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Motivational Interviewing: Agent for Change

Motivational Interviewing

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is both a treatment philosophy and a set of techniques which focus on the potential benefits of change. MI is used to bring out and strengthen the motivation for behaviour change. It is collaborative and respects an individual’s choices, even if the individual chooses not to change.

How does MI work?

MI draws on the individual’s own motivation and commitment by examining his current behaviour and how it fits with his value system. The main goal is to move the individual’s conversation from sustain talk to change talk. For example, we want to move the conversation from “I don’t have a problem and I am fine where I am at the moment” (sustain talk) to “I think I should change” or “I don’t think I can carry on this way anymore” (change talk).

MI focuses on partnership and teamwork between the practitioner and the individual. The MI practitioner is on equal footing with the individual, highlighting his/her personal strengths and instances where the individual had made behavioural changes that reaped benefits. The MI practitioner draws out the individual’s own thoughts and ideas about behavioural change, rather than impose his own opinions and agendas.

When is MI used?

It is used when an individual’s behaviour is affecting him or people around him in a negative way. Sometimes the individual has difficulty changing because he does not know how. At other times the individual is simply indecisive about changing; MI helps to give clarity on the pros and cons of changing.

MI was originally developed to treat problem drinkers. Through clinical experience and research, MI has been found to be effective in various settings. It is now also used to help those with substance use disorders and individuals in education, prisons, leadership, staff management, career coaching, sports coaching, healthcare and various other areas where behaviour change is desired.

Can we draw on MI in our daily lives?

MI is all about relationship building, good listening skills and demonstrating empathy. It is also about offering suggestions or alternative perspectives. Its collaborative and inclusive approach helps to resolve conflicts or misunderstandings.

MI can help us communicate with our loved ones and encourage them to make positive changes in their life without being intrusive or
confrontational, or having to use rewards and punishments.

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