I introduced the key principles behind “Motivational Interviewing” (MI) in my last article: Getting Clients to Change Their Habits!” and why it can be a valuable tool to add to your skill set.

In this follow-up article, I would like to run through a typical (brief) MI conversation.

A Typical MI Conversation Format:

Start with the usual greetings & introductions

Then set the Agenda and the time you have available together.

motivational interview

QU: Are you up for having a 30 min conversation around your lifestyle as a way of improving your health and wellbeing?

Goal: To allow the client to feel in control, to create safety, and to feel in rapport with you.

Please note: Motivational Interviewing always starts from a place of “what’s working”; It’s not about problems, weaknesses, or unhealthy behaviors!

And always ask for permission first before giving feedback or advice! (this extends respect).

State: Good, I have some questions to help me get to know you better if I may?

QU: What are some of the things you are currently doing to support your health and overall wellbeing the most? What are the top 3 things?

Prompt them if need be. For example: “To keep yourself lean, healthy and energetic?”

Please note open-ended questions encourage the client to give voice to their thoughts, feelings, experiences, opinions, values, and motivations.

State: Here are some of the things other people have found to have work for them (then list or circle various areas you would be keen to expand on and explore with them). Presenting a visual “menu of possibilities” has been shown to be highly effective for helping people with clarity.

Ask: If you were to improve or fine-tune just one of these things, which one would you choose or which one would make the biggest difference?

State: If not now, how about the future?

Or are you thinking about something else (that is not there)?

Great let’s talk about X (= a topic of focus).

Note people are more likely to successfully change:

  1. a) If they focus on one area (although each has a knock-on effect with another)
  2. b) If they are presented with a visual menu of possibilities
  3. c) If they get to choose which one to focus on

Ask: On a scale of 1-10, how ready are you to make a change in X?

And what potential benefits do you see (if you were successful)?

If they answer 7 or above and they see lots of benefits, proceed as normal by helping them plan and make lifestyle changes.

Alternatively, if they answer below 7 or they fail to see enough benefits, check to see if they would like to pick another area to work on.

And there you have it! Hopefully, you can see that an MI is a helpful framework you can use with clients to explore underlying tensions (and in doing so, move them into purposeful action).

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Noel Lyons

Noel Lyons

Noel Lyons is a Masters & Wellcoaches certified Health Coach with 27 years experience in the health & fitness industry. An Ironman, he has also competed for GB (age-group) at 5 World Triathlon Championships.
Noel Lyons


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