Motivational interviewing

The idea of bettering yourself comes much easier as an idea than in practice. Think about New Year’s Resolutions every year – people state that they’re going to change their ways and be a better version of themselves… and then two weeks later, they haven’t changed anything.

Changing yourself, even if you know you need to – to increase health benefits or to grow in your relationships – can be extremely difficult.

And when it comes to complex things, one of the best ways to figure out how to handle them is to ask for help.

These days, professionals are beginning to recommend that a practice called Motivational Interviewing is the best tactic for figuring out how to be a better version of yourself.

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

When it comes to motivational interviewing (also known as MI), many medical professionals will recommend this practice as an approach (highly-researched and backed by science) that will help lead to long-term behavioral change.

It is a goal-oriented style of communication that forces the patient to pay attention and focus on elements of language that are specific to change. The hope of motivational interviewing is that the patient will find better ways to commit to their specific betterment goal by honing their motivations for wanting to change.

There’s also a significant element of having other people in the patient’s life who will support them with acceptance, kindness, and compassion.

The Core Principles of Motivational Interviewing

When it comes to Motivational Interviewing, it works on the belief that a licensed medical practitioner (or whoever is leading the patient in the motivational interviewing) will be guiding the patient in a way that proves that the practitioner is “following” (listening without interjection) while also “directing” (giving advice).

MI is largely based on mutual respect between the patient and the clinician – this isn’t necessarily a practice that forces you to believe that the medical professional is helping you and doing the work for you. Instead, it’s meant to help you feel as if the medical professional is helping you help yourself.

Because this practice is meant to feel more like two people working together toward a common goal, some of the specific core principles of motivational interviewing are:

  • Partnership = you are working with someone else to help yourself, so you are still doing most of the work
  • Evocation = if you wanted to, you could make the change on your own, but the MI is there to help you discover the tools you already have so that you can do great work on bettering yourself
  • Acceptance = from your partner (the clinician who is the MI), you will not receive judgment, and instead, the MI will help you understand where your strengths are, and which weaknesses seem to be drawing you back under the thrall of whatever undesirable behavior you are trying to curb
  • Compassion = the MI only wants the best for you and as such, will make sure to navigate your partnership with compassion and selflessness

These principles are meant to make the patient feel as if they are in the middle of a conversation, rather than that they are weak and need to have an intervention.

MI Techniques

As with some other behavioral and therapy techniques, motivational techniques follow a set of easy-to-remember steps so that the patient knows what they need to do when they need to do it.

If you’re not sure what to expect from an upcoming motivational interviewing session, that’s all right! Typically, they will follow the format that is outlined below:

  • Ask Open-ended questions = again, the goal of MI practices is to give the patient the tools they need to do the work that needs to be done rather than trying to do the work for them
  • Make Affirmations = the MI will try to help the patient come up with compliments or appreciative statements to help the patient remain committed to their promise of change
  • Use Reflections = this is a great step for helping the patient stay on their path of commitment. This step asks the patient to reflect upon what they’re committing to do and how it’s working for them. The hope of helping the patient to reflect on what they’re committed to doing can help them reaffirm their desire to change themselves
  • Use Summarizing = this step is where the MI rewords and summarizes what has been discussed during the session to home in on what is most important. It’s also meant to prove that the MI is listening well to what the patient is saying, which helps the patient feel like an individual instead of a paycheck

When Is MI Used?

As mentioned, MI is used to try and help an individual handle and overcome harmful or undesirable behaviors that they might want to change. To discuss it in another way, when it comes to motivational interviewing, the end goal of the whole process is to allow the patient to address issues that may be leading them to mistreat their health in situations involving ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. 

The conversation between an MI and a patient is meant to help the person want to better themselves for their own sake to change whatever behavior is preventing them from making the healthiest and most beneficial choices for their continued life.

What To Expect During MI?

MIs are meant to follow the guidelines below when handling their patients during a session. The steps are as follows:

  • Resist the reflex to right the wrongs = although the patient may need a helping hand or they might be on the cusp of a breakthrough, it’s not the MI’s job to take that final step for them
  • Understand the patient’s motivations = the MI has to navigate the situation so that they’re able to know what the patient is trying to do and the best way to get them to do that without actually telling them what to do
  • Listen with empathy = again, this is meant to be a partnership between the MI and the patient. There is no space for judgment here and the MI is meant to listen and absorb what they are being told while trying to understand the patient’s side of things
  • Empower the patient = the goal of MI is to help the patient gain the tools they need to do the work. Rather than telling them what to do, you need them to figure out how to do what needs to be done with the tools they already have

How Does MI Work?

MI works by allowing a clinician to work with patients and empower them. The end goal is that the patient will return to their normal life with a determination to stick to their goals and remain healthy/on their path to changed behavior.

Get Started At North Star Treatment Services

If you are unsure where to begin looking to start motivational interviewing sessions, that’s all right! You can reach out to us here at North Star Treatment, and we’ll do our best to help you out.

We have an elite team of professionals who only want you to be your best, and we’ll do everything we can to help you reach that goal. So if you’re looking for a professional service with lots of experience and success, look no further than our services at North Star Treatment.