Purpose. Motivational interviewing (MI), a method of augmenting an individual's motivation to change problematic behaviours, is a patient-centred counselling style that seeks to help patients resolve ambivalence about behaviour change. MI has successfully been used in the field of addictions and has recently received increased interest as a means of promoting treatment adherence in physical health care settings. This systematic review is aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of MI interventions in physical health care settings. Methods. Electronic databases were searched for articles specifying the use of 'motivational interviewing' in physical health care settings between 1966 and April 2004. Fifty-one relevant abstracts were yielded and data was extracted from eight relevant selected studies. Results. Eight studies were identified in the fields of diabetes, asthma, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, and heart disease. The majority of studies found positive results for effects of MI on psychological, physiological, and life-style change outcomes. Problems with research in this area include: small sample sizes, lack of power, use of disparate multiple outcomes, inadequate validation of questionnaires, poorly-defined therapy and training. Conclusions. While MI has high face validity across a number of domains in physical health care settings, the general quality of trials in this area is inadequate and therefore recommendations for its dissemination in this area cannot yet be made. More research into MI applied to health behaviour change is urgently required.
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