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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Motivational Interviewing: A Valuable Tool for Creating Change with ABA Clients

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a strategy that can be helpful in applied behavior analysis services.

Connection with ABA

One of the main goals of ABA is to get someone to make a change.

That could be a parent changing their behavior so that they can help change their child’s behavior or maybe it could be in a health program where ABA is being utilized and the person is working on losing weight so they need to make changes to support that goal.

In ABA, the goal is to help influence change so people can live a better quality of life.

Motivational interviewing is a process of building a person’s motivation for change.

Use of Communication

Motivational interviewing is a style of working with someone in which the professional uses certain methods within their communication with the client to influence that person.

Motivational interviewing is said to be a “person-centered method of guiding to elicit and strengthen personal motivation for change.”

Motivational interviewing includes strategies such as reflective listening, shared decision making, and eliciting change talk.

Way of Being with the Client

The professional uses motivational interviewing creates a balance between being empathetic and gently challenging the person to consider change.

As someone providing a motivational interviewing approach, you would be nonjudgmental and open to listening to the client’s experience. You would be non-confrontational. You would be supportive and encouraging. You would allow the client to explore the pros and cons for the specific areas that are being considered for change. This includes looking at a risk-benefit analysis.

Working with Resistant Clients

Motivational interviewing can be helpful for many reasons. One of the reasons motivational interviewing is beneficial in ABA is that it can be used when working with people who are resistant to change or who may be struggling to stick to change goals they have set for themselves.

Motivational Interviewing is Goal Directed

Motivational interviewing is goal directed. There is a clear end goal for what is trying to be achieved, but the client is ultimately responsible for making the decision of whether to accomplish that goal. They are also responsible for doing the work to reach the goal if they choose to do so.


Resnicow, K., & McMaster, F. (2012). Motivational Interviewing: moving from why to how with autonomy support. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 9, 19.

Motivational Interviewing: A Valuable Tool for Creating Change with ABA Clients

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2020). Motivational Interviewing: A Valuable Tool for Creating Change with ABA Clients. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from