Tips not found here are in the Practice Workbooks.
You can search topics by searching the site or here is an alphabetical listing of tips. Tips list-Alpha
- You gave the wrong information to a client.
- You double-booked or missed an appointment.
- After a session, you realize that you missed an important piece of education.
- There was a misunderstanding about appointment time, length, fee, expectations or your policies.
- Confidentiality was breached.
- You get feedback that you inadvertently hurt a client’s feelings or offended him.
- Elicit what the client already knows and/or needs from you.
- Provide the information in a neutral manner.
- Elicit the client’s response to the information.
- “What should I do when family members or friends ask for nutrition advice?”
- “I want to start a practice and figure I’ll start by counseling friends.”
- “My cousin eats too much. How can I talk with her about it?”
- a state in which you want to learn more about something
- an emotion related to inquisitive behavior
- the tendency to ask questions, investigate or explore
- the desire to know what is happening or has happened
(This is a revision of Tip #83, first published in 2009)
Nobody’s perfect. We have all goofed at times and regretted something that cannot be taken back. Some examples:
We often hear very critical self-talk from our clients: “I am so stupid.” “I’m a pig.” “I’m lazy,” “I was bad this week,” “I hate that I ate that ice cream,” or “I should have stopped at one serving.” It’s tempting to argue with the person: “Don’t be so hard on yourself” or “Making that choice doesn’t mean you are stupid.” This tends to strengthen the client’s critic.”Read
Wanting to change a behavior generally begins with disliking or even hating the behavior. This often gets mixed up with hating ourselves. Ironically, hating ourselves does not support the process of change. It has the opposite effect and keeps us stuck. Compassion for ourselves is the first step to real change. Unfortunately, self-hate is common among our clients, and just telling them not to hate themselves gets nowhere. Another option is to turn toward a troublesome behavior with acceptance. People often resist acceptance because they see this as saying they like or even condone what is happening. In this Tip, we look at acceptance as a step toward real change.”Read
When health professionals take on the process of motivational interviewing, we enjoy the client-centered paradigm. As we use the skills within the spirit of MI, the client takes a more active role, and therefore change is more likely. We also discover that it allows us to work less hard, the sessions go more smoothly, and we feel more successful. Then there are the moments when things seem to be going well, and a client says, “Just tell me what to do. You are the expert.” If you have fully taken on the spirit of MI, this can be disappointing and even upsetting. This is one of the most common concerns that comes up in my training workshops.”Read
Sustain talk is anything the client says about not making the change you are talking about. This might be, “I can’t do that.” Or “I don’t want to join a gym.” Or “but that won’t work.””Read
We all have good and bad days. Think of those days when you feel alert and focused, confident in your ability to help your clients, calm and ready for whatever comes in that day. Then there are the days you wonder how they let you do this work, days you have trouble concentrating or you find the clients annoying. What’s up and how can you increase the “good” days?”Read
A successful nutrition counseling session flows naturally through stages. In motivational interviewing, these are called the four processes. They are somewhat linear. A skillful counselor will circle back and move forward as needed. This deliberate shifting from one process to another is one of our most important functions as a counselor.”Read
Reflections are the most effective of all the strategies in conversations about change. Here, we explore how to make reflections more powerful by making them more complex.
What does this do?”Read
At a recent training, I was asked for examples of characteristics to affirm. The trainee was having trouble noticing strengths in her clients and wanted some ideas to get her started. I’ve included a list below.”Read
I am often asked, “What should I do when a client sets a goal and I know it’s unrealistic?”
The client is the only one who knows for sure whether it’s realistic. Your experience with other clients may tell you that it is unlikely he will follow through. If you get that intuition, you could ask to explore this goal a bit.”Read
If you have been a nutrition counselor for a while, this situation will be familiar to you. The client has an insight or comes up with an idea about how to handle something that is obvious or old hat to you. For example, a client shares a revelation that she could plan out her menus over the weekend to support her making healthier choices. She is pleased with her brilliant plan. You have heard this idea many times and often suggest it to your clients.”Read
How often have you heard, “He’s a control freak” or “I don’t have a choice”? These are common statements that show how important control and choice are in our lives. We humans do like control. When we have a degree of control over our environment, we are safer and we are more apt to get our needs met. So, of course, we prefer this. We naturally dig in our heels and resist when we sense that our control is being taken away or when we have few, if any, choices. Looked at this way, resistant behaviors can be seen as survival reactions.”Read
One of the core Motivational Interviewing values is supporting the client’s autonomy. In addition, our job is to direct the session toward changes that will serve the client’s best interest. How do we find the ideal balance between accurately following the client and directing the session? The answer is to strategically listen, reflect, summarize and ask.”Read
It’s not easy for most of us to sit with silence. Like “dead air” on the radio, it just doesn’t seem right. It may seem as if nothing is happening and time is wasted. When someone is considering or planning the process of change, silence is essential. It allows space for the internal work necessary for real shifts in attitudes and behaviors.”Read
In a recent email, a dietitian asked me what to do when a return client says he is doing everything he is supposed to do and yet a careful assessment shows he is hardly following any of the recommendations. The client actually seems to believe that he is doing just what he is supposed to do. The dietitian wrote, “I feel there is a disconnect somewhere.” There is indeed a disconnect. Your job is to help the person see it and to support a move toward change.”Read
I am often asked about interrupting clients, whether to do it and how. This is a complex issue that does not lend itself to easy answers. Personal style (yours and the client’s,) cultural differences, the setting, and even your mood will affect this process. Here are some general guidelines to think about.”Read
A recent listserv post was intriguing. The writer wondered if she should have asked a widower how his wife died. She thought he might be offended if she did not ask. She also felt that knowing might give her some insight into what’s happening with him. I gave her my simple take: “Ask yourself: Is this critical to helping him with his nutrition goals? If yes, go ahead and ask. If not, contain your curiosity and move on.” After I clicked “send,” I realized that this is a complex issue.”Read
What sort of person are you while you are working with a client? What characteristics are most present? What part of you is running the show? If you are like most of us, it will shift from time to time.”Read
Evocation is both one of the four MI processes and an essential spirit element. It is evidenced by the clinician working to evoke the client’s reasons for change and ideas about why to change and how to do it. There is much more calling forth reasons and ideas from the client than offering of suggestions by the clinician.”Read
Compassion here is not a feeling on your part. You may feel sympathy and kindness toward your client. This is not compassion. This MI spirit element is evident in your actions. You are guided by the needs of the client. You commit to work for the well-being of this person.”Read
The element of the MI spirit called affirmation consists of the overall view we take of the client. We search for what is right rather than what is wrong. We notice efforts being made, even if small. This encourages more small steps that lead to real changes. When we tune in to strengths this person has, we support her and her confidence on this journey toward health.”Read
Fully accepting the autonomy of our clients is an essential element of the spirit of Motivational Interviewing. The client is the boss of herself and her family. The ultimate choices are hers. It is not your job to force her to do anything. You are there to support the client as she considers making lifestyle changes. When you attempt to force someone to do something whether in language or coercion, it doesn’t work and even backfires. The natural desire to assert freedom causes the person to react in ways that we see as resistance.”Read
In this element of the MI spirit, the clinician strives to understand the client’s point of view as accurately as possible before asking the client to consider change or offering anything.”Read
In this aspect of the Motivational Interviewing spirit, the clinician conveys a belief in the inherent worth of the person. This one can be a challenge, especially if you work with clients from a large variety of backgrounds. It is easier to value the worth of someone who is similar to you. Unfortunately our minds tend to undervalue characteristics that seem different to us. It can take extra effort with some clients to hold a belief in their innate worth.”Read
The first element of the Motivational Interviewing spirit is partnership. The session feels like a collaboration from beginning to end. You and the client are a team working together to address the client’s problems. There is power sharing rather than an expert/client imbalance of power. The client’s expertise on his life is accepted and evoked at least as much as the clinician offers advice.”Read
One of the aspects of Motivational Interviewing that makes it so powerful is the spirit. MI is not just the techniques such as open questions and reflecting. The spirit, or feel of it, is just as essential. Listening to or watching an MI session, you sense this spirit. The client does, too. I often hear something from those who have attended my trainings. After they return to practice, an ongoing client will say something like, “Oh, I liked that. This was a good session!” This is the result of the MI spirit shining through.”Read
First find out how the client uses technology. It can be tempting to suggest the latest app or a technology that works well for you. Instead offer to use it in ways that fit for this person and support her journey to health and a healthy relationship with food. Here are some examples.
Affirming is one of the fundamental Motivational Interviewing skills. It supports engagement, encourages the client to further explore the change process and builds confidence. To form an affirmation, find an effort the client is making or a strength you notice and reflect it back to him. It’s often that simple. Tip #63 (in Practice Workbook, Vol 3) has more basics on affirming and some examples. In this Tip, we look at ways to craft affirmations to make them most powerful.
As nutrition professionals we are trained to assess our clients’ nutritional status and determine the best treatment for the nutrition problems we find. This means focusing on what’s wrong. We understandably use our corrective lens. This is appropriate and useful in our role on the medical team.
When we move into an outpatient setting in a clinic or private practice, the medical model is not enough. In these settings we encounter people with their complex experiences, beliefs and desires about health and food. In order for them (and us) to reach our goals, behavior change needs to happen. We, of course, want to change the client’s behavior. When we act on this wanting to change someone’s behavior, it is called the righting reflex. Wanting to change someone’s behavior is normal. How we proceed will affect whether change happens.”Read
Making profound change is not easy. We know that obstacles to making healthy changes will arise. It is natural for us to focus on these obstacles. We want to help our clients and see ourselves as problem-solvers, so we look for the problems. The client may focus on them, too. Anticipating and addressing them are essential; when and how we do it matters.”Read
What we do and say at the beginning of a session matters. We set the tone. Embodying the spirit of Motivational Interviewing from the very beginning makes the rest of the session smoother.”Read
I’ve written many Tips on giving advice. As nutrition counselors that is an important part of our job. To summarize:
Motivational Interviewing offers us this format for most effectively couching our education:
When we provide advice to our clients, we make sure it is based on solid scientific evidence. What about how we deliver the advice? Is there evidence that can direct us here? Indeed, careful Motivational Interviewing research on specific wording does tell us what works and what doesn’t.”Read
Do you have a colleague who wants to practice counseling skills as much as you do? Great! Here are some ways you can help each other.”Read
We talk in nutrition counseling sessions and the client talks, too. What is an ideal relative amount of talking for each of us? First let’s look at the various reasons you may talk.”Read
Motivational interviewing is a carefully researched model for change conversations. One of the parameters measured is the counselor’s ratio of reflections to questions.”Read
As counselors, we strive for accurate empathy. We listen carefully and reflect back what we hear that seems important.”Read
Making real, lifestyle change is tough and usually involves many steps and setbacks. To make the permanent changes we recommend takes persistence on our client’s part and ours.”Read
We all encounter clients who tell us that if they change their body (lose weight), it will change their life for the better and a focus on weight loss alone is all they wish from us.”Read
Here we look at how the four processes of MI (Tip # 114) support a nutrition counseling session based on the HAES® paradigm.”Read
This Tip continues to explore the Health At Every Size ® paradigm and how it fits with motivational interviewing.”Read
The Health At Every Size (HAES ®) approach to health and weight has been around for several decades. It also has been called the non-diet movement and size acceptance.”Read
Many of us went into the field of nutrition because we want to help people. In our training, we learned about the impact of food intake on medical issues so as to make people’s lives better.”Read
A few weeks ago in the middle of an initial session, I realized that my attention was on the problems with how the client was eating and the way she was thinking about her body and food.”Read
We are in the business of helping people make positive health changes. Reluctance to make these changes will inevitably arise. Let’s pick apart what we often call resistance to understand it better.”Read
In some nutrition counseling settings, clients have not chosen to meet with you. They have been told to or even coerced.”Read
The specific skills we employ in our sessions allow us to effectively guide our clients toward positive health behavior changes. Most of these Tips are devoted to strategies and skills.”Read
If you have chosen to transition your counseling style toward motivational interviewing, you may find that note-taking feels as if it detracts from being present with your client.”Read
Brief Action Planning (BAP), developed by Steven Cole and others, is a communication format based on motivational interviewing and designed for health care settings.”Read
As nutrition counselors, our goal is to help people attain better health through diet changes. We do this by engaging, focusing, evoking and planning.”Read
Webster’s dictionary defines resentment as “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” It is very uncomfortable and yet can be useful if we attend to it.”Read
In the last three Tips, we have looked at important processes that occur in all motivational interviews. The first three processes – engaging, focusing and evoking – are always present in true MI sessions.”Read
Tip #114 introduced the four processes that are now used in the collaborative conversation called motivational interviewing: engaging, focusing, evoking and planning. Here we take a closer look at the evoking process.”Read
Change counseling is most efficient and most effective when a clear focus is agreed upon.”Read
In the last Tip, I introduced the new four processes used in the collaborative conversation called motivational interviewing: engaging, focusing, evoking and planning.”Read
For two decades, motivational interviewing has been an exciting approach to behavior change counseling.”Read
I am often asked, “How do you keep a client motivated?” This is a key concern in health behavior counseling, especially when the change needed is long term, such as in weight management or diabetes.”Read
Resistance to change comes up in our work often and clients who exhibit resistance are less likely to change. Resistance is what happens when we expect or push for change when the client is not ready for that change.”Read
What we do and say in the first moments of an initial session have a profound impact on the whole treatment.”Read
Clients tell us where they are in the process of change. In Tip #69 we looked at change talk, the specific client language we hear when a client is moving toward change. We support the change process by reflecting change talk and by skillfully eliciting more. Just as change talk can be usefully categorized, its opposite, sustain talk, can, too.
I am frequently asked for guidance on structuring client sessions. Do you just ask what the client is interested in talking about and then go with the flow? Or do you follow a careful structure to make sure you cover everything?”Read
Being overwhelmed is a familiar feeling for most of us. You feel it when there is a lot to do in limited time.”Read
We all need at times to refer a client to a colleague or to an additional health professional.”Read
Guilt and shame often arise in nutrition counseling, so it’s useful to understand these feelings.”Read
Communication is never perfect. We guess our client’s meaning all the time, and this is normal in human interaction.”Read
Over and over I hear:
You are ending a session, and the client asks “just one more question.” It may be an important question that deserves a thoughtful response.”Read