The Role of Motivational Interviewing in Treating Substance Use Disorders at Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health

March 5, 2018

Mustering the courage to seek help for an addiction or a co-occurring disorder is difficult, and the fear of having control taken away can be a barrier to participation in treatment. For this reason, utilizing a gentle, non-direct approach at the initial stages of assessment and treatment is preferred. Through non-judgmental treatment, normalization of ambivalence, and promotion of self-determination, people get, and, feel, better.

For someone who is unsure of their commitment to absolute sobriety, or may be unrealistic about their standing in relation to a diagnosis of a substance use disorder, Motivational Interviewing can be effective. Although Motivational Interviewing is highly effective in treating substance use disorders, its impact on other mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, is significant. At Jefferson Oaks in Baton Rouge, we believe that Motivational Interviewing can assist clients in establishing, implementing, and enforcing healthy boundaries with themselves and others. Besides treating mental health conditions, this intervention can also increase motivation to make adaptive changes in those dealing with medical conditions, such as heart disease, tobacco use, and diabetes. Using these interventions and others, treatment groups like Co-dependency and Assertiveness teach practical skills that empower clients to make sustainable changes and get needs met.


As outlined by the Psychiatry Academy at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the purpose of Motivational Interviewing is to reduce the ambivalence a person feels about a specific issue, and to increase behaviors that lead to sustainable change. As an example, many people have difficulty with the frequency and quantity of their alcohol consumption due to the negative impact on their family or personal functioning. The role of Motivational Interviewing, in this example, is to assist the client in identifying a potential issue, assess motivation to change, address ambivalence, identify incongruence between behaviors and values, and reinforcing change talk or change behavior in order to empower the client to meet their personal goals. By validating the difficulty that comes with making behavioral changes and sacrifices, Motivational Interviewing assists the client in feeling heard, and unrushed. On the other hand, the brief intervention aspect of this technique allows clients to make significant progress while in the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) setting, in programs like Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health.


The ultimate purpose of using Motivational Interviewing as a brief intervention is to increase motivation to change problematic behaviors, or to move along through the Stages of Change. There are specific skills to use in each Stage of Change, generally involving addressing and resolving ambivalence and barriers. Throughout treatment at Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health, a client’s Stage of Change is assessed on an ongoing basis to determine their individual status, whether it is a new issue, or one that has been around for years. According to Prochaska’s Model, there are six Stages of Change: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Termination. A client can experience one Stage of Change for one substance or problem, and a completely different Stage of Change for another. At Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health, we meet the client where they are. While we serve clients who are all along the spectrum of change, we hope to assist in maintaining desired behavioral changes in areas identified by the client.

Motivational Interviewing in the PHP, IOP, and Dual-Diagnosis Settings

During the assessment process, a trained clinician will use various techniques to assess a potential client’s motivation to change and level of insight into their presenting issues. In order to obtain a complete clinical picture, we recommend that a member of the potential client’s support system is brought in to provide collaborative information at this time. Utilizing information gathered from both the potential client and their support, the clinician will implement Motivational Interviewing techniques to enhance awareness into deficits in functioning, and need for intervention. For example, the clinician may identify a correlation between the potential client’s depressive symptoms and increased use of alcohol, other substances, or self-sabotaging behaviors.

As a client progresses through the Dual-Diagnosis program at Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health, his or her assigned Primary Therapist will perform ongoing assessment of motivation and progress. Reinforcing change talk, change behavior, and goal-directed actions are vital to the client’s feelings of worth, competence, and hope. Your assigned Primary Therapist will get to know your personal goals, values, and various motivating factors to assist you in making the progress you want and need. Because the therapeutic alliance is related to progress and treatment outcome, great emphasis is placed on rapport-building, values exploration, and individualization of treatment.

What Now?

At Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health, our goal is to enhance the lives and overall wellbeing of the people that we serve. In order to do this, our treatment team utilizes goals and issues identified by the client to assist in creating a collaborative and functional Treatment Plan tailored to each individual. Through the use of group, family, and individual therapy facilitated by knowledgeable therapists in conjunction with our medical team, our clients feel empowered, confident, and supported. For more information, please call (225) 927-5624 or email:, to schedule a tour or an assessment, so that we may be able to help you get back on track.