William R. Miller

Stephen Rollnick

History of MI


Motivational Interviewing was developed in the early 1980s by William R. Miller through his work in the addictions field.  At the time, confrontation was a common communication style in substance use counseling.  This approach stood at odds with Dr. Miller's training in client-centered therapy.  In an early study, he found that provider empathy alone accounted for nearly two-thirds of variability in substance use outcomes.  This unexpected result highlighted the idea that there was something essential within the therapist's style of interaction that could help or hinder change.  While working with a group of Norwegian psychologists, Dr. Miller answered questions about why he responded in particular ways with clients.  His answers reflected a set of principles and methods that would eventually become the foundation for MI, a guiding, client-centered counseling style that helps people discover within themselves the desire and confidence to change.  In the early days of MI, Dr. Stephen Rollnick met Bill Miller in Australia and they partnered to further refine and write about MI, leading to the publication of the first edition of the textbook, Motivational Interviewing.  Dr. Rollnick is credited with adding the exploration and resolution of ambivalence about change as a key element of the practice.