Motivational Interviewing in Addiction Treatment

Motivational Interviewing is an addiction treatment method that is typically utilized with addicts who are unmotivated to conquer their addiction or those who are in denial. Motivation determines everything we do as humans. Having high motivation toward something pushes us to do what we may not want to for the sake of what is needed. Having low motivation leads us to inactivity or negligence. There are an infinite number of things that can motivate us: family, friends, a new job, dreams and goals, the desire to do good, and almost anything else one can think of.

With addiction, the brain is completely rewired to become motivated for more of what it is addicted to. This is why it is not an issue of being motivated to “just stop,” but rather an issue of being motivated to get treatment. In many cases, the person may be in severe denial about their own problems. As such, there is a method called Motivational Interviewing which helps the client to solve their own problems.

Specifically, it is a method that works on facilitating and engaging motivation within the client in order to change their behavior. This helps the client to explore and resolve issues. It also allows the therapist to discover their motivation behind using the substance.

“If somebody is doing pot, I want to know why… if somebody tells me that it calms them down, they’ve helped me realize that either they have an anxiety disorder or ADD, and I can target that.” Said Jef Gazley, a licensed therapist with multiple specialties. Perhaps it is an anxiety disorder, perhaps this person is trying to cope with a devastating loss or a traumatic event. Regardless, knowing the reason behind the original choice that led to the addiction allows the therapist to pinpoint where they need to focus their attention.

Planting Seeds

“I think a lot of times what you are doing with people is you are teaching and planting seeds,” said Gazley. Asking an open-ended question forces the person answering to give a meaningful answer. They use their own knowledge, experience, and feelings. This is contrary to the point of a close-ended question, which encourages a factual, often single-word answer.

An example of an open-ended question would be “what does this do for you?” in regards to the substance. When multiple open-ended questions are asked, pieces of a larger puzzle are laid down with every answer. Small seeds of knowledge of being revealed to the client, by the client, until there is an epiphany. This is especially effective for people with severe denial and need to come to the conclusion on their own. In this sense, the client solves their own internal issues and the therapist is merely guiding the momentum.

Seeing Our Own Demons

In many instances, being accused of having an addiction will cause a person to shut down and become defensive. Coming out so forcefully will strengthen the person’s denial and possibly even cause them to go deeper into it.

“If they see it, they’re going to do something about it,” said Gazley, but seeing it is part of the problem. Because of the way addiction takes over the mind, there is a thick fog covering the problem and empowering denial. This is why events like an intervention can be so powerful. Individually, the family and friends telling their loved one that they have a problem may do little to nothing. The person will count them as individual events and log them away. By coming together as one, however, the fog gets thinner and easier to see through.

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