A client makes an appointment to come see you due to drinking, depression, or some other desired change and through a brief conversation on the phone you think you know what their focus is. BUT…is that really their focus? Is the topic they called about really what they truly want to change in their life?
Focus is the second process in Motivational Interviewing after engagement is created and a collaborative working alliance has been established. We can easily fall into the trap of creating too much of an intensity around a specific focus which may break the alliance or cause a client not to return for another appointment.
Opening up the focus helps us to slow the conversation down, reflect on the heart of what the client is really wanting or needing thus creating a collaborative tone. For example, finding the focus could be as simple as asking:
- What would be most helpful to you right now?
- What would you like things to look like in our work together?
- You called and talked about X and I’m wondering if that is what you wanted to discuss or is there something else more pertinent today?
If you haven’t found a client’s focus, it’s hard to know where the conversation is going or how to evoke what could make them successful moving forward. Although it may be simple, it is frequently not addressed which creates a random conversation not tied to any specific change goal.
Sometimes the focus is clear and sometimes it’s a surprise but taking time to unearth it could create all the difference. Asking a few open-questions is all that is needed and then reflecting what the client says to create that desired forward movement. It will then guide the conversation towards the heart of MI which is evoking from the client what will ultimately make them successful in their desired change.