Understanding the Power of Motivational Interviewing

IMG_9268As a soon to be registered dietitian (RD), I have completed school and my internship. I am currently preparing for the RD exam and getting ready to embark on my new career. But…as part of this new journey, I wanted to make sure I had all of the tools necessary to be the best RD I could in this ever-changing world.

This meant being able to have a language to help my patients achieve their desired health goals. Yet as the British poet Joseph Addison said it best, “There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice.”

So how can I inspire change when people’s first reaction is reluctance?

That’s when I came across Susan’s Motivation Interviewing Workshops. What a breath of fresh air. For the first time, it took the pressure off of me to achieve results and helped create focus on the client’s agenda. I no longer needed to create an agenda. Instead, through MI, the client is able to discover their own motivation for change by exploring and resolving their own ambivalence. And as a practitioner, it is my role to guide and minimize resistance through reflections and affirmations.

Most importantly, MI gave me the tools to not only recognize what is known as “change talk” but to lead clients to the point of change talk. This is where Susan’s MI workshop was so valuable.

So what did I learn?

I think everyone may have different “ah-ha!” moments, but these were a couple of mine.

  1. Stop instructing and controlling the conversation. In other words, stop trying to be the authority figure. People are only going to make changes in their life when it is their decision. They have to be ready. I only have to recognize the change talk when I hear it, and reflect it back to them so they recognize their own reasons for change.
  1. Move away from the question and answer trap. After all, it’s just exhausting for the client and me! Plus, you find out less information and it takes more time!

This became abundantly clear through an exercise Susan had us observe and practice. It started with Susan asking someone in the class about a recent vacation. She came in with a list of questions, all of which were answered with little to no exaggeration. In other words, she only found out the information that answered her specific question.

Next, to demonstrate the power of MI, we split into groups. A specific timeframe was set and we reflectively listened to a medical scenario our partner recently encountered. The amount of information obtained in a short period of time through solely reflecting what the person was saying was astounding. At the end of the exercise, I felt I experienced this situation along side my partner. That’s how much information I was able to obtain.

So if you’re ready to elicit change in your patients and clients…

I highly suggest you start with some research on motivational interviewing. If you become convinced or are merely on the fence, I highly suggest you attend one of Susan’s workshops. It is definitely going to be the wave of the future (as some countries already require MI in the medical setting). Plus you will learn new tools that can be integrated into your practice. It is truly a win-win scenario for both you and your patients.

This blog was written by RD Intern Victoria Sonoda