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Addiction Rehabilitation Treatment Modalities: Motivational Interviewing

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As soon as you start researching rehabilitation treatment, you are confronted by the staggering variety of approaches, or modalities. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Treatment approaches and individual programs continue to evolve and diversify, and many programs today do not fit neatly into traditional drug addiction treatment classifications.” This might make you a little confused, but learning about modalities can give you some insight into how a program is run and what its focus is.


Most rehab, regardless of modality, begins with detoxification, where the body is cleared of drugs through abstinence from them. This process can be very hard on the body and rehab programs will manage the acute and potentially dangerous effects of stopping drug use. One way to do this is through medically managed withdrawal, where medications are administered by a physician to counter-act the physiological dangers of detox.

When detoxification is complete, it’s time to get into the hard work of treatment. But, what will that treatment look like? It is important to learn about different modalities because you need to find one that you will respond to. Maybe motivational interviewing is a modality that would work with your strengths.

If you would like help exploring the modalities of rehabilitation programs, contact at 800-654-0987 and speak with someone today.

Motivational Interviewing

In the past, it was common for addiction professionals to use a blunt, confrontational approach with patients. These attempts at real or straight talk were rarely successful as they have a tendency to cause bitterness in and discomfort for the individual with substance abuse problems. This, in turn, feeds into diminished self-worth, which compromises efforts to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Motivational interviewing—sometimes referred to as motivational enhancement therapy—on the other hand, relies on a therapeutic conversation between licensed clinicians and clients. Its aim is to eliminate the uncertainty that prevents clients from achieving goals.

General Principles

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), the clinician practices motivational interviewing with five general principles in mind:

  1. Express empathy through reflective listening.
  2. Develop the difference between clients’ goals or values and their current behavior.
  3. Avoid argument and direct confrontation.
  4. Adjust to client resistance rather than opposing it directly.
  5. Support optimism and self-efficacy (one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task).


SAMSHA also notes motivational interviewing is particularly suited to rehabilitation programs in the following ways:

  • Low cost. Motivational interviewing was designed from the outset to be a brief intervention and is normally delivered in two to four outpatient sessions.
  • Efficacy. There is strong evidence that motivational interviewing triggers change in high-risk lifestyle behaviors.
  • Effectiveness. Large effects from brief motivational counseling have held up across a wide variety of real-life clinical settings.
  • Mobilizing client resources. Motivational interviewing focuses on mobilizing the client’s own resources for change.
  • Compatibility with health care delivery. Motivational interviewing does not assume a long-term client-therapist relationship. Even a single session has been found to invoke behavior change, and motivational interviewing can be delivered within the context of larger health care delivery systems.
  • Emphasizing client motivation. Client motivation is a strong predictor of change, and this approach puts primary emphasis on first building client motivation for change. Thus, even if clients do not stay for a long course of treatment (as is often the case with substance abuse), they have been given something that is likely to help them within the first few sessions.
  • Enhancing adherence. Motivational interviewing is also a sensible prelude to other health care interventions because it has been shown to increase adherence, which in turn improves treatment outcomes.

Motivational interviewing may be one of the therapeutic offerings at a treatment center, but if it is one you anticipate benefitting from, you should do yourself a favor and pursue it. The best addiction treatment is simply the one that works for you. For help finding a treatment program that uses motivational interviewing, contact at 800-654-0987 and speak with someone today.