Motivational Interviewing, Physical Therapy, Mental Health, Physical Health


Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Physical Therapy | Therapeutics


Mary Bower Russa


Motivational interviewing (MI), created by William Miller, is an approach used to help professionals and their clients deal with the ambivalence that comes with changing unwanted behaviors. It largely focuses on giving autonomy to the client, while the professional listens reflectively and encourages the client to consider the possible benefits of change. This approach was pioneered in treatment of alcoholism and other substance abuse in the early 1980’s, but it was later expanded to other areas. Today, MI is used in both mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD, binge eating disorder) and physical health (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, diet, HIV/AIDS, treatment adherence). In mental health, MI has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, binge eating and PTSD. In physical health, it has lessened the severity of cardiovascular disease and diabetes symptoms and decreased BMI. Both mental and physical health also show an increase in medication adherence and other treatment adherence after MI use. There are many medical sub-disciplines that have not yet incorporated MI into their standard of care, but MI’s focus on ambivalence and its strong outcome data suggest that it could be useful in a range of related medical disciplines. One such discipline is physical therapy, where clients struggle to adhere to home exercise prescription, and therefore do not fully benefit from the rehabilitation process. This paper will focus on providing the current research on MI in health care, and examining the relevance of this approach to problems faced by therapists and clients in the physical therapy field.

Additional Files

H. Mead Handout.pdf (326 kB)