Motivational Interviewing and Reflective Listening to Support Behaviour Change

Motivational Interviewing and Reflective Listening to Support Behaviour Change

(This article includes an exercise for you to try and the opportunity to feedback to Veriti via Facebook, regarding your experience).

In motivational interviewing, reflective listening is the primary skill used to demonstrate empathy, interest and understanding. Influencing behaviour change using reflective listening will help to clarify what the client is thinking, manage conflict, explore reasons for change and provide affirmation. Reflective listening begins with an interest in what the client has to say and a desire to truly understand how the client thinks. Novices using motivational interviewing often get trapped in what becomes an interrogation of the client, asking question after question with little or no reflection.


Follow the guide below to listen effectively with an individual you are working with who is hoping to achieve a behaviour change:

Listen carefully with a goal of understanding the dilemma.
Give no advice.
Ask the following six questions:

1. ‘What makes you want to make this change?’
2. ‘How might you go about doing this in order to be successful?’
3. ‘What are the three best reasons for you to do this?’
4. ‘On a scale of 0 to 10, how important would you say that it is for you that you make this change?’

Follow up with:

5. ‘And what makes you a _ and not a zero?’

Provide a brief summary/reflection of the speaker’s motivations for change
Now ask:

6. ‘So what do you think you will do?’

Now just listen with interest.

Reflection- what was it like for you as the listener? What did you notice about your thoughts? Were you tempted to provide advice or education? What did you think/feel being in a position where you did not advise? What may your key learnings be from this activity?

[Miller, 2012]

We would be very interested to hear how this exercise went for you and would invite you to provide feedback via the Veriti Facebook page.

Miller, N. H. (2010). Motivational interviewing as a prelude to coaching in healthcare settings. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 25(3), 247-251.

Miller, W. (2012). Motivational Interviewing: What It Is, How it works, How to learn it. 2 Day Workshop Southbank Institute of TAFE, Brisbane 7th-8th November.

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational Interviewing: Helping people change (3rd Ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Resnicow, K., & McMaster, F. (2012). Motivational interviewing: Moving from why to how with autonomy support. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9, 1-9.

Rosengren, D. B. (2009). Building motivational interviewing skills: A practitioner workbook. New York: Guilford Press.

Steinberg, M. (2011). Motivational interviewing Part 2: An overview of skills and challenging clinical encounters. Diabetes Spectrum, 24(4), 231-233.

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