Understanding the Underlying Essence of MI
When I conduct a Motivational Interviewing training, I know that everybody really wants to learn the techniques. It’s really important to learn the techniques, but what I’ve learned from Bill Miller and Steve Rollnick in over the 20 years I’ve been facilitating Motivational Interviewing Training’s, is that what’s really critical in effectively using the techniques of MI, is being in the MI spirit. In other words, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Bill Miller, one of the co-founders of MI once said, “just using the techniques of MI without the underlying spirit is like knowing the words of song without the music”. The spirit of Motivational Interviewing involves a few components. One component is being in an accepting and compassionate space with the person you’re talking to. Another component is showing an understanding and showing empathy. Another piece is being able to use all the OARS techniques of MI within that environment of demonstrated understanding in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way. This is really critical. Also, it’s imperative to have a relationship that’s a partnership. You shouldn’t be paternalistic or talk down to the person about their decisions or the issue at hand. In MI, a couple of ways we demonstrate the spirit of partnership is by asking permission to give advice and explicitly emphasizing a person’s autonomy in making choices in their life. I literally say to clients, “Remember, you are the expert on your life” and “In the end, only you can decide if and how you will change”.
And then lastly, rather than nagging, convincing or advising a person to change, we are work to evoke or bring out from the person their core reasons for change and what’s really important to them and their values.
We are all more likely to change if we, rather than someone else, argue for the important change in our lives.