Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Ten Things that Motivational Interviewing Is Not

  • William R. Miller (a1) and Stephen Rollnick (a2)

Background: In the 26 years since it was first introduced in this journal, motivational interviewing (MI) has become confused with various other ideas and approaches, owing in part to its rapid international diffusion. Methods: Based on confusions that have arisen in publications and presentations regarding MI, the authors compiled a list of 10 concepts and procedures with which MI should not be addled. Results: This article discusses 10 things that MI is not: (1) the transtheoretical model of change; (2) a way of tricking people into doing what you want them to do; (3) a technique; (4) decisional balance; (5) assessment feedback; (6) cognitive-behavior therapy; (7) client-centered therapy; (8) easy to learn; (9) practice as usual; and (10) a panacea. Conclusion: Clarity about what does (and does not) constitute MI promotes quality assurance in scientific research, clinical practice, and training.

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to William Miller, Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Logan Hall, Albuquerque, New Mexico NM 87131-1161, USA. E-mail:
Hide All
G. Agostinelli , J. M. Brown and W. R. Miller (1995). Effects of normative feedback on consumption among heavy drinking college students. Journal of Drug Education, 25, 3140.

P. C. Amrhein , W. R. Miller , C. E. Yahne , M. Palmer and L. Fulcher (2003). Client commitment language during motivational interviewing predicts drug use outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 862878.

J. Gaume , G. Gmel and J.-B. Daeppen (2008). Brief alcohol interventions: do counsellors' and patients' communication characteristics predict change? Alcohol and Alcoholism, 43, 6269.

J. Hettema , J. Steele and W. R. Miller (2005). Motivational interviewing. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 91111.

V. Kuchipudi , K. Hobein , A. Fleckinger and F. L. Iber (1990). Failure of a 2-hour motivational intervention to alter recurrent drinking behavior in alcoholics with gastrointestinal disease. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 51, 356360.

M. B. Madsón and T. C. Campbell (2006). Measures of fidelity in motivational enhancement: a systematic review. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 31, 6773.

W. R. Miller (1983). Motivational interviewing with problem drinkers. Behavioural Psychotherapy, 11, 147172.

W. R. Miller , R. G. Benefield and J. S. Tonigan (1993). Enhancing motivation for change in problem drinking: a controlled comparison of two therapist styles. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 455461.

W. R. Miller and N. Heather (Eds.). (1986). Treating Addictive Behaviors: processes of change. New York: Plenum Press.

W. R. Miller and E. Kurtz (1994). Models of alcoholism used in treatment: contrasting A.A. and other perspectives with which it is often confused. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 55, 159166.

W. R. Miller and S. Rollnick (2004). Talking oneself into change: motivational interviewing, stages of change, and the therapeutic process. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 18, 299308.

W. R. Miller , J. L. Sorensen , J. Selzer and G. Brigham (2006). Disseminating evidence-based practices in substance abuse treatment: a review with suggestions. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 31, 2539.

W. R. Miller , M. Villanueva , J. S. Tonigan and I. Cuzmar (2007). Are special treatments needed for special populations? Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 25, 6378.

W. R. Miller , C. E. Yahne , T. B. Moyers , J. Martinez and M. Pirritano (2004). A randomized trial of methods to help clinicians learn motivational interviewing. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 10501062.

W. R. Miller , C. E. Yahne and J. S. Tonigan (2003). Motivational interviewing in drug abuse services: a randomized trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 754763.

T. B. Moyers , T. Martin , D. Catley , K. J. Harris and J. S. Ahluwalia (2003). Assessing the integrity of motivational interventions: reliability of the Motivational Interviewing Skills Code. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 31, 177184.

T. B. Moyers , W. R. Miller and S. M. L. Hendrickson (2005). How does motivational interviewing work? Therapist interpersonal skill predicts client involvement within motivational interviewing sessions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 590598.

Project MATCH Research Group (1993). Project MATCH: rationale and methods for a multisite clinical trial matching patients to alcoholism treatment. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 17, 11301145.

Project MATCH Research Group (1997). Project MATCH secondary a priori hypotheses. Addiction, 92, 16711698.

D. J. Rohsenow , P. M. Monti , R. A. Martin , S. M. Colby , M. G. Myers , S. B. Gulliver , R. A. Brown , T. I. Mueller , A. Gordon and D. B. Abrams (2004). Motivational enhancement and coping skills training for cocaine abusers: effects on substance use outcomes. Addiction, 99, 862874.

S. Rollnick and W. R. Miller (1995). What is motivational interviewing? Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23, 325334.

A. L. Stotts , J. M. Schmitz , H. M. Rhoades and J. Grabowski (2001). Motivational interviewing with cocaine-dependent patients: a pilot study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 858862.

C. B. Truax (1966). Reinforcement and non-reinforcement in Rogerian psychotherapy. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 71, 19.

C. C. Wagner and K. S. Ingersoll (2008). Beyond cognition: broadening the emotional base of motivational interviewing. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 18, 191206.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
  • ISSN: 1352-4658
  • EISSN: 1469-1833
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioural-and-cognitive-psychotherapy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 351
Total number of PDF views: 1929 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 6741 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.