Tip #117 The Evoking Process

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.

The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal.
The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.

Benjamin Mays

Seek the wisdom of the ages,
but look at the world through the eyes of a child.

Ron Wild

We have a lot to give our clients. We form a professional assessment of their diet. We can provide information about the role of food in their health and advice on the changes that will most likely lead to improved health. In motivational interviewing, there is very little giving. Instead the emphasis is on evoking what is inside client that will allow and encourage them toward positive changes. (For providing advice in a motivational interviewing style, see Tip #59.)

The most valuable things we can evoke are motivations:

  • Dreams: “I want to go to college.”
  • Values: “I see myself as someone who follows through with what I start.”
  • Personal goals: “I have always wanted to run a marathon.”

And resources:

  • Strengths: “I have friends who will support me.”
  • Ideas: “I could make some extra meals over the weekend.”
  • Information: “I know how to count my carb portions.”

Various skills are used in evoking. The most obvious one is open-ended questioning. This style of questioning is designed to evoke motivation and resources rather than just gather data. (See Tips #60 and #108 for examples.) We don’t evoke anything that is not already there. Effective evoking includes staying open to whatever is true for the client. It can be tempting to ask leading questions in an attempt to “evoke” an answer we want. For example, “Won’t you have more energy if you begin going to the gym?” This may evoke resistance.

Reflections can also be evocative. For example, when we reflect back briefly a client’s values, this may elicit more motivations. Reflecting the change talk we hear (Tip #69) will evoke more of it.

Summaries often evoke useful responses. For example, a simple summary of what the client has said she most wants and what she is capable of doing may evoke a commitment for action.

Evocation is an essential element of the motivational interviewing spirit as well as a key process throughout the conversation. At times, the evoking process comes to the foreground. Some evoking may occur very early in a session. For example, the counselor uses open-ended questions to evoke what brought the client in and concerns about his health. This initial evoking will aid in focusing on a specific change to discuss further. After a focus has been agreed to, evocation centers on change talk (Tip #110). For clients who are ready, the planning process will emerge naturally. During the planning process, evocation will be directed toward what will increase confidence to make the change.

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  1. […] For ideas on how to shift into evocation, see Tip #117. […]