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Motivational interviewing techniques

Motivational interviewing can support service providers in broaching various topics of conversation and help fulfill your function as a facilitator. Described as an "empathetic, person-centered counselling style,"1 the technique recognizes the most powerful motivation to behavioural change does not come externally, but from within.

This approach creates the conditions for positive behavioural change by gently guiding the person into articulating their own reasons for change and identifying how they hope to achieve it. 2 

By compassionately guiding the survivor through questions and reflections, you create a safe environment where their voice can be heard.

Guiding principles

The guiding principles of motivational interviewing3 include:

  • Establishing rapport and meeting the person where they're at – start with broad questions (i.e. How are things going? Tell me about life.).
  • Listening for understanding vs. listening briefly and offering information right away.
  • Eliciting their story including their values, beliefs, future goals, etc.
  • Expressing empathy – acknowledging the difficulties they may express.
  • Developing discrepancy – reflecting back the ambivalence about change (i.e. On the one hand . . . and on the other . . .).
  • Resisting righting/correcting – do not push what you believe to be right; this subverts their power and can cause resistance.
  • Identifying possible resistance that may arise and exploring it (i.e. It seems like you don’t want to . . . right now. What would help?)
  • Allowing silence.
  • Supporting efficacy by pointing out successes and accomplishments (i.e. You quit smoking for two full weeks – that’s tremendous).
  • Exploring self-efficacy (i.e. How did you resist the temptation to smoke?).
  • Exploring triggers for relapse (past and present) and brainstorming ways to overcome potential future triggers.
  • Providing support in defining a treatment plan and commitment to change (i.e. What do you think about trying . . . ? When do you think you would like to try . . . again?).
  1. Singh, Nimi. Chapter 26: Motivational Interviewing, Reaching Teens: Strength-based communication strategies to build resilience and support healthy adolescent development. 2014. American Academy of Pediatrics. Page 209
  2. Ibid
  3. Singh, Nimi. Chapter 26: Motivational Interviewing, Reaching Teens: Strength-based communication strategies to build resilience and support healthy adolescent development. 2014. American Academy of Pediatrics. Page 212