The OARS motivational interviewing strategy1

The practice of motivational interviewing involves some specific skills and strategies to help patients reduce ambivalence and advance their readiness to make changes. One model for motivational interviewing is the OARS strategy, which is a simple way to generate the intended benefits of motivational interviewing.

Open-ended questions

Ask open-ended questions that encourage thoughtful responses and allow for a broad scope of answers. These questions give patients a choice in how they respond.

Example: "How do you feel about your health right now?"

Affirmative statements

Recognize and support your patient’s personal strengths, successes, and positive behaviors. This will help promote a collaborative relationship. 

Example: "Your dedication to improving your health and losing weight is really noticeable. You’ve made a lot of improvements."


Use reflective listening and respond thoughtfully by paraphrasing the patient’s point of view to encourage further discussion and exploration.

Example: "I get the feeling that there is a lot of pressure on you to lose weight, but you are not sure you can do it because of the difficulties you have had losing weight in the past."

Summary statements

Summaries are similar to reflections in that they help recount and clarify the patient’s point of view. Unlike reflections, summaries also help to pull together several points of your discussion.

Example: "So what I’m hearing is that you have struggled with weight for most of your adult life and are now starting to recognize how it is affecting your health and quality of life. Let’s discuss some strategies to develop a plan to help you address your concerns."

Also in Professional Education:


Related Information

Ask, Listen, Inform

Our video, “Discussing Weight With Your Patients,” can help you improve office conversations about obesity.


  1. Miller WR, Rollnick S. Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2012.