What is Motivational Interviewing? A Guide for Outreach Worker Students

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Motivational interviewing (MI) is a client-centered counselling style that uses techniques to strengthen people’s motivation to change behaviors. MI can be very helpful for anyone who wants to change their behavior, but hasn’t yet made the decision to take action.

When practicing motivational interviewing, the interviewer helps clients explore and resolve any indecision that’s in the way of them achieving their goals. Motivational interviewing practitioners create a caring and compassionate environment, where they help clients make behavioral changes in a directive, yet non-confrontational way.

If you’re planning to pursue a career as a community mental health and addictions worker, motivational interviewing might be a counselling technique that could work for you. Read on to learn more about motivational interviewing, and how you could put this technique into practice once you break into the field.

A Brief History of MI For The Aspiring Outreach Worker

Motivational Interviewing was first developed by two clinical psychologists named William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick. The general concept of MI emerged from their experience in treating problem drinkers in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

In 1991, Miller and Rollnick published works that went into further detail about the fundamental concepts of MI by describing clinical approaches and procedures. Today, MI is widely used in the treatment of substance abuse, but can be applied in any therapeutic setting.

Since many individuals with substance abuse issues are already aware of the negative effects of their decisions, professionals with addictions worker training have found MI to be a powerful counselling tool. By helping them get in touch with their values and what truly motivates them, MI techniques can help clients make better decisions that lead to lasting positive change.

Practicing Motivational Interviewing as an Outreach Worker

“Motivational interviewing is a way of being with a client, not just a set of techniques for doing counseling.” – Miller and Rollnick, 1991

Professionals who practice motivational interviewing keep some general principles in mind when working with clients, such as expressing empathy through reflective listening, and avoiding any kind of arguments or direct confrontation.

During motivational interviewing sessions, practitioners know that ultimately, the decision to change is the client’s to make. Rather than confronting clients about unhealthy beliefs and behaviors (which usually leads to resistance), counsellors who use MI will listen intently, using gentle persuasion and support to help clients reach their own decision to change. MI is most effective when there’s an established trusting relationship between the counsellor and the client.

How Outreach Workers Break Down Barriers with MI

The compassionate MI approach could be effective for professionals with community mental health worker diplomas when they meet with clients. When working with clients on skills that improve their home, social, and occupational lives, it’s easy to see how being judgemental and giving orders could create barriers in the therapeutic relationship. On the other hand, empowering clients to find solutions and make positive changes can help them in many aspects of their lives.

The goal of motivational interviewing is to help clients see the difference between their current situation and their hopes for the future. The techniques that counsellors use throughout the process are all designed to keep conversations goal-oriented, and to establish and affirm the clients’ own ability to make changes happen.

Interested in taking on an active role in your community by becoming an outreach worker?

Visit Stenberg to learn more about our training programs or to speak with an advisor.

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