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Giving advice can get a bad rap in MI. We attend to the righting reflex so much, it can almost feel illegal to offer a thought in an MI conversation.

Even more daunting, it can seem like the aim is to get to some kind of zen-like calm where we notice our opinions floating past like clouds as we stay serenely present and tuned into the person in front of us.

The reality is often far more like trying to restrain a flock of hyperactive sheep from escaping a pen with a dodgy gate. Just we think we’ve managed to keep one from getting loose, another takes the opportunity to wriggle free and make a run for it.

When we learn the ‘what’ of MI, we also start wondering about the ‘when’.

When should we move from building the “why” of change to exploring the “how”? When might we shift the attention from possibilities to planning? When do we offer information or suggestions?

We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the perfect host in the change conversation, knowing just the right time to clear the plates, serve the next course, offer tea. “Change talk, anyone?”

When I was in school I knew two girls who played piano. They were both skilled. They could play sheet music they had never seen before. They played more complex pieces than the average student.

One was pretty much note perfect, her skill was impressive. But I didn’t feel much when she played. It was a series of very skilled, very competent notes, one after the other.

The other made a lot more mistakes. Missed notes, timings slipping in and out of sync. And yet… she played with her whole heart and I loved to listen to her. He music was so richly expressive, there was something almost magical about it.

When we learn MI we become comfortable asking questions such as “How ready is this person for change?” But how often do we stop and ask ourselves “How ready am I for this client?”

And while we spend time learning what to say or ask, the most fundamental skill in MI is the skill of listening. Deep, focused, wholehearted listening. Yet we are often trying to have meaningful conversations with a head full of distractions.

People come to treatment with all sorts of problems and respond to all sorts of treatment. Or not. Every approach seems to offer something, and no one approach has all of the answers.

So why did I choose to spend so much time focusing on Motivational Interviewing? Here are ten reasons why MI gently nudged its way into the foundation of my practice.