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Action Reflections: A Client-Centered Technique to Bridge the WHY–HOW Transition in Motivational Interviewing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2012

Ken Resnicow*
Affiliation:
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
Fiona McMaster
Affiliation:
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
Stephen Rollnick
Affiliation:
Cardiff University, UK
*
Reprint requests to Ken Resnicow, University of Michigan, School of Public Health, 109 Observatory Street, Room 3867 SPH I, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA. E-mail: kresnic@umich.edu

Abstract

Background: When using Motivational Interviewing (MI), once resistance or ambivalence are resolved and motivation is solidified, many practitioners struggle with how best to transition the discussion toward action planning, while still retaining the spirit and style of client centeredness, i.e., moving from the WHY phase to the HOW phase of counseling in a style that is MI-consistent. For many, there is a perception that the counseling style, skills, and strategies used to build motivation are distinct from those used in the action planning phase. The WHY to HOW transition does not, however, necessitate abandoning a client-centered style for a more overtly educational or directive style. Goal setting, action planning, provision of advice, and relapse prevention can be implemented from an autonomy supportive, MI consistent framework. Method: To this end, this article will present a new class of reflection, which we have termed “action reflections”, that can be used to help bridge the WHY-HOW gap. Action reflections (AR) allow the clinician to maintain a tone and orientation that are consistent with MI, i.e. autonomy support; guiding versus directing, during the action phase of counseling. They differ from reflecting change talk as they focus not on the WHY of change, but the HOW, WHEN, or WHERE. Action Reflections (ARs) also differ from the more common type of reflections such as those that focus on client feelings, rolling with resistance, or acknowledging ambivalence as ARs usually contain a potential concrete step that the client has directly or obliquely mentioned. Like any type of reflection, ARs represent the clinician's best guess for what the client has said or, more apropos here, where the conversation might be heading. Conclusion: This article describes the various types of ARs and provides examples of each to help clinicians incorporate them into their behavior change counseling.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 2012

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