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Making a change through motivational interviewing

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a person-centred counselling style that can be used in many settings to facilitate positive change.

We asked course lead Jackie Webb to tell us more – scroll down to read a summary of our conversation and watch a video recording.

Making a change…

“It’s normal to feel ambivalent about change”, says Jackie. But what can we do to help individuals who are reluctant to engage, or who have been coerced into changing? This is where Motivational Interviewing comes in – offering a different approach, with a focus on collaboration.

What’s it all about?

Motivational Interviewing is “essentially a way of helping people”, explains Jackie. “It works strategically, using a person-centred approach, to help people solve ambivalence about change”.

Anyone who has conversations with people about change could add Motivational Interviewing techniques to their toolkit. Jackie regularly trains “helping” professionals – such as doctors, nurses, social workers, probation officers and educators – in the approach, as well as counsellors and therapists in private practice.

It can be most helpful, she adds, in situations where “people have got a bit stuck, where they’re kind of wrestling with should I, shouldn’t I, or I know I need to, but it’s just too hard”. In these circumstances, the idea of “working with ambivalence”, which is at the heart of this counselling style, comes to the fore – “it really centres us in what we’re trying to do in Motivational Interviewing”.

“Very often, both sides of ambivalence are within somebody who might be contemplating a change, or who other people are hoping will make a change”, explains Jackie. That person will most likely have already weighed up the issues and be aware of arguments on both sides. But, “because the person feels quite defensive about changing that behaviour, what they often give more voice to is the reasons not to make a change”. And, when we try to help them by making arguments in favour of the change, this tends to have the opposite effect to the one we’re hoping for – “the person becomes more likely to push back”.

In Motivational Interviewing, however, we’re encouraged to take a different approach. Instead of trying to persuade a person in one direction, “we’re strategically responding to things that the person is saying, and deliberately trying to elicit what we call change talk… because we know people become more committed to what they hear themselves say”. The more they talk about the possibility of making a change or thinking about making a chance, the more likely it is that this will happen.

What training do we offer?

For those who are new to the approach or looking for a refresher, our two-day introduction to Motivational Interviewing covers the theory, spirit and principles of the approach – providing opportunities to observe and practise MI in a protected environment, and preparing participants to start using it in their own work settings.

Then, for those who have been through the two-day introductory course, or who are actively using Motivational Interviewing in their work already, our two-day advanced course aims to deepen understanding and further embed skills. Drawing on participants’ experiences of using the approach, it addresses the specific needs and concerns of the group, in order to build confidence.

Finally, one-to-one supervision and peer development groups offer an opportunity to continue learning and reflecting beyond the formal training courses. Jackie has found that practitioners really start learning “intuitively” once they begin to use the approach with their clients, so “it can be helpful to come back and talk to one of the trainers about how that’s going”.

If you’re unsure which level of training is right for you, please get in touch with us, and we will offer some advice.

Try out a technique – Information Exchange

Have you heard of ‘Information Exchange’? “This is such a helpful thing to be able to do with people”, says Jackie – especially when you’re wanting to offer suggestions or advice, or correct misinformation, while keeping people interested and motivated to make a change.

There’s a clear model to follow and, in this short video, Jackie talks us through each step: