It Begins With You

Motivation and Readiness

Motivation and Readiness

People who abuse substances, smoke, are overweight, or have other behavioral challenges in their lives, may not realize they have a problem, or if they are aware of it, may or may not be motivated to change. Even for those who are highly motivated, making positive changes can be easier said than done.  Behavior change experts agree that long-lasting change is most likely when it is self-motivated, rooted in positive thinking, and achievable. (See Harvard Health Publications. Why it’s hard to change unhealthy behavior – and why you should keep trying.)

Experts agree that change is a process, not an event.  Any progress one makes in the right direction is worthwhile, even if there are occasional setbacks.  Several tools have been developed for counselors, substance abuse service providers, and health educators to assess a client’s motivation and readiness for change.  Providers who are armed with this information can customize their services based on their client’s need, and encourage them to embrace their own motivation for a healthier lifestyle.


Motivation refers to the probability that a person will enter into, continue, and adhere to a specific change strategy.  It is not static, but rather dynamic, depending on the biological, psychological, sociological and spiritual variables an individual brings to the change process.  Although an individual is ultimately responsible for change, a clinician, counselor, or other professional can have a positive effect on that person’s motivation through development of a therapeutic partnership.  The following describes some assumptions about the nature of motivation. (See Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Enhancing motivation for change in substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 35. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4212. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

  • Motivation is a key to change.
  • Motivation is multidimensional.
  • Motivation is a dynamic and fluctuating state.
  • Motivation is interactive.
  • Motivation can be modified.
  • A clinician’s style influences client motivation.