Introduction to motivational interviewing

by Professor Janet Treasure and Dr Pam Macdonald


Last reviewed: October 2015


This module is an introduction to motivational interviewing (MI), a patient-centred and gently directive interaction style used to negotiate behaviour change.


Initially, motivational interviewing was developed as a tool to work with people with alcohol problems but it can be used for any situation in which there is ambivalence about change. Within psychiatry, this approach has been applied to people with dual diagnosis, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders and anxiety, and to improve treatment adherence in psychosis.


In this module, we give an overview of:


  • what MI is and how it is relevant to psychiatry


  • the evidence for the efficacy of MI and how it links to behavioural theory


  • tools and techniques for practising MI


  • when and with whom MI should be used


  • how MI can be used in clinical practice.


Start the module


Please note: This module was last reviewed in 2015. A revision is being worked on, but in the meantime please be aware when completing the module that some of the guidance may have changed.

If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


How patient-centred are you? Shared decision-making in psychiatric practice by Dr Robert Chaplin and Dr Alan Quirk


Involving patients and carers in training by Dr Alka S. Ahuja



This module is a joint commission with the following article published in BJPsych Advances:


Luty J, Iwanowicz M (2018) Motivational interviewing: living up to its promise?. BJPsych Advances, 24: 46–53. [abstract]


Other related Advances articles


© 2021 Royal College of Psychiatrists