Doctors Try Motivational Interviewing Technique

After finding that simply lecturing a patient about what he has to do to get his health back on track often doesn’t elicit the desired response, doctors are starting to take a different approach. Motivational interviewing was developed and used in the 1980s for substance-abuse and addiction counseling. Today, it’s been adapted for use by doctors in advising patients on how to improve their health.

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Doctors use motivational interviewing to help patients identify their personal obstacles and take small steps towards goals like weight loss.

The technique involves doctors asking patients what they believe gets in their way and what steps towards improved health they’d be willing to take. Rather than listing all of the changes a patient needs to make at once, doctors bring the patients into the process and allow them to choose how they want to approach their health and what goals they want to set. For example, rather than instructing patients to adhere to a strict diet, doctors may ask the patient what they believe is getting in the way of them losing weight.

By learning what patients themselves say are their personal obstacles, doctors then use a method called “roll with resistance,” which involves guiding a patient towards choosing one small step to take, like cutting back on sweets. This method has been found to cause less defensiveness and discouragement among patients, leading to better adherence to a doctor’s prescribed course of treatment.

Doctors, as well as nurses and other health care professionals, are being trained to employ this collaborative process in chronic-disease management, medication adherence, smoking cessation and weight-loss counseling. Experts hope that motivational interviewing will be especially helpful for patients who lack the motivation to change or are overwhelmed by their health situation to find the confidence to commit to the goals they set for themselves and take on one obstacle at a time.

Do you believe this new doctor-patient relationship will lead to better health outcomes? Tell us in the comments section below.