As the number of people receiving psycho-therapeutic treatment increases, the automatic evaluation of counseling practice arises as an important challenge in the clinical domain. In this paper, we address the automatic evaluation of counseling performance by analyzing counselors’ language during their interaction with clients. In particular, we present a model towards the automation of Motivational Interviewing (MI) coding, which is the current gold standard to evaluate MI counseling. First, we build a dataset of hand labeled MI encounters; second, we use text-based methods to extract and analyze linguistic patterns associated with counselor behaviors; and third, we develop an automatic system to predict these behaviors. We introduce a new set of features based on semantic information and syntactic patterns, and show that they lead to accuracy figures of up to 90%, which represent a significant improvement with respect to features used in the past.