The Ethics of Motivational Interviewing

The Ethics of Motivational Interviewing

sync circle with text ethics of motivational interviewing

Grant details

Project dates: 01 July 2024 - 30 June 2026

Scheme: Knowledge Frontiers: International Interdisciplinary Research Projects 2024

Funder: The British Academy in partnership with the Journal of Moral Education Trust 

Funder reference: SRG2324\241695


Principal Investigator

Dr Lisa Forsberg

Project Description

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a person-centred counselling method aimed at strengthening individuals’ own motivation and commitment to change. It is used to promote behaviour change, especially among people ambivalent about such change. MI has a strong evidence base and as such has significant potential to benefit people in contexts within and beyond healthcare. But MI is also ethically contentious: sometimes accused of being manipulative and sometimes used in ethically dubious or impermissible ways. This project will clarify and critically evaluate ethical concerns about MI, and identify factors relevant to its ethical practice. This project matters because MI is widely used within and beyond healthcare and being rapidly disseminated to new areas and target behaviours. The project also has more general importance; since MI can be fruitfully employed as a case study to investigate crucial, broader questions in the ethics of psychotherapy about when interpersonal influence is morally problematic.


We are grateful for the support of the Journal of Moral Education Trust through The British Academy /Leverhulme Small Research Grants Scheme.