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Behavior Change through Motivational Interviewing – Why Coercion doesn’t work

behavior change

In the harsh politics surrounding alcohol and other drug use, there is often an expectation that AOD practitioners should ‘push’ for behavior change in clients even when they don’t want to. But behaviour change without motivation is coercion and very few people make major life changes when pushed.

A more effective (and ethical) approach to behavior change is to get people ready to change through motivational interviewing.

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a skill many health professionals have encountered, but very fewer have mastered.

It is not simply about ‘meeting a client where they are at’. Nor is it about accepting all that a client says at face value. Motivational Interviewing is a technique designed specifically to increase readiness for change.

The process of Motivational Interviewing can sometimes be difficult for practitioners, as it requires some degree of detachment from the outcome. And we get into this profession to help people achieve outcomes! It takes some deep self reflection for practitioners to be able to recognise when their own beliefs about outcomes are influencing their practice. Whose outcome are you working towards, yours or the client’s?

Decades of research has found that people make better life choices if practitioners provide a space for them to reflect and chart their own course. Through purposeful talking, practitioners can fully respect client autonomy whilst helping them enact changes which work best for them.

Only through autonomous decisions, not ‘carrots and sticks’ is meaningful life change possible.

Motivational interviewing and behavior change