Motivational Interviewing

by Cheryl Hall on March 18th, 2021

Motivational Interviewing is an evidence-based strategy that helps guide behavioral changes in patients. The technique can work for occupational therapists in behavioral health settings, to educate patients about managing physical health conditions, or to help patients modify potentially harmful behaviors.

As a person-centered strategy, motivational interviewing underscores the importance of working side-by-side with your patient. Instead of prescribing what to do, when to do it and how to do it, you approach the situation as a partner. The technique promotes a relationship where you work deliberately to understand a patient’s resistance to a particular goal or behavior change. Are they afraid, do they lack confidence in their ability, is the change unimportant to the patient or do they just not believe the change will bring value to their life?

Motivational interviewing uses specific communication techniques also known as OARS.

  • Open-ended questions are key to really getting to know the patient and what is important to them. The use of well-crafted, open-ended questions and really listening to the answer, will help you understand your patient.
  • Affirming statements are used to recognize the patient’s strengths and successes as well as their capacity to change and grow. Hearing you repeat their strengths and successes can be a powerful change agent.
  • Reflective listening is a way to repeat back, in your own words, what the patient is saying to you. Everyone wants to be heard and by rephrasing the patient’s own words, you confirm you are listening and that you understand what is important to them.
  • Summarizing is used to move the patient through the session and to bring the session to a close with a plan to move forward. This technique is valuable to both you and the patient in establishing a common understanding of the next step.

To learn more about this practical technique, explore some of the many books on motivational interviewing or you can pursue formal training with a certified trainer. Cultivating new communication techniques will help you guide your patients to a successful outcome.

  • About Me

    Cheryl Hall
    Occupational Therapist
    Maryland, United States

    Welcome to a site devoted to sharing experience, knowledge and resources to make your job of being a great therapist a lot easier.

    I have been an occupational therapist for more than 30 years. I graduated from San Jose State University with degrees in Occupational Therapy, Gerontology, and Early Child Development. My passion is working with adults and children in home health but I have also worked in rehab, sub-acute rehab, hand therapy, transitional living for TBI, and hospital-based outpatient settings.

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