Motivational Interviewing for Positive Change

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All around the country I have partnered with Ted Hunter of Sound Law Center to give talks based on the book “Motivational Interviewing”, S. Rollnick and W. Miller, Guilford Press, 2nd Ed. 2002. Rollnick and Miller, describe an evidence-based approach, used in clinical settings, to help people overcome the ambivalence that prevents them from making positive changes in their lives. My talks were focused on how to apply this technique in the workplace setting, including in workplace mediations. Although these techniques are often used in a clinical setting, one can learn from the basic principles and applications how to approach tough situations where a more directive approach is not appropriate or hasn’t worked.

Motivational interviewing is based upon four principles:

1. Express empathy–Acknowledging a person’s struggles and challenges without judgment, gives them the freedom to change. Skillful reflective listening is essential.

2. Develop discrepancy–Ambivalence is not an obstacle to change, it can actually be the catalyst to change. When a behavior comes into conflict with a deeply held value, it is usually the behavior that changes. In that way ambivalence can make change possible.

3. Roll with resistance–Reluctance to change is natural. It is important to not argue for change. Invite new perspectives but don’t impose them.

4. Support self-efficacy–A person’s belief in the possibility of change is an important motivator. Therefore when the “interviewer” has and expresses a belief in the person’s ability to change, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Motivation to change is elicited from the “interviewee”, and not imposed from without.

Although not appropriate for every situation, these techniques may be useful in the workplace to help people move out of unproductive behaviors into new ones that better serve them and the mission of the workplace. They can also be used effectively by mediators in a mediation setting, to change attitudes and behaviors, dissolve impasse and make way for successful resolution.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris January 22, 2008 at 10:20 am

I am very interested in this concept. I am working on my Ph.D. at The College of William and Mary in Higher Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership. My cognate work was in counseling. I took a graduate level course with Dr. Rick Gressard in Addiction Counseling and we were expose to and spent a lot of time discussing and practicing MI.

My background is HR and OD and thought there could be application of MI with performance management and much of what you have postulated. I think it also closely ties into Appreciative Inquiry as well….I am fascinated by these concepts and think they all come together somewhere and can be applied in the workplace.

I would be interested in further exploration of this application!



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