What is Motivational Interviewing?

What is Motivational Interviewing?*

Miller and Rollnick’s (2009) definition of Motivational Interviewing (MI) is: “Motivational Interviewing is a collaborative, person-centered form of guiding to elicit and strengthen motivation for change” (p137). It was developed to help clients deal with ambivalence about
making health-related choices. In effect, the coach facilitates the client in persuading themselves into change. MI has been described
as an “evolution of client-centred counselling” as it is moved beyond this approach by being “consciously goal-orientated, in having
intentional direction toward change” (p135).

MI has been used for a wide range of health-related issues including:

  • alcohol reduction,
  • dietary management,
  • exercise,
  • medication adherence,
  • sexual health,
  • smoking
  • and substance misuse

The health coach may choose to use MI to help explore the issues concerned at the client’s pace. The coach ‘rolls with resistance’ and does not challenge the client, but prefers to enhance the client’s self-efficacy in their belief that they can achieve behavioural change. The coach listens out for and elicits this ‘change-talk’ during the conversation.

MI is covered on a number of the Centre for Health Coaching courses and is an integral part of health and wellbeing coaching.

*The material on this webpage has been taken from an article written by the Centre for Health Coaching Co-Director, Professor Stephen Palmer (2012).


Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2009). Ten things that Motivational Interviewing is not. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 37, pp129-140.

Palmer, S. (2012). Health Coaching Toolkit Part 2. Coaching at Work, 7, 4, 32-34.