources for social workers and social work educators. A review of 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 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 third edition of Miller and Rollnick 2013 has become the go-to book for those interested in learning about MI as well as understanding changes in current practice. Rollnick, et al. 2008 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. 2008); Adolescents (Naar-King and Suarez 2011); and anxiety (Westra 2012). Hohman 2012 provides applications of MI to various Social Work settings. All of these books could be used as textbooks in specific courses that need some skill-based material. Tober and Raistrick 2007 contains important implementation and supervision information; the focus in Wagner and Ingersoll 2013 is on MI in groups.

  • Arkowitz, Hal, Henny Westra, William Miller, and Stephen Rollnick, eds. 2008. Motivational interviewing in the treatment of psychological problems. 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 gambling, among others. Provides an 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.

  • Hohman, Melinda. 2012. Motivational interviewing in social work practice. New York: Guilford.

    A guide to learning MI with example dialogues drawn from micro- , mezzo- and macro-social work contexts. Includes a chapter on integration of MI in agency settings based on real-life experiences. See also Social Work.

  • Miller, William, and Stephen Rollnick. 2013. Motivational interviewing: Helping people change. 3d ed. New York: Guilford.

    Written by the founders of MI, this edition adds new concepts and practices in using the method, based on cumulative research studies and thinking of the authors. Sample dialogues are provided to demonstrate skills.

  • Naar-King, Sylvie, and Mariann Suarez. 2011. Motivational interviewing with adolescents and young adults. New York: Guilford.

    Provides an overview of the use of MI with adolescents and places it in the context of developmental needs. Specific application areas include marijuana use, chronic medical problems, eating disorders, juvenile justice, and the school setting. See also Adolescents.

  • Rollnick, Stephen, William R. Miller, and Christopher C. Butler. 2008. Motivational interviewing in health care: Helping patients change behavior. New York: Guilford.

    Written as a user-friendly teaching guide to learning MI with sample dialogues mostly in medical settings.

  • Tober, Gillian, and Duncan Raistrick, eds. 2007. Motivational dialogue: Preparing addiction professionals for motivational interviewing practice. New York: Routledge.

    Overview of MI with chapters regarding research, teaching, supervising, and evaluating practice. Includes clinical examples from the United Kingdom and Italy.

  • 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.

  • Westra, Henny A. 2012. Motivational interviewing in the treatment of anxiety. New York: Guilford.

    A thorough overview of the concepts and skills of MI. Applications for using MI to prepare clients to address anxiety problems (pre-treatment) as well as integrating it into other treatment methods are presented.

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