Clinical interventions can be developed through two distinct pathways. In the first, which we call top-down, a well-articulated theory drives the development of the intervention, whereas in the case of a bottom-up approach, clinical experience, more so than a dedicated theoretical perspective, drives the intervention. Using this dialectic, this paper discusses Self-Determination Theory (SDT) [ 1, 2] and Motivational Interviewing (MI) [ 3] as prototypical examples of a top-down and bottom-up approaches, respectively. We sketch the different starting points, foci and developmental processes of SDT and MI, but equally note the complementary character and the potential for systematic integration between both approaches. Nevertheless, for a deeper integration to take place, we contend that MI researchers might want to embrace autonomy as a fundamental basic process underlying therapeutic change and we discuss the advantages of doing so.