Motivational Interviewing is distinct in that it is primarily for the purpose of changing one’s motivation for change. While it shares many commonalities with other therapies, it is different in that it has a limited focus on changing one’s motivation regarding one or more behaviors. Motivational interviewing can be interwoven with other therapies or can stand alone. Common targets for change including smoking cessation, weight loss, increasing engagement in academics or career tasks, reducing drug use, and reducing criminal behavior. With Motivational Interviewing, there is typically a specific goal in mind, and it is not a general therapy approach meant for reducing depression or other mood disorders.
In Motivational Interviewing, it is believed that the therapist cannot make another person change. Rather, the therapist can help open a space and provide guidance that allows a person to come to their own conclusion on whether or not they should change. It is not argumentative in nature, instead it is viewed as a cooperative effort involving strong partnership. The therapist helps the patient elicit their own reasons for change so that motivation comes from within. Above all, the therapist will assist the patient in believing that there are alternatives out there and that they have the abilities to make real change.