Lack of motivation can be a major impediment to getting sober. Only about 10 percent of Americans with substance use issues seek and receive treatment. The vast majority of those who don’t seek treatment are just not ready to quit. They might not believe they have a problem, they might fear change, they might fear withdrawal or living without their primary coping mechanism, or they might just really enjoy drugs and alcohol despite the negative consequences. Even people who do seek treatment are often ambivalent about quitting for all the same reasons. They often know they should quit, but still aren’t sure they want to. Fighting addiction is hard and it’s even harder if you’re not really committed to it. This is where motivational interviewing, or MI comes in. MI is a way of helping new patients clarify their priorities. MI is not a pep talk or an intervention. It’s not a not a situation where a therapist confronts someone on the fence about treatment with all the terrible consequences of her addiction. It’s not a hard sales pitch for abstinence. MI is a series of conversations, usually two to four conversations, in which a therapist talks with you about your thoughts and feeling about your substance use. The therapist does this by listening and drawing out your own thoughts on your substance use. The therapist’s goal is to help you find your own motivation, not impose motivation on you. MI is part of the broader category of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, but it is different from other methods. CBT tends to be very goal focused. You identify a problem and the thinking connected to that problem, and work toward a solution. MI is much more open-ended. It’s an exploration of what matters most to you and how your behavior affects those priorities. It’s perfectly normal to be ambivalent about quitting drugs or alcohol. It’s a big decision and a major life change for most people. Quitting requires learning new ways of thinking and behaving. It requires avoiding situations where you might be tempted to use. That often means losing friends who still use. Many people fear they won’t ever have fun again because their idea of fun is completely tied up with drugs and alcohol. Perhaps the scariest thing is giving up the comfort substances and addictive behaviors offer. For years, it may have been the only way to get relief from stress, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or physical pain. On the other hand, most people are aware their addictions have negative consequences. They might range from frequent hangovers to prison time, or worse. Many people hate being tied to their addiction. The hate the damage it does to their relationships, they hate the money and time addiction eats up, they hate what addiction has done to their careers, and they hate being afraid of withdrawal. When people are ready to seek treatment, they usually have a good reason, but they may feel like all those reasons not to quit are still holding them back. Addiction keeps you from seeing your situation very clearly, and when trying to sort out conflicting desires it helps to talk to someone who understands and isn’t trying to pressure you one way or the other. When dealing with addiction, motivation is not all that matters, but it plays a significant part. Other factors, such as co-occurring mental health issues are also extremely important, and unless those are addressed, no amount of motivation is likely to be enough. However, improving motivation has several well established benefits, including making you more likely to participate in and finish treatment, and higher rates of abstinence after treatment. That is to say, no one can do it for you. If you want to overcome addictive behavior, you have to be motivated enough to seek treatment, participate in treatment, and keep doing the things that keep you sober after treatment. When your values and priorities are clear to you, as well as the ways addiction conflicts with your goals and values, it’s much easier to motivate yourself even when things seem hard. As with most aspects of addiction treatment, empathy is central to motivational interviewing. A skilled therapist understands that her top priority is to understand what you’re going through. That means asking questions and listening to the answers without judgment. A good therapist knows that judging, warning, criticizing, blaming, or persuading are often counterproductive and only get in the way of the real objective, which is helping you figure out what you really want to do. There’s no need to try to make you accept a label such as “addict” or “alcoholic.” Studies show that motivational interviewing is effective in treating addiction. In some cases it can be enough to motivate someone to change negative behaviors, but often more intensive treatment is necessary. For this group, motivational interviewing can make treatment much more effective. The hardest part is always getting started. You may have to detox, you might be in an unfamiliar environment, around unfamiliar people. On top of all that, you may feel conflicted about the whole idea of quitting. Resolving that inner conflict makes the rest of treatment much easier because you have a definite purpose in mind. And best of all, that purpose didn’t come from your therapist, or your family, or your boss, but from you.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Recovery Ways is a leading addiction treatment provider with an excellent recovery rate. Our expert staff includes masters and Ph.D. level therapists and board certified addiction psychiatrists. Our comfortable facilities will help to make your treatment as enjoyable as possible and our therapists use proven techniques like sensory integration and recreation therapy to help to engage the world without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Contact us today at 1-888-986-7848 or email us through our contact page to learn more.