What Is Motivational Therapy?

Jackie Myers

Motivational therapy is centered around understanding people's emotions during periods of change. Using the technique of motivational interviewing, it is used to treat problematic emotions and behaviors, such as social anxiety and drug addictions. Its purpose is to encourage people to use their own capabilities and strengths. Motivational therapy is also helpful for improving self confidence in general and has been used to help troubled teens.

Therapists deal with many different types of resistance from patients during motivational therapy.
Therapists deal with many different types of resistance from patients during motivational therapy.

Clinicians use a therapeutic style called motivation interviewing to address the patient's fluctuation between contradictory thoughts and behaviors. The interviewing process focuses on helping patients to develop an awareness of consequences and to examine their behavior. The questions asked during the interview are open-ended, allowing the patient to give his or her point of view about a given situation.

The basic principles used in motivational enhancement therapy are supporting self-efficacy, expressing empathy, avoiding argumentation, and developing discrepancy. Clients become motivated to change when they can understand the differences between their current situation and their goals for the future. Therapists use reflective listening to express empathy towards those in treatment.

Therapists deal with many different types of resistance from patients during motivational therapy. Arguing is common, and a patient may challenge the accuracy of the clinician. Patients can also become defensive and interrupt during discussions. Others may choose to ignore the therapist. When resistance arises, it is an indication for the therapist to change strategies.

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Studies have shown that when motivational interviewing is combined with other therapy styles it is effective for several issues. It is a less expensive and quicker method for treating drug and alcohol problems and can also be helpful in treating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Clinicians have also been able to use motivational interviewing to persuade schizophrenic patients to continue taking their antipsychotic medications.

Motivational therapy, however, is not just for those dealing with addictions and disease. Those looking to improve their public speaking skills and to create a positive mental attitude benefit from motivation therapy as well. It reduces stress in people's lives by improving their outlook on life. A boost in self confidence can help in reducing negative self image problems. Athletes can use this type of therapy to empower themselves and enhance their performance.

Centers for troubled teens have used motivational therapy to treat patients struggling with behavioral problems. Most troubled teens do not maintain satisfactory relations with society and their families, and motivational interviewing can help to solve the problem. Pessimistic adolescents benefit from motivational therapy when they begin to see more than the negative issues in life.

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