Motivational interviewing (also referred to as motivational enhancement therapy) is a form of counseling that addiction specialists and other health professionals use to help people affected by substance problems overcome any concerns about or objections to participating in a treatment program. Currently, users of three substances — alcohol, nicotine/tobacco and marijuana — are known to benefit from this form of counseling. In a study published in August 2014 in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, researchers from the Public Health Institute assessed the usefulness of an extended form of motivational interviewing for people recovering from methamphetamine addiction.
During motivational interviewing, a therapist, counselor or other trained health professional participates in a dialogue with a client/patient impacted by serious problems with substance abuse or substance addiction. The goals of this dialogue are the identification of any existing conflicts about the severity of the impact of abuse/addiction, encouragement of a self-perceived need for treatment and encouragement of the active pursuit of the next steps required to enter treatment and receive appropriate care. Motivational interviewers don’t lecture their clients/patients or attempt to maintain a detached sense of formality. Instead, they actively engage their clients/patients in an empathetic manner, seek to create an environment in which clients/patients make their own decisions and adjust their efforts as necessary to maintain open lines of communication. Basic motivational interviewing typically takes place over the course of a single counseling session. However, more intense forms of the therapy may include multiple sessions conducted over a period of weeks or months.
Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction
The stimulant drug methamphetamine can trigger severe forms of drug addiction by drastically altering the chemical balance inside the brain’s pleasure center. In addition to stark risks for addiction, repeated abusers of methamphetamine expose themselves to problems that include serious damage to cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) function, long-term impairment in critical thinking skills, long-term memory impairment, potentially permanent structural brain damage, heavy tooth and gum damage and emotional/mental changes such as mood swings, spikes in violent or aggressive attitudes and the onset of the highly debilitating condition known as psychosis.
Behavioral therapy is the frontline treatment for people recovering from methamphetamine abuse and addiction (two conditions that fall under the heading of a disease called stimulant use disorder). Specific forms of therapy used to help people recovering from the effects of meth intake include contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy. Contingency management promotes ongoing treatment participation by providing prizes or vouchers for people who consistently meet their treatment goals. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people recovering from meth abuse/addiction understand the underlying triggers for their methamphetamine consumption and also provides a framework for undoing their conscious and unconscious reliance on these triggers.
Does Motivational Interviewing Work?
In the study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, the Public Health Institute researchers used a project involving 217 people affected by methamphetamine addiction to assess the usefulness of motivational interviewing in encouraging involvement in methamphetamine treatment. Half of these study participants received a single session of motivational interviewing and eight additional weekly sessions dedicated to nutritional issues. The other half of the participants received an extended course of nine weekly motivational interviewing sessions. The members of both groups also took part in three outpatient sessions of group therapy for meth addiction in each of the nine weeks. Two indicators were used to judge the effectiveness of motivational interviewing: reduced levels of methamphetamine intake and lowered scores on a test called the Addiction Severity Index.
The researchers concluded that both a single motivational interviewing session and an intensive course of motivational interviewing can lead to a reduction in the amount of methamphetamine consumed by people in treatment, as well as a reduction in the drug-related component of addiction severity. However, they also concluded that an extended course of motivational interviewing produces additional benefits by leading to a reduction in the emotional/psychological component of addiction severity and a reduction of the number of days during which people recovering from meth addiction experience psychosis or other indications of serious mental health problems.
Overall, the study’s authors concluded that extended motivational interviewing and a single motivational interviewing session may provide more or less the same benefits for reducing methamphetamine intake during the recovery process. They also concluded that extended motivational interviewing may provide unique benefits not produced by participation in a single motivational interviewing session.