# 155 Spirit of MI: Partnership

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.

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.
Albert Camus

Definition of Burnout:
Trying to change someone else’s life
and being attached to the results.

Partnership is slipping if:

  • The communication is mostly one way. You are in the expert role most of the time.
  • You are talking at least as much as the client or more.
  • You offer your knowledge more than asking the client for hers.
  • You notice yourself jumping ahead to the next change you believe the client should work toward.
  • The client is passive.
  • You find yourself arguing with or trying to persuade the client.

To foster partnership:

  • Bring up your curiosity about the client’s goals, values and ideas.
  • Notice and reflect what matters to the client. Use the client’s own choice of words even if you are not accustomed to using those words.
  • Ask the client what he needs from you.
  • When the client offers ideas, reflect or affirm them. Incorporate these ideas in your summaries.
  • Encourage client input with open questions and affirm what input you hear. When the client is actively involved in problem solving, change is more likely.
  • Notice the moments when the client is actively engaged in problem solving. What are you doing to encourage this? Do more of it.
  • If the partnership keeps slipping, mention that you hope to work as a team. Ask what needs to shift for this happen. Perhaps explicitly state that the client is the expert on her life.

Partnership is a crucial element of a session’s effectiveness. It also makes for a more enjoyable time for both of you and leaves you with energy for your next client.


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