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Motivational Interviewing and Decisional Balance: Contrasting Responses to Client Ambivalence

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William R. Miller, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA
Gary S. Rose, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Newton, MA, USA

Background: A recommendation in original descriptions of motivational interviewing (MI) was to “explore ambivalence”. Contrasting procedures for doing so have been clarified through the evolution of MI. Aims: This article describes two conceptually distinct methods for responding to ambivalence: decisional balance (DB) and MI’s evocation of change talk, and reviews empirical evidence to recommend when each procedure is appropriate (and inappropriate) in clinical practice. Method: The authors summarize findings of clinical outcome research to examine how these two interventions impact the resolution of client ambivalence. Results: With ambivalent people, a DB intervention tends to decrease commitment to change, whereas evocation (a key element of MI) promotes change. When a person has already made the decision to change, evocation is unnecessary and may deter change, whereas DB may further strengthen commitment. Conclusions: DB is an appropriate procedure when the clinician wishes to maintain neutrality and not favor the resolution of ambivalence in any particular direction. Evocation is appropriate when the clinician intends to help clients resolve ambivalence in the direction of change.

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