top of page

Motivational Interviewing

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

The OARS Method explained

Motiviational Interviewing is a person-centered strategy approach to helping someone change a negative behavior. This strategy works by helping patients find the strength they need to change their unhealthy behaviors through goal setting.

What is motivational interviewing (MI)?

MI is a collaborative conversation held between a professional and a client. It is a person-centered approach that sets the foundation for essentially focusing on the client’s motivation and desire to change a behavior or habit.

It is designed to be goal-oriented and works towards strengthening an individual’s motivation and reasons for change within an environment of acceptance and empathy. This approach has a listening component also known as following and an advising component also known as directing. The overall goal is to help increase the client’s motivation to change.

Core Elements of Communicating

The OARS method is an acronym that’s stands for Open Questions, Affirmations, Reflections, and Summarizing. The OARS method are core skills that can be utilized pertaining to the language of change. It is used by the counselor or therapist to help navigate the conversation in a way that is beneficial to the individual.

By using the OARS method, the therapist can identify when an individual is speaking against change (sustain talk) or speaking in favor of change (change talk) by making them aware of it and steering them in the right direction of change talk.

*It is important to realize the client is the only one that can make up their mind to change. This comes from within the client and not from the clinician.

Open Questions

Open-ended questions are questions asked to engage in conversation with the client. This core skill allows the clinician to ask open ended questions which allows the individual to tell their story without leading them in a specific direction or limiting their answer.

Unlike close-ended questions, open-ended questions require more than a yes or no answer and helps with initiating conversation. The clinician must be willing to listen after asking open-ended questions and by using open-ended questions it is anticipated that a client will share their experiences and perspective through their answer.

Example: Did you have a good childhood? (Closed question)

What can you tell me about your childhood? (Open question)

Motiviational Interviewing is a therapy technique that can be practiced in-person or via telehealth or online counseling. It allows the therapist to practice active listening and allow the client to guide the process.


Affirmations can be words or actions that helps build an individual’s confidence and increases their likelihood to change. This core skill is geared towards the clinician acknowledging the client’s strengths, resilience, efforts, and past successful behaviors that has led them in the right direction for positive change. Affirmations can be in the form of small gestures or big ones, nonetheless, they must be genuine compliments or statements towards the client.

Example: After all you have been through, you are still a very positive person, which is admirable.

Your efforts have brought you this far, you should be proud of yourself.


Reflective listening gives the clinician the ability to show empathy. It requires actively listening to the client by trying to understand what the client is trying to convey. This core skill when utilized correctly, can create a comfortable atmosphere for the client to continue to be open and speak freely, it is expected to build trust within the therapeutic relationship, and it allows the client to see that their clinician is listening and cares about what they have to say. This can be done through repeating, rephrasing, and paraphrasing what the client is saying.

Example: Repeating verbatim what the client said (Repeating)

Repeating close to what the client said (Rephrasing)

Using different words to achieve clarity or express how the client’s words are inferred (Paraphrasing)

Helpful standard phrases: What I am hearing you say is…?

It sounds like…?

So, what you are saying is…?

Is it accurate to say you are feeling…?


Summarizing is portraying a shared understanding of the presenting issues or topics and identifying the key points made by the client. It gives attention to the language of change and focuses on ending with positive change statements. This core skill is useful to the clinician when it comes to reinforcing clear communication and connecting relevant points needed for the best treatment of the client.

Summarizing can be used at different intervals during a session. It is useful during transitions from one topic to the next and at the end of the session. It sets the tone to let the client and clinician know when their encounter is coming to an end.

Example: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about that we didn’t cover/address?

Did I miss anything?

Overall, you have expressed…

Benefits to utilizing the OARS Method

Clinician Benefits:

· Helps with treating many mental health symptoms

· Helps with engagement of clients

· Helps with building rapport

· Helps guide and maintain conversation with steps

· Helps with steering clients in the right direction for change.

Client Benefits:

· Helps clients realize they have the power

· Helps client feel heard through telling their story

· Helps build confidence

· Helps increase desire and motivation to change

· Helps with treating presenting issues

Tips: Need to talk to someone who specializes in Motivational Interviewing (MI) or other evidence-based approaches? Contact Mindsight for a psychotherapy appointment today!

What's Next?


Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page