The University of Arizona

Illicit Drug Screening, Brief Intervention, and Treatment Placement
Brief Interventions:
Motivational Interviewing and Stages of Change

When using motivational interviewing, it can be helpful to consider the stage a client currently is in regarding potential change.  Prochaska and colleagues have identified five general stages of change—precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.[1]  Addiction specialists often include a sixth stage—recurrence (relapse).  A guide to the use of motivational interviewing at different stages of change is provided in Table 1.[2]

The use of stage-based interventions is widespread and generally well-accepted.  This stated, there currently is limited empirical evidence indicating its effectiveness in practice.[3]
Please watch the videos that include a presentation on motivational interviewing and a mock session demonstrating the use of the technique.

Complimentary Reading
Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment discusses how substance abuse treatment staff may influence change by developing a therapeutic relationship that respects and builds on the client´s autonomy and, at the same time, makes the treatment clinician a partner in the change process. 



  • (1) Prochaska JO, DiClemente CC, Norcross JC. In search of how people change: Applications to addictive behaviors. American Psychologist 1992 Sep;47(9):1102-14.
  • (2) SAMHSA. TIP 35: Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 1999.
  • (3) Riemsma RP, Pattenden J, Bridle C, Sowden AJ, Mather L, Watt IS, et al. Systematic review of the effectiveness of stage based interventions to promote smoking cessation. BMJ 2003 May 29;326(7400):1175-7.



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    Table 1