The power of motivational interviewing

By Rachel Jeffrey, Diabetes Queensland exercise physiologist

Motivational interviewing is used by health professionals in a diverse range of health settings and populations to foster and support behavioural change in clients.

Motivational interviewing is a collaborative conversation aimed at enhancing clients’ internal motivation by exploring and resolving their ambivalence to behavioural change.

The “spirit” of motivational interviewing includes three core principles: collaboration, evocation (client’s own motivation), and client autonomy.

Motivational interviewing challenges traditional advice-giving strategies by forming a collaborative relationship between the client and health professional, making the client the expert in their own care.

This approach allows the client to see discrepancies between actual behaviours and desired health behaviours through eliciting their own motivation for change and how to proceed.

The health professional acknowledges the client’s freedom of choice, asks open-ended questions and expresses true empathy.

Unlike traditional approaches to behaviour change, the health professional avoids falling into the trap of telling the client what is best for them as they roll with resistance and avoid arguments.

Resistance is acknowledged and explored rather than opposed, with the view to shifting the client’s perspective using a facilitative partnership.

If advice is given by the health professional in this approach, it is given with permission from the client and accompanied by the client’s active encouragement to ultimately make their own choice and ongoing decisions.

Motivational interviewing has been shown to support and enhance self-efficacy for the client through affirming their ability to make their own decisions.

Motivational interviewing is therefore encouraged to explore ambivalence and highlights why simple advice giving is ineffective to long-lasting behavioural change in healthcare.

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