Harvard Mental Health Letter

Motivating behavior change

Motivational interviewing helps patients identify reasons to change.

If change were easy, people wouldn't have to make resolutions every New Year. Anyone who wanted to give up smoking, become sober, or lose weight would do so.

The reality is that changing behavior — especially overcoming an addiction — is difficult. Motivational interviewing is a therapeutic technique many clinicians use to help a patient identify personal reasons for undertaking the hard work of behavior change. Although originally developed for the treatment of alcohol dependence, motivational interviewing is now used to help patients overcome other types of substance abuse, stop smoking, lose weight, increase physical activity, and improve adherence to medical treatment.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »