Changing Habits and Behaviors With Motivational Interviewing

Changing Habits and Behaviors With Motivational Interviewing



“People are usually more convinced by reasons they discover themselves, than by those found by others.” Blaise Pascal


When it comes to changing habits and behaviors, there is no easy formula for success. Whether someone is trying to manage their weight, quit smoking, or overcome an addiction, simply “knowing” what changes they need to make and why doesn’t usually provide the personal motivation required to make lifestyle changes. But, with Motivational Interviewing (MI), changing behaviors becomes a positive, collaborative process.

Back when I was a smoking cessation facilitator, I learned just how beneficial Motivational Interviewing is in helping people resolve ambivalent feelings so they can find the personal, internal motivation needed to change their behavior. Many people came through my classes knowing the risks of smoking, and understanding how it was affecting their health, home, and finances. And yet, no matter how many times they heard the warnings from their doctor, they just couldn’t put down their cigarettes.

What I found was that no matter what the pamphlets and commercials tell people, most people need to identify their OWN reasons for quitting. That means they must identify why quitting is important to them, while also looking at the fears, insecurities, and other blocks that keep them from changing their behavior.

Using the motivational interviewing method, I was able to help numerous people overcome their addiction by guiding them to create their own reasons for quitting. And, as time went on, I started providing trainings to coaches, counselors, nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals so they could use the same method to help their clients and patients.

What It Is
Motivational Interviewing incorporates communication skills that help people engage in self-actualizing conversations that lead them to create their own reasons and solutions for change. It overcomes ambivalence about change while offering a supportive yet directive counseling style. Like the quote at the top implies, people are far more likely to change their behavior when they have their own personal reasons for doing so, and MI helps find those personal reasons.

By empowering people to utilize their own free choice, MI is a process that creates the self-motivation needed to make positive behavioral changes. This is accomplished through a nonjudgmental, empathic, and collaborative relationship that incorporates reflective listening while supporting self-efficacy.

What To Look For
Regardless of what behavioral changes you need to make in your life, or what changes your clients/patients may require, MI may provide the insights required for positive change, but first there must be a qualified MI interviewer to help guide the process.

A good MI interviewer will:

  • Communicate respect
  • Be nonjudgmental
  • Listen rather than “tell”
  • Provide support
  • Incorporate various Active Listening methods

Who Uses MI?
There are an increasing number of healthcare professionals utilizing Motivational Interviewing to help people make positive behavioral change. Physicians, nurses, managed care professional, dentists, coaches and counselors are engaging in the method and experiencing positive results. Even if you are not quite ready to make a change, working with someone competent in MI can help you at least begin to identify why you AREN’T ready, and that, in and of itself is a big step forward!

What’s Good For Us?
Just because we know what’s good for us doesn’t mean we are going to automatically do what’s good for us. But, with MI, we can begin to identify and overcome our personal stumbling blocks by creating our own internal motivation.

So, what behavior would you like to change?