The Psycholinguistics of Change: MI Technical Component

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Motivational interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based approach to promoting behavior change across a variety of problem areas including psychiatric rehabilitation, chronic disease management, medical treatment adherence, addictive disorders, and criminal justice.  There are both relational and technical components of MI.  The relational component refers to the attitude and interview style of the practitioner that together facilitate the development of an effective client-centered collaborative relationship.

The technical component of MI refers to the psycholinguistics of change.  When contemplating change, individuals voice arguments for and against change.  They express beliefs about why they ought or ought not consider change and intentions for and against action.  From the perspective of MI, the manner in which the practitioner manages these conversations impacts the probability of client initiation and persistence of change.  To the extent that the practitioner elicits and reinforces change talk, client utterances in favor of change, and moderates sustain talk, client utterances in favor of the status quo, motivation for and commitment to change is increased.  When executed in the context of a respectful, collaborative relationship, the preferential elicitation and reflection of change talk facilitates behavior change.  There is a growing evidence base indicating that practitioners trained in motivational interviewing elicit increased change talk from clients, and that increased change talk is associated with subsequent behavior change.  To learn more about the technical component of MI, please read our article, Toward a Theory of MI.