Anyone who’s ever worked with or lived with a young person, adolescents in particular, will know that the more you ask, tell or plead with them to do something that they’re not inclined to do, the less and less likely they become to do it. So however desperately you might want to help an anorexic teenager who’s fading away before your eyes, begging them to eat something simply isn’t going to cut the mustard. Oftentimes it will have the opposite effect and encourage them to stick more steadfastly to their rigid rules. This doesn’t just apply to food of course, the response would likely be the same if we were talking about homework…
This is where motivational interviewing comes in. This is a method that is designed to elicit a behavioural change in people who do not recognise the need for change, or feel ambivalent about it. The technique was originally used with patients who were suffering from alcohol or substance abuse but it has been successfully used in the eating disorders arena for many years now since it was first piloted at the Maudsley psychiatric hospital in London.
The technique is successful because it puts the young person in control of their own recovery. The supporting adult acts as a facilitator, helping them to explore their feelings and different potential outcomes but never telling the young person what to do. The young person finds their own path to change and is therefore far more likely to stick to it.
The following guide is designed to give non-specialists an introduction to motivational interviewing techniques – the key thing is to practice!
This is a very accessible book aimed at parents and carers of people with eating disorders. It helps you to reframe the conversations you have in daily life to create a more positive and pleasant environment for everyone, and also one which is likely encourage the sufferer to accept and embrace the need to change.
This is an applied text by the father of motivational interviewing, Stephen Rollnick. It provides detailed theory and application and is a helpful text for people working in the field who want to improve their understanding and skills.
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