I often hear from those of us who work in the human service field that it can be difficult to engage clients in meaningful change.
As a Crime Victim Advocate, for example, we see people in probably one of the worst moments of their lives; their journey to recovery may be long and arduous. A colleague of mine tells me that people who are labeled with “chronic mental illness” can be traumatized by the lack of successful interventions to improve the quality if their lives. Probation officers that I sat with just yesterday talk about their clients as having only two choices: compliance or incarceration. I thought to myself, “not a lot of motivation to change here…” And then I heard about the theory and practice of Motivational Interviewing.
Paul Warren, LMSW, is a consultant for NeC-ATTC and NDRI-USA, Inc. He comes to Broome County to teach OASAS providers about an evidence based model that engages people by simply following a few basic concepts:
• Helping professions are not taught deep listening skills—they are taught to achieve goals
• The client is really the expert of their own lives, not professionals
• We can usually connect with someone if we speak solely with positive regard
• Focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses will amplify and encourage change only if we have an innate belief that every person has the ability to change
Mr. Warren tells us that no matter what services we provide, sitting down and meeting with a client builds a co-created environment. If as providers we can imagine that we are “dancing” with our clients rather than “wrestling” with them, we may find the rapport becomes easier.
Here are the RULES:
R Resist the “reflex to be right”
U Understand your client’s motivation (what they say is critical)
L Listen to every word spoken; search for the positive; amplify it
E Empower your client to make choices
One of the most wonderful things I heard Paul say was, “What is both wonderful and horrible is that we are just one human being helping another human being.” Do we ask permission to ask questions about our client and their life? Or do we just feel entitled to know because we are, after all, going to help them! Do we provide information directed at them or do we guide them toward a direction of their choosing? If discord results during a meeting with a client, ask yourself, ”Is this person resisting me because of the way I am presenting myself?” Reflection of that nature is an opportunity to consider change.
For more information on this important training, go to http://www.motivationalinterview.org/quick_links/about_mi.html