In early recovery and even at intervals after long-term recovery, you might exhibit feelings of combativeness, resistance, self-doubt and frustration. Any number of things can trigger a negative response that will hinder your recovery. Motivational interviewing helps you recognize these issues at the onset and assess them using logic and rational thought. Additionally, according to founders Dr. William Miller and Dr. Stephen Rollnick, motivational interviewing is a therapeutic tool to be used in addition to other forms of therapy or addiction treatment (National Center for Biotechnology Information).

Further, this therapy inspires change in people who otherwise feel reluctant to do so. Motivational interviewing, or MI, can be particularly beneficial if you are managing a substance use disorder. MI operates in a four-stage process that aligns with the methods necessary to manage an addiction disorder: engaging, focusing, evoking and planning. MI will look at each of the four processes to help you identify your goals, and rationally and optimistically work toward them.

 Motivational Interviewing Stage #1: Engaging

When you have struggled with a SUD for years, you might have lost trust in yourself and your relationships. Understand that building trust with yourself and others is imperative to long-term recovery. The first goal of motivational interviewing is establishing trust between yourself and your therapist. This bond will form somewhat of an alliance—helping you work with your therapist to realize your goals. This process focuses on your strengths and reminds you that you must collaborate with others to achieve goals. However, while this is a collaborative effort, you will remain in control of the actions and pace your progress. At no point will your counselor put undue pressure on you to succeed. At New Hope Ranch, our counselors know that the recovery process is not one-size-fits-all, and everyone has their own pace.

While this process concerns itself with making goals, it is not the primary focus. You will also understand that you can create environments that feel safe and comfortable to help you evaluate your feelings without judgment. It begins with your counselor session; however, these traits will help you feel safe and comfortable and in control of environments and social settings outside of these sessions. Creating a safe home environment is vital when managing a substance disorder.

Stage #2: Focusing 

When you decide to seek treatment, it often stems from realizing that you want to change your behaviors and habits. Perhaps even a family, friend or judge seeks help for you. If you are not seeking help on your own, you may have different goals to focus on when coming into treatment. Understand that if you do not have goals for recovery, that this is OK. This part of the process offers insight into the direction you want to take in your rehabilitation. It will help you focus your motivating factors and desires in wanting to change. This process will also provide the opportunity to identify problems and a clear direction and goal to take in addressing them. These goals will be mutually agreed upon by both you and your counselor. Communicating goals with your therapist or counselor is a good habit to carry with you long after initial treatment.

Stage #3: Evoking

After building trust and establishing goals, you will begin to delve deeper into challenging why you want recovery, including examining uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. While struggling with long-term substance abuse, you might have lost touch with how you feel. Substance abuse can manipulate emotions and even create superficial feelings that are motivated to react because of the addiction. It is one of the most challenging parts of recovery, but you will need to sit with your emotions and evoke why you feel specific ways and why certain things trigger you. The process can be a scary and frustrating part of recovery, but it is necessary.

Sometimes, this evoking process is referred to as “change talk” because it helps bring out your arguments and motivations for recovery and helps you contend with these doubts. After all, you are beginning to understand your self-worth and that you deserve sobriety. Assessing your thoughts, verbalizing them and questioning them is unique in that it helps you immediately reflect and think about what you are saying.

Stage #4: Planning

To maintain a life of balance, whether in or out of treatment, it takes planning. Good planning should help form a blueprint of where you want to go while simultaneously providing ways to handle setbacks and challenges that will likely occur. This process may be the most crucial of MI to sustain lasting recovery. Understand that you cannot stay in a treatment facility forever and re-entering the world can be scary. This portion of the process will instill in you the tools needed for lasting recovery, including coping mechanisms, support systems and ways to treat your needs individually. These may include meditation, exercising, breathing techniques, mindfulness and more. When you work with your counselor or therapist to develop a plan, you will also create a toolbox to help you outside the treatment facility.


Motivational interviewing is carefully paced and only moves forward when you are ready. Persistence, patience and practice will help you in realizing your potential and capabilities. Understand that if you are struggling with a substance use disorder, you never have to feel stuck—there is always help and there is always hope. New Hope Ranch in Manor, Texas, will meet you where you’re at and seek to find the treatment that will meet your needs and set you up for lasting recovery. If you are struggling with a SUD, New Hope Ranch can help. Seek guidance today and call us at (737) 600-8565.