Motivational Interviewing Questions for Substance Abuse

motivational interviewing

Empowering an individual to take responsibility for his own recovery can be a very powerful tool for someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. A technique known as motivational interviewing was designed to do just that. The motivational interviewing questions for substance abuse focus on the individual’s own reasons for changing, in a non-confrontational manner.

Motivational Interviewing Techniques

The concept of the motivational interview was originally developed by Drs. William Miller and Stephen Rollnick as part of an approach for treating alcohol addiction. Many decades later, healthcare professionals use the method as a way of encouraging individuals who are struggling with substance abuse to make a positive change in their lives.

Rather than being confrontational about someone’s addiction, the motivational interviewing technique is designed to help the person understand more about his substance abuse and why he needs to get help. These conversations can sometimes become emotionally charged. The goal is to encourage the person to talk about making a change, seeking addiction treatment, and staying on track for a successful recovery.

The approach is particularly useful as many people have mixed feelings about making a change in their life, even when they recognize it may be a change for the better. The motivational interviewing technique enables the individual to discuss this ambivalence, helping them to see their own reasons for resisting and for needing to make a change.

Basic Principles

The components of motivational interviewing are encompassed in the acronym OARS – Open-ended questions, Affirmations, and Reflections. An open-ended question is one that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” The answer becomes part of the overall discussion. An affirmation will recognize the individual’s strengths, encouraging him to use those strengths when seeking help for substance abuse.

A reflection demonstrates that the person asking the questions has been listening with intent. They will reflect on what they hear in the answers, giving the individual the opportunity to correct them if necessary. The question asker expresses empathy when doing so, connecting with the individual by making them feel heard and understood.

Motivational Interviewing Questions

Encouraging the individual to discuss their substance abuse and their need for treatment can be a matter of asking the right questions. It is important to note, though, that there aren’t any wrong answers on the individual’s part.

Motivational interviewing is all about empowering that person to take responsibility for their own actions. The goal is to have the individual talk about his own concerns, feelings, ideas, and plans, rather than to have someone else tell him how he should feel or what he should do.

Examples of questions that can be asked include:

  • Tell me about your concerns or difficulties related to your drug use.
  • Tell me a little about your drug use. What do you like most about the drugs you use?
  • What’s positive about these drugs for you? And what’s the other side?
  • What are your worries about using drugs?
  • Tell me what you’ve noticed about your drug use. How has it changed over time?
  • What things have you noticed that concern you, that you think could be problems, or might become problems?
  • What have other people told you about your drug use?
  • What do you think other people are worried about in regard to your drug use?
  • What makes you think that you may need to make a change in your drug use?
  • Tell me what concerns you about your drug use. Tell me what it has cost you. Tell me why you think you might need to make a change.
  • What would be the likely consequences if you continue to use drugs or alcohol?
  • What might be the negative consequences of giving up drugs?

This last question, in particular, will help the individual discuss what they fear about making a significant change in his life.

Addiction and Mental Health Support for Men

At PACE Recovery, we optimize your recovery success with integrated treatment that will address both your addiction to drugs or alcohol and your mental health issues. We address your whole person, including your spiritual, medical, psychosocial, and relational facets.

The professionals at PACE understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health and addiction services, contact our Admissions team.