Magazine article Psychology Today

Meeting Clients Where They Are

Magazine article Psychology Today

Meeting Clients Where They Are

Article excerpt

Pushing a client to change does little more than increase their unwillingness. Evidence suggests that working with, rather than against, clients' resistance is optimal. The key is to involve clients at their own pace (unless medically ill-advised) to formulate their own plan of action for treatment. Change is far more likely to occur when clients muster their own (intrinsic) motivation and perceive the decision to change as their own. Here are the basics of motivational interviewing.

Flex your empathy muscle. A client's success making and maintaining behavioral change is strongly influenced by the therapist's empathy. Clients who feel heard, understood, and not judged are more likely to trust their provider and be open to treatment. Ramp up your empathy by reflecting the content and meaning of clients' statements. ("It sounds as if you feel your morning drink enables you to be more confident going into those meetings. It must be frustrating to feel that your boss doesn't understand that") Validating their viewpoint conveys that you're on their side and that they can feel safe with you.

Explore clients' perspective on change. Invite clients to rate on a scale of 1-10 how interested they are in changing a behavior as well as how much effort they anticipate that change will require. Follow by gauging what might incentivize a change ("What might it take to get you to a higher number, like a six or a seven?"). Such questions promote discussion and offer grounds for seeing potential solutions.

Emphasize ambivalence. …

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