Using motivational interviewing with smokers: Do therapist behaviors relate to engagement and therapeutic alliance?

Thuy Boardman, Delwyn Catley, James E. Grobe, Todd D. Little, Jasjit S. Ahluwalia

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83 Scopus citations


This study examined whether therapist behaviors consistent with motivational interviewing (MI) were associated with within-session working alliance and client engagement. Forty-six audiotaped counseling sessions were drawn from a group-randomized comparison-controlled smoking cessation trial for public housing residents. Separate raters coded therapist behaviors and client behaviors. Therapist behaviors were coded using the Motivational Interviewing Skill Code. Results indicated that an MI-consistent style (average of the global ratings of collaboration, egalitarianism, and empathy) was positively associated with alliance and engagement, whereas confrontation was negatively related to alliance. Small to moderate effect sizes were found for affirming, asking open-ended questions, confronting, reflecting, and summarizing. Significant covariates include treatment condition, session sequence, and session date. Findings empirically support Miller and Rollnick's [Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2002). Motivational interviewing: Preparing people for change (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press] emphasis on the importance of MI spirit for enhancing alliance and engagement and their findings that any tears/ruptures in the alliance through the use of confrontation could significantly relate to poor outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-339
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Confrontation
  • Engagement
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Therapist behaviors
  • Working alliance


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