Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a person-centered, goal-oriented approach to counseling that is particularly effective in working with individuals who may initially be resistant to change, including those with substance use disorders (SUD). When dealing with a resistant SUD client, here are some key principles and techniques associated with Motivational Interviewing:

Express Empathy:

Understand and acknowledge the client’s perspective without judgment. Empathy helps build a therapeutic alliance and creates a safe space for the client to explore their feelings.

Develop Discrepancy:

Help the client recognize the discrepancy between their current behavior and their values, goals, or a desired future. Highlighting this incongruence can stimulate motivation for change.

Avoid Arguing and Confrontation:

Instead of directly challenging the client, use reflective listening to convey understanding and promote self-reflection. Argumentation tends to increase resistance.

Roll with Resistance:

If resistance arises, it’s important not to meet it with more resistance. Instead, “roll with it” by acknowledging the resistance and redirecting the conversation towards exploring ambivalence and reasons for change.

Support Self-Efficacy:

Strengthen the client’s belief in their ability to make positive changes. Encourage them to identify small steps they can take towards their goals, fostering a sense of empowerment.

Develop a Change Plan:

Collaboratively work with the client to develop a concrete plan for change. Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps, making the change process more achievable.

Enhance Intrinsic Motivation:

Explore the client’s own motivations for change rather than imposing external motivations. Help them articulate their own reasons for making positive changes in their life.

Elicit and Strengthen Commitment:

Encourage the client to voice their commitment to change. When they express commitment, it becomes a powerful tool for reinforcing positive behaviors.

Normalize Ambivalence:

Acknowledge that ambivalence about change is normal and expected. Help the client explore both the pros and cons of their current behavior and potential changes.

Use Open-Ended Questions:

Encourage the client to share more about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Open-ended questions promote exploration and allow the client to express themselves freely.


Provide positive affirmations that acknowledge the client’s strengths, efforts, and positive qualities. Affirmations can boost self-esteem and motivation.

Remember, the goal of Motivational Interviewing is to create a collaborative and non-confrontational atmosphere that fosters intrinsic motivation for change. Building rapport, respecting the client’s autonomy, and promoting self-discovery are key components of this approach, especially when working with individuals resistant to change, such as those with substance use disorders.