Readiness Ruler


The Readiness Ruler is a helpful tool to support the use of Motivational Interviewing (MI), the evidence-based treatment, by service providers. MI is a conversational approach designed to help individuals you serve with the following:

  • Discover their own interest in considering and/or making a change in their life (e.g., diet, exercise, managing symptoms of physical or mental illness, reducing and eliminating the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs)
  • Express in their own words their desire for change (i.e., "change-talk")
  • Examine their ambivalence about the change
  • Plan for and begin the process of change
  • Elicit and strengthen change-talk
  • Enhance their confidence in taking action and noticing that even small, incremental changes are important
  • Strengthen their commitment

Use the Readiness Ruler—and related MI principles and practices—with the people you serve to help guide conversations about personal change.

The Readiness Ruler has two sides, each with one initial question and a zero-to-10 scale to help people evaluate the importance of the personal changes they desire and to evaluate their confidence about making those changes. After a person chooses a number from the scale, ask these questions to elicit change-talk:

  • Why are you a ____ [insert # reported] and not a zero?
  • What would it take for you to get from ____ [insert # reported] to ____ [the next higher number]?

Importance Ruler

This side of the Readiness Ruler is designed to help people express in their own words their desire, ability, reasons, and need for change. Below are some examples of what you might hear:

  • Desire ("I'd like to ...")
  • Ability ("I could ...")
  • Reasons ("It's important because ...")
  • Need ("I have to ...")

Confidence Ruler

This side of the Readiness Ruler is designed to help people express their own intention, commitment, readiness, and willingness to change. It may also help people talk about the small steps they are already taking. Below are some examples of what you might hear:

  • Commitment ("I will ...")
  • Activation ("I'm ready to ...")
  • Taking steps ("I've tried ...," "I am doing ...")
  • Evidence Based

Research shows that people who express change-talk are more likely to change.

Download the Readiness Ruler tool.
Download the Readiness Ruler tool order form.

Moyers, T. B., Martin, J. K., Houck, J. M., Christopher, P.J., & Tonigan, J. S. (2009). From in-session behaviors to drinking outcomes: A causal chain for motivational interviewing. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(6), 1113-1124.