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      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.

      motivational interviewing

      Image source: flickr user- RebeccaVC1

      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.


      Graham Shannonhouse

      A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Graham Shannonhouse has been actively involved in the wilderness therapy field for nearly three decades. After receiving her degree in 1991, Shannonhouse spent 10 years working with a premiere wilderness-based therapeutic program in south-central Idaho. During her tenure, she served three years as a hands-on Field Instructor, three years as Field Supervisor, and the remaining time as Wilderness Program Director. During this period she developed, managed, and served as counselor for the country’s first wilderness program specifically focused on pre- teens ages 10 to 13 Graham returned to the east in 2002 to serve as Executive Director for a therapeutic wilderness program based in North Carolina, successfully growing it to one of the most respected companies in the industry. In 2008, she resigned her position to open Trails Carolina. Having an intimate working knowledge of the roots of wilderness therapy, Graham has brought her experience and wisdom to her position as Partner and Executive Director with the goal of integrating the true family work that must be done to insure lasting success.

      All stories by: Graham Shannonhouse