Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 768–780 | Cite as

Motivational interviewing with primary care populations: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Katherine A. VanBuskirkEmail author
  • Julie Loebach Wetherell


This meta-analysis synthesized the findings from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of motivational interviewing (MI) for health behavior outcomes within primary care populations. Published and unpublished RCTs were identified using databases and online listservs. Studies were synthesized by outcome subgroup and meta-regression analyses were conducted to determine potential moderators accounting for heterogeneity within samples. Mean effect sizes ranged from .07 to .47; significant effect sizes were found for the adherence subgroup of studies (p = .04) and all outcomes combined (p = .02). Professional credentials of intervention deliverer were found to significantly moderate the association between MI and effect size in substance use subgroup (p = .0005) and all outcomes combined (p = .004). Mean effect sizes were largest in outcomes related to weight loss, blood pressure, and substance use. MI appears to be useful in clinical settings and as few as 1 MI session may be effective in enhancing readiness to change and action directed towards reaching health behavior-change goals.


Motivational interviewing Primary care Behavior change Mental health Interventions 



The authors would like to thank Linda Gallo, Ph.D., for her revisions of an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine A. VanBuskirk
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Julie Loebach Wetherell
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.VA San Diego Healthcare SystemSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical PsychologySan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.San DiegoUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA

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