That represen resistance to change even broaching the

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well-worn phrases and thoughts (repeated thousands of times in the client’s head!) that represent resistance to change. Even broaching the problem behaviour with a question may prove to be quite sensitive, so your ability to handle resistance may be one of the most useful skills you can develop. Note that the resistance may have been forming for a long time, so it is there, ready to spring into your conversation with the client, before you even say anything. Here are some examples of resistance talk: Disagreeing: “Yes, but . . . “ Discounting: “I’ve already tried that” Interrupting: “But . . .” Sidetracking: “I know you want to talk about how I fell off the wagon (got drunk) last week, but have you noticed how faithful I’ve been about attending the AA meetings?” Unwillingness: “You want me to do that as well?” Blaming: “It’s not my fault. When my partner starts in with . . .” Arguing: “I don’t care what the research says. How do you know that’s true in my case?” Challenging: “Well, meditation might work for some people, but it doesn’t help me at all.” Minimising: “I’m not that overweight.” Pessimism: “I keep trying to do better on this, but nothing seems to help.” 6
Excusing: “I know I should consume less sugar, but with my intense work schedule, there’s no bandwidth left over for micro-managing my food intake.” Ignoring: (The client turns away or changes topic, ignoring your interventions) (adapted from Latchford, 2010). Avoiding “the righting reflex” Understandably, as therapists and practitioners, the natural response to resistance talk such as the above tactics evokes in us a felt need to work harder to persuade the client, to let them know that they are wrong (we, of course are right). This “righting reflex” is to be resisted at all costs, as it is the prime response on our part which feeds an escalating spiral of resistance, to the total detriment of any possible change. Instead of playing into a power struggle, we can adopt a motivational interviewing stance, which would say that our job is to clarify and understand, inviting consideration and openness to new perspectives. By encouraging people to come up with their own solutions to situations as they define them, we invite them to new ways of thinking without badgering, lecturing, or imposing our views on them. Emphasising and allowing personal choice and control over their problems can help minimise resistance, as can statements about how normal resistance is. Offering advice the MI way Although discouraged from the righting reflex or other means of communicating “I’m right and you’re wrong”, MI practitioners nevertheless are encouraged to provide advice or feedback to clients. If you’re frantically trying to re-read that last sentence to figure out how it makes sense, rest easy. It is true: advice-giving is ok in motivational interviewing; you just have to do it in the right spirit. Clients often have either little information or else misinformation about their behaviour. Typically health practitioners have used only simple (direct) advice to relay

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