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Posted: September 6th, 2023

A Comparison of Change Theory and Motivational Interviewing

Compare and contrast principles of Change Theory and Motivational Interviewing
For this discussion, compare and contrast principles of Change Theory and Motivational Interviewing and how these principles inform therapeutic interventions. You will gain a greater understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of the use of Change Theory and Motivational Interviewing used across clinical practice situations and settings.

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A Comparison of Change Theory and Motivational Interviewing
Change theory and motivational interviewing are two approaches that are commonly used in psychotherapy to facilitate behavioral change. While sharing some similarities, these theories differ in important ways. This paper will compare and contrast the key principles of change theory and motivational interviewing, providing examples from recent literature to illustrate how each approach informs clinical practice.
Change Theory
Change theory, also known as the transtheoretical model, posits that behavior change occurs through a series of stages (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983). The five stages are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Individuals progress through the stages at their own pace and may relapse to earlier stages (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997). A core principle of change theory is that individuals must be ready for change and progress through the stages sequentially before taking action (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983).
Motivational interviewing (MI) aims to help clients explore and resolve ambivalence about behavior change in a caring, non-confrontational way (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). A key assumption of MI is that ambivalence is normal and resolving it is key to progressing toward change (Lundahl & Burke, 2009). The counselor acts as a facilitator to help clients articulate reasons for change, not impose them (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). Four general principles guide MI: expressing empathy, developing discrepancy, rolling with resistance, and supporting self-efficacy (Miller & Rollnick, 2013).
A key difference between these approaches lies in their conceptualization of readiness for change. Change theory views readiness as a stage that must be progressed through, while MI sees ambivalence as a natural part of the change process that can be resolved through discussion (Lundahl & Burke, 2009). Another difference is the role of the counselor – in change theory they guide clients through stages, whereas MI counselors act as facilitators for client self-directed change (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). Both approaches have been widely researched and shown to be effective for facilitating behavior change across settings when applied properly (Lundahl & Burke, 2009; Prochaska & Velicer, 1997).
To illustrate these differences in practice, consider treating substance abuse. Using change theory, a counselor would assess the client’s current stage of change and provide interventions tailored to moving them to the next stage, such as providing information to raise awareness in precontemplation (LaBrie et al., 2016). In contrast, an MI counselor would explore and help resolve the client’s ambivalence about quitting in a supportive, non-judgmental way using open-ended questions and affirmations of autonomy (Lundahl & Burke, 2009). Both aim to help the client progress toward behavior change, but differ in their conceptualization of readiness and the counselor’s role.
In summary, change theory and motivational interviewing are two widely used approaches for facilitating behavior change, but they differ in important ways. Change theory views readiness as a stage-based process, while MI sees ambivalence as normal. Counselors applying change theory guide clients through stages, whereas MI counselors act as facilitators. When properly applied based on a client’s needs, both can be effective across settings like healthcare according to research (Lundahl & Burke, 2009; Prochaska & Velicer, 1997). Understanding their similarities and differences provides a framework for selecting the most appropriate approach in clinical situations.

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