motivational interviewing

Does Motivational Interviewing Work for Young Adults?

One of the biggest obstacles young adults face in recovery is feeling intrinsically motivated to change. They may feel pressure from their parents to make different decisions in their lives and may go with the flow to make their parents happy. It is harder for them to recognize how changing their behaviors may actually benefit them in the long term. For many young adults, they see their unhealthy behaviors as an effective way to cope with negative emotions. Strategies, like motivational interviewing, empower young adults to make healthier decisions based on their own desires and goals.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing is a therapeutic method intended to increase an individual’s motivation for change. Originally developed to help individuals struggling with substance use, it has been adapted to help young adults struggling with a variety of behavioral issues, health behaviors, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.  

William R. Miller, the founder of MI, and his colleague Stephen Rollnick defined Motivational Interviewing as “a collaborative, goal-oriented conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change. It succeeds by eliciting and exploring the person’s own reasons for change within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion.”

How Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

Motivational interviewing works well for young adults who are resistant to therapy, as it acknowledges reasons why they might be ambivalent about change. The role of MI therapists is to ask questions that draw out young adults’ reasons to change rather than giving advice, opinions, or instructions. Individuals are empowered to take the lead and decide what they think is reasonable to change and how they would feel comfortable doing that. On their own terms, they are much more willing to make a commitment to change their behavior. 

Components of motivational interviewing include:

A = Autonomy: Only the client has the power to change their lives.

C = Collaboration: Client and therapist work together, rather than the therapist giving advice.

E = Evocation: The therapist evokes and elicits reasons for the client to make a change.

Types of Change Talk

Preparatory change talk involves:


  • Desire: I want to change
  • Ability: I can change
  • Reason: It’s important to change
  • Need: I should change


Implementing change talk looks like:


  • Commitment: I will make changes
  • Activation: I am ready, prepared, and willing to change
  • Taking steps: I am taking specific actions to change


Ways to Evoke Change Talk


  • Ask open-ended questions to stimulate change talk
  • Help young adults identify their values
  • Encourage young adults to reflect on how their life would be different if they made changes
  • Ask about extremes: what’s the best or worst outcome of making changes in their life?
  • Encourage young adults to measure their own progress



Journey Home Young Adult Can Help 

Journey Home Young Adult is a transitional living program for teens ages 18-23. This program addresses emotional, behavioral, and mental health disorders that teens may face. Common presenting problems include: depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, body image issues, ADHD and other learning issues, academic struggles and low self-esteem. Journey Home creates an environment conducive to healing where teens can learn healthy coping skills while becoming more well-equipped to launch into adulthood. Students leave this program feeling empowered, happy, and healthy. We can help your family today!

To learn more about how we use motivational interviewing to empower young adults, contact us at 801-444-0794.

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