Motivation and Autonomy in Counseling, Psychotherapy, and Behavior Change: A Look at Theory and Practice 1ψ7

Richard M. Ryan, Martin F. Lynch, Maarten Vansteenkiste, Edward L. Deci

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

273 Scopus citations


Motivation has received increasing attention across counseling approaches, presumably because clients’ motivation is key for treatment effectiveness. The authors define motivation using a self-determination theory taxonomy that conceptualizes motivation along a relative-autonomy continuum. The authors apply the taxonomy in discussing how various counseling approaches address client motivation and autonomy, both in theory and in practice. The authors also consider the motivational implications of nonspecific factors such as therapeutic alliance. Across approaches, the authors find convergence around the idea that clients’ autonomy should be respected and collaborative engagement fostered. The authors also address ethical considerations regarding respect for autonomy and relations of autonomy to multicultural counseling. The authors conclude that supporting autonomy is differentially grounded in theories and differentially implemented in approaches. Specifically, outcome-oriented treatments tend to consider motivation a prerequisite for treatment and emphasize transparency and up-front consent; process-oriented treatments tend to consider motivation a treatment aspect and give less emphasis to transparency and consent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-260
Number of pages68
JournalCounseling Psychologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • autonomy
  • counseling
  • motivation
  • psychotherapy


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