Solution focused counselling, through techniques such as Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behaviour therapies (RECBT), are effective in helping clients build healthy belief systems that help them make the links between emotions, thoughts, sensations and behaviours. Those forms of therapies then engage and support the client in following agreed personal action plans.
However, these models assume that the client is motivated to change. Sometimes, for a small number of clients, that may not yet be the case. Instead they appear stuck in their seemingly fixed patterns of behaviour and are constantly ruminating (or worrying), about a problem without any clear commitment to action or for change.
During the change process a client should move from becoming aware of the need for change (acceptance), into building the desire to change (commitment), and from there into planning and taking action to adapt.
For stuck clients, the issue often becomes about building motivation for change.
In a motivational interviewing session, the counsellor will be looking for (and appropriately encouraging) the kind of client talk that indicates they are contemplating change. This is because the more that a client talks about change, the greater the chance they have of being successful in achieving it. It is almost as if they are building the case and convincing themselves to change.
In order to encourage the client to move towards change (i.e. be motivated), the counsellor will create the right conditions giving sufficient time, space and appreciation for the clients concerns and positions, so that it is possible for them to make sense of their emotions. This is common to most counselling styles.
What makes motivational interviewing different, is that the counsellor will both provide information and ask insightful questions, whilst allowing the client that time and space to make sense of their own desire to change and more, commit to it!
Clients are unique individuals, and need therapists that have a wide set of skills and approaches, can take a broad view and then narrow it down on behalf of the specific client.
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About Keith Abrahams
Keith Abrahams is widely experienced and trained in psychology. He has practiced as a therapist both privately and as a volunteer, with a specialism in working with trauma.