Video | 02:15:00

Core Concepts of Motivational Interviewing

by Cathy Cole
Expert MI trainer Cathy Cole discusses the principles and spirit of MI, along with core concepts and techniques and ingredients for change.

Part of the 4-video series: Motivational Interviewing Step by Step

Core Concepts of Motivational Interviewing
Thousands of helping professionals—including counselors, nurses, dieticians, and parole officers —are now using Motivational Interviewing (MI) with outstanding results. This in-depth video provides you with a unique opportunity to learn MI’s core concepts and practice its foundational skills. By watching this video, you will gain a deeper understanding of how MI helps people overcome their internal obstacles to change and learn how to help your clients make decisions they can willingly and confidently enact.

In this first video in the series Motivational Interviewing Step by Step, expert MI trainer Cathy Cole discusses the principles and spirit of MI, along with core concepts and techniques such as sustain talk versus change talk, the righting reflex, reflections and affirmations, and other ingredients for change. She describes current thinking on the process of behavior change and provides detailed guidelines for putting MI into practice in a variety of settings.

With an emphasis on learning and practicing the fundamental skills of MI, this video contains numerous technique demonstrations with William Miller, the founder of MI, along with exercises in which viewers can pause the video, practice the skills, and then see how Miller and Cole would respond. Core Concepts establishes the critical philosophical and technical underpinnings of MI, which are explored in greater detail in the subsequent volumes: Increasing Importance, Resolving Ambivalence, and Building Confidence.

By watching this video, you will be able to:
  • Describe the spirit of Motivational Interviewing and how it differs from other approaches. 
  • Understand how MI is applied in counseling sessions, including developing a partnership, and listening and responding to the language of change.
  • Identify and practice specific techniques used in MI to engage clients, help them fully explore their ambivalence to change, and develop an action plan.
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This video is also part of our online course MI Step by Step, which offers additional practice exercises and includes 10 CE Credits.

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"Cathy Cole here provides a most useful brief introduction to the core concepts motivational interviewing. The straightforward yet thoughtful conversations interspersed with concise demonstrations—some by Prof. William R. Miller—should allow the learner quickly to gain an appreciation of the essential nature and skill set used in deploying the style of MI in a wide range of settings. Cole has a rare capacity to make complex ideas accessible, and to excite an interest in learning more. In using these materials, practitioners will no doubt recognise elements of existing MI-consistency in their work on which to build. At the same time, Cole gently reminds us of some less-helpful predispositions to which we should all attend. MI has been described as easy to understand but hard to do; these materials should make it a little easier."
-- Jeff Allison MA CertEd, Scotland,

“The Core Concepts video offers a thorough overview and explanation of Motivational Interviewing, along with wonderful demonstrations by skilled therapists showing what MI looks in action. MI concepts and skills are presented in an organized, accessible, and interactive format. Highly recommend for self-study, or for teaching MI to healthcare professionals.”
-- Maureen McGrath, MS, RN, School of Nursing, University of California San Francisco 

"This is a comprehensive and up-to-date distillation of the essential elements of MI with helpful demonstration clips and interactive exercises. Cathy Cole’s commentary is lively, insightful and practical. This video is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in learning about MI for the first time or enhancing their existing knowledge of this powerful approach to helping others."
-- Tim Godden, MSW, Advanced Practice Clinician,Toronto, Canada

"This video is a well-crafted quilt of conversations, didactic information, demonstrations, and opportunities to practice motivational interviewing skills. Cathy Cole provides an insightful look at the practice of MI that is based on the most recent developments in conceptualizing the structure and mechanisms of this method. She thoroughly reviews MI core concepts and then proceeds to deepen the understanding of MI by demonstrating its use across a variety of settings and reflecting on the how's, why's, and when's of her own practice. A must see for new and not-so-new MI practitioners."
-- Anya Sheftel, MS, Motivational Interviewing Trainer and Consultant, Eugene, Oregon

"I used these exercises in a recent MI training for medical students, and the response from the students was overwhelmingly positive. Although the training group was very new to MI and had only participated in about 5 hours of training at the time I introduced these practice exercises, they felt confident shouting out responses each time the video was paused. In addition, these exercises appeared to deepen their understanding of MI concepts and techniques."
-- Julie Schumacher, PhD, Reviewed in Motivational Interviewing: Training, Research, Implementation, and Practice

"Core Concepts in Motivational Interviewing adds an updated review of basic MI concepts and skills in manageable bites. Cathy Cole organizes MI theories in conversation, demonstration and offers the learners opportunity to practice and explore what MI sounds like in counseling. This video allows the learner to pace their own learning. An excellent companion to workshop training and skill development." 
-- Annie Fahy RN, LCSW

In Depth
CE Test
When asked in this video why Motivational Interviewing has been so successfully adopted in such a wide range of contexts, Cole responded: “I think once professionals start utilizing MI, they begin to get the sense of how it does shift the typical way that we work with people. When we shift that [tendency to] tell them what to do… clients respond to it quite well. The counselor actually begins to enjoy the process as well, because it is very collaborative and it takes the counselor out of the position of having to know just the right thing for this person. It can actually be a much more relaxed way of working with people.”

If you are tired of the power struggle when you try to help your clients improve their lives, this video will provide you with a philosophical approach and corresponding techniques that will make your client interactions much more effective and enjoyable. More than anything, MI teaches you how to get out of the way and really listen to your clients, which, believe it or not, is often one of the biggest challenges helping professionals encounter.

After watching the discussion, role-plays, exercises, and clips from actual sessions, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how to begin applying the spirit and techniques of MI immediately. Much more than an introductory lesson on Motivational Interviewing, this video is geared towards those brand new to MI as well as those who want to hone the MI skills they already have.  
Length of video: 02:15:00
Number of Discs: 1
English subtitles available on: Stream, DVD
Individual ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-312-X
Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-313-8
Cathy ColeCathy Cole, LCSW, has trained thousands of diverse professionals in MI since 1995, and is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers. She maintains an active clinical practice, and can be reached through her website,

See all Cathy Cole videos.

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CE credits: 2
Learning objectives:

  • Describe the spirit of Motivational Interviewing and how it differs from other approaches.
  • Understand how MI is applied in counseling sessions, including developing a partnership, and listening and responding to the language of change.
  • Identify and practice specific techniques used in MI to engage clients, help them fully explore their ambivalence to change, and develop an action plan.