Overcoming ambivalence: motivational interviewing and substance abuse

When a teen is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, finding them the best treatment possible is crucial to their recovery process. One form of treatment used to help teens struggling with these issues is known as motivational interviewing.  Motivational interviewing helps teens get back on the right track towards living a positive, healthy lifestyle.

What is motivational interviewing?

Motivational interviewing is a clinical process that helps teens with substance abuse issues make positive changes in their life in order to promote better health and happiness. In motivational interviewing, five key principles are focused on. These are:

  • expressing empathy through reflective listening
  • avoiding arguing and confrontation
  • supporting a teen’s belief that they can successfully make a change for the better
  • developing a sense of discrepancy between a teen’s goals and their current behavior
  • rolling with resistance of teens to participate in therapy

Motivational interviewing helps teens work through ambivalence about overcoming their substance abuse issues and finding ways in which their values and skills can promote change.

Ambivalence and motivational interviewing

Teens abusing substances are quite often aware of the dangers substance using behavior causes, but continue using anyway. They’re caught in the middle of wanting to quit and wanting to continue using because of their addiction. Upon entering treatment for their issue, they may claim their problem is not very serious.

These feelings are called ambivalence and one of the primary goals of motivational interviewing is to get teens motivated enough to overcome this ambivalence.

Getting teens motivated to change

By engaging teens in the process of change, motivational interviewing helps teens recognize how life would be better without drugs and alcohol and make changes in their life to make it so.

Trails Carolina can help

Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for boys and girls ages 10-17, helps teens struggling with substance abuse issues overcome ambivalence and make positive changes in their life. By utilizing motivational interviewing, among other helpful therapeutic techniques, Trails Carolina promotes real change and recovery for teens across the US.

For more information about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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