The Art of Motivational Interviewing: 10 Communication Tips for Healthcare Professionals

Effective communication lies at the heart of patient-centered care. As healthcare professionals, we play a crucial role in helping our patients navigate their journey towards better health and rehabilitation. One approach to enhancing patient motivation and fostering positive change is through motivational interviewing (MI). Developed by psychologists William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, MI is a patient-centered, collaborative conversation style that can truly transform the way we engage with our patients.

Let’s take a look at 10 communication tips inspired by MI. These tips not only promote patient motivation but also highlight the significance of MI in clinical practice.

Build a Connection

Before diving into medical details, take a few moments to connect with your patient on a personal level. Show genuine interest in their well-being and rehabilitation goals. By demonstrating that you care about their journey, you lay the foundation for trust and cooperation.

Use Active Listening Skills

Active listening is a cornerstone of MI. Instead of merely hearing your patient, listen actively and attentively. Reflective listening responses, where you paraphrase key points, show that you are engaged, empathetic, and fully trying to understand their perspective.

Affirm Personal Strengths

Recognize and acknowledge your patient’s strengths and positive qualities. Offer affirmations such as “You have what it takes to overcome obstacles in your path” to boost their self-confidence and self-efficacy.

Explore Their “Why”

Discovering your patient’s motivations for change is pivotal. Ask open-ended questions like “Why is this change important to you?” to encourage them to articulate their desires and reasons. When patients express their motivations aloud, they are more likely to commit to making changes.

Ask for Their Ideas

Embrace a collaborative approach by seeking your patient’s ideas before sharing your own. Often, patients possess valuable insights and knowledge about their health. If they lack information, you can step in to fill those knowledge gaps.

Ask Permission Before Providing Ideas

Respect your patient’s autonomy by seeking permission before offering advice or information. For example, ask, “Would it be helpful if I shared…?” This empowers patients to actively engage in their healthcare decisions.

Narrow It Down to One Small Change

Change can be overwhelming. To make it more manageable, work with your patient to focus on one specific change at a time. Ask, “Which change feels most important to you right now?” This approach increases the likelihood of success.

Avoid “Shoulding”

Refrain from imposing your opinions or unsolicited advice. Instead, foster a collaborative environment by encouraging patients to share their thoughts and ideas freely.

Assess Confidence

Once a patient identifies a change and sets a goal, assess their confidence in achieving it. Ask, “On a scale from 0 to 10, how confident are you that you can achieve this goal you’ve set for yourself (with 0 being not at all confident and 10 being very confident)?” This numerical rating helps you gauge their readiness for change and tailor your support accordingly.

Explore Potential Barriers to Change

Anticipate future challenges by discussing potential barriers with your patient. Encourage them to think ahead and identify strategies for overcoming obstacles. If needed, offer suggestions collaboratively, ensuring they play an active role in crafting solutions.

Motivational interviewing is a powerful tool that can be used to enhance patient motivation and facilitate meaningful change. By building a connection, using active listening skills, affirming strengths, and adopting a collaborative approach, you can empower your patients to take charge of their health and rehabilitation journey.