Using Motivational Interviewing to screen for substance use disorders

Feb. 7, 2023

Earlier this month, we discussed the risks of excessive alcohol consumption, one of which is substance use disorder. Substance use disorder occurs when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. Communicating with your constituents about their history of substance use can sometimes be uncomfortable as they might have mixed feelings and thoughts about their drug and alcohol use. Through the use of motivational interviewing, constituents will feel more open to talking about their substance use as you discuss whether there is a behavior to change, how to do it, and why to make the change. 

What is motivational interviewing?

Motivational interviewing is “a counseling approach in which clinicians use a patient-centered stance paired with eliciting techniques to help patients explore and resolve their ambivalence about changing behaviors that are not healthy or optimal “ as described by Karen Ingersoll, an expert in the field of motivational interviewing. This technique emphasizes the importance of collaboration and autonomy as clinicians seek to understand patients’ perspectives on substance use.

How do I use motivational interviewing?

The basic communication style in motivational interviewing (known by the acronym OARS) is composed of:

Open questions that encourage further elaboration and consideration.

Affirmations that foster positive feelings in the consultation.

Reflections that indicate that the clinician has heard and accurately understood the patient.

Summaries that extend the basic reflections to include a sense of momentum or build interest in changing direction. 

Interesting in a Motivational Interviewing training?

MINT is a professional organization of independent motivational interviewing trainers and offers three to four paid online training a week, ranging from $150 - $200. If you are interested in free Motivational Interviewing training, check out the library of free videos available here.