Principles of motivational interviewing1

There are 4 key principles that guide the practice of motivational interviewing in weight management with patients.

Expressing empathy

This reassures your patients that you are listening to them and seeing their point of view on the problem. Expressing empathy can show a deeper interest in the patient’s perspective.  

Supporting self-efficacy

Motivational interviewing is based on patients’ existing capacity for change. By focusing on previous successes, they will feel capable of achieving and maintaining their desired change.    

Evoking motivations for change

Evoking means having the patient lay out their reasons for change rather than being told. Therefore, patients talk themselves into change by exploring their own ideas and feelings.

Developing discrepancies

Throughout discussions of weight management, you and your patients will begin to see the differences between where they are (current habits) and where they want to be (goals). Help patients realize these discrepancies while emphasizing their autonomy throughout the process.

Also in Professional Education:


Related Information

The Weight Conversation

This video provides tips on productive discussions about weight with your patients.


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