Motivational Interviewing: What’s Your Destination?

motivational interviewing chicago

Reach Your Destination Point

By: John D. Moore, PhD

Many of the calls we receive for substance abuse counseling and general psychotherapy are from individuals looking to get help with reaching various life goals. As you can imagine, these goals run the gambit – from wanting to be more confident – to feeling less anxious.

In short, these are folks hoping to find someone to help motivate them to a place of change. In such cases, many of our helping professionals use a counseling approach know as motivational interviewing as part of the helping process.

What is motivational interviewing?

You may be wondering what exactly motivational interviewing (MI) involves? Well, before we dive too far in, let’s give proper credit where it is due. The MI interviewing technique was developed by two psychologists named William Miller and Stephen Rollnick; university professors who shook up the world of mental health by infusing the construct of motivation into the psychotherapy process.

Mostly strength based and goal focused, they used MI as part of their technique in helping people with addictions become sober. They also used MI to assist clients who were ambivalent about the process of change.

Four Prong Approach to Change

At its core, motivational interviewing (MI) is a 4-prong approach to counseling that contains the following elements:

  • Engaging: Trust building dialogue, empowered through interaction.
  • Focusing: A way of focusing in like a laser beam on areas you might want to change
  • Evoking: Used to get you as the client to become emotionally invested in your goal
  • Planning: The realistic, step by step approach you will take to achieve your stated goal.

Motivational Interviewing Premise

The essential premise of MI is that not everyone is at the same readiness level for change and that a customized approach is necessary. As you can imagine, the strength of the relationship between the counselor and client is a critical part of the MI process.

Stages of Change

In many ways, this technique borrows from humanistic psychology to help the counselor “meet” the client where they are at during the change continuum. MI is very much a here and now type therapy with an eye on the future.

We have included a graphic below that illustrates the 6 stages of change, commonly used in motivational interviewing with clients.

motivational interviewing
Stages of Change

Motivational Interviewing Application

When you think about it, there are a wide variety of uses for MI. Some examples include but are not limited to:

  • Completing a degree
  • Getting a promotion
  • Losing weight
  • Healthier financial decisions
  • Stopping smoking
  • Becoming more assertive
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Building healthier relationships
  • Achieving greater happiness
what are your expectations

MI Example

At 2nd Story Counseling, we like to think of goals as a destination point. An example might be a goal to escape Chicago during the coldest part of winter. Let’s pretend for a moment that right now it’s June and you want to leave in January.

Now let’s say your destination point is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Ideally, you want to spend 7-days there, filled with as much sun and sand as you can fit in. You have six months to plan. No big deal, right?

Not so fast.

That trip you want to take is going to cost you around $1,800 (air, hotel, food). Right now, you can barely afford your rent! What’s more, you also are also struggling to lose 10lbs of belly fat and cringe at the thought of your muffin top getting caught on camera.

Suddenly feeling like the entire goal is simply not doable, you lose interest and head over to the golden arches for a burger. Sound familiar?

It doesn’t have to be this way. By enlisting the help of a counselor skilled in MI, you can create changes in the here and now to reach your goals in the future! Part of the process will involve an assessment of your readiness to change.

Using the Puerto Vallarta example above, this means helping you to create change around the dual areas of finance and physical activity so that: 1. you can afford the trip and; 2. lose those 10lbs.

Think of goals like a destination

Motivational interviewing is not a magic wand approach to counseling. It requires that you realistically assess your goals, check your expectations and execute a plan for making dreams turn into reality. Your counselor is there to help you become more attached to your goals, which in part assists you in the process of transformation. This necessarily means examining some of your historical barriers to change and confronting potential issues like learned helplessness.

Are you ready to tackle some of those goals? Do you have a few destination points in mind for the future? If so, maybe it’s time to do something about it! If you would like to learn more about MI and talk to a therapist about creating positive change in your life, please give us a call at 773-528-1777 or send us a confidential note through our online contact form.

Remember, goals are like a destination. We would love to help you get to where you are going. Hey look, isn’t that your plane to Mexico below?

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