Lesson 1: Resolving Ambivalence Copy


Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change. It is also a person-centered counseling style for addressing the common problem of ambivalence about change and strengthening motivation and commitment to change by eliciting and exploring the person’s own reasons for change within in an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion (Miller & Rollnick, 2013, pp. 21–29).

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is not a set of techniques, but rather a method or style of interacting with consumers of health and behavioral health services. As such, the foundation of MI is its spirit. Miller, Rolnick, and Butler (2008) have suggested that learning the techniques without the spirit is like learning the words to a song without the music. When learning a new song, you typically learn the tune first and then memorize the words. If you can hum the tune, then you are already halfway there. So throughout the 4 class lessons we will be returning always to the spirit of MI — a person-centered, respectful, and collaborative style of communicating and guiding that helps people resolve ambivalence about change and elicits their commitment to change that is consistent with their own values and goals.

In addition to exploring the spirit and fundamental method of Motivational Interviewing, this course will also examine how to apply the spirit, principles, and specific interviewing strategies of MI to clinical work in a variety of settings (including mental health, substance abuse, and medical treatment settings) and a diverse range of target behaviors from substance use to smoking cessation, to medication management, to losing weight for diabetes management.

A Note About Language


Throughout this course I will use the term person, consumer, client, or patient interchangeably to designate a person receiving services. The term consumer is most closely associated with the mental health and substance abuse recovery movement, the Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) philosophy, and the collaborative model of helping people that MI promotes, however, depending on your work context you might be more familiar with the term client or patient, so I will also use these terms depending on the context.

Clinician/Counselor/Provider/Behavioral Health Professional

I will use the terms clinician, counselor, provider, and behavioral health professional interchangeably to denote a person providing services. Again, depending on your particular context you may be more familiar with one term over another. Please note that providers can include case managers, peer support staff, and other direct care workers who might not be considered “clinicians” or “counselors.”

Copyright Notice

Copyright Patricia A. Burke, all rights reserved. You may download or print one copy of the material in this course for your personal use.


Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: Preparing people for change (3rd ed.) New York: Guilford Press.

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (June, 2010). What’s new since MI-2. Motivational Interviewing Conference Presentation.

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2002). Motivational interviewing: Preparing people for change (2nd ed.) New York: Guilford Press.

Rollnick, S., Miller, W.R. & Butler, C. C. (2008). Motivational interviewing in health care: helping patients change behavior. New York: Guilford Press.

Naar-King, S & Suarez, M. (2010). Motivational Interviewing with adolescents and young adults (Kindle Edition). New York: Guilford Press.