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Discussing Your Client’s New Year Resolutions
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Modeling Self-Love and Self-Compassion


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My blog for health care providers using MI about the process of change!

Discussing Your Client’s New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year!!! I hope you had a restorative holiday season!
In the December 2016 blog on self-compassion, I shared a few tips for self-care during the holiday season. As you gear up for a new year, my hope is that you maintain your focus on self-care. The body and mind are our best instruments when we enter into our work with our clients.
You might notice some clients return from the holiday season with “New Year Resolutions”. These clients are “ready to change” some behaviors or attitudes they’ve been ambivalent about changing for some time. 

As providers, we LOVE to see clients take action in changing their lives. We are also sometimes too quick to move on to planning to help clients achieve their goals. 

When we move too quickly into the planning stage, this is ripe ground for clients to argue against change (sustain talk), as talk about planning might leave clients feeling pressured into change.
Here are 3 tips to consider when taking time to increase client motivation to change and readiness for the planning stage:
1.    Strengthen change talk first! Remember DARN CAT? If not, here’s a friendly reminder:
Preparatory Change Talk
a.    Desire: A wanting, wishing or willing to change. Does not express reasons to change, just a general level of desire.
b.    Ability: Personal perception of the ability to change.
c.     Reasons: Specifies a particular rationale or justification to change.
d.    Need: An urgency or perceived importance to change.
Mobilizing Change Talk
e.    Commitment: Intention toward change.
f.     Action: Action moving toward change.
g.    Taking Steps Toward Change: Change made in the recent past

We must hear sufficient change talk before moving on to the Planning stage of MI.
Herd your CATS! These are, Commitment, Action, and Taking Steps to Change. The Mobilizing change talk is the stronger type of change talk, which has been shown to predict change in studies.
2.   Action and Taking Steps to Change are not the only markers for change. 

Your client’s Preparatory change talk also suggests that he/she is at least thinking about change even though he/she may not be ready to change! 

Capture that change talk in reflections or cultivate more change talk with other methods (i.e., open questions, rulers, discussion about values and goals). Use these moments as opportunities to bring the client closer to the idea of change, which will hopefully lead to a shift toward Mobilizing change talk. Even Preparatory change talk is a gold mine!
3.    Soften Sustain Talk. 

Finally, remember your client may STILL be ambivalent about change even while discussing the need to change or commitment to change. He or she may give some reasons not to change in the same conversation, it’s okay. 

Ambivalence is totally normal. The goal is to soften sustain talk and strengthen change talk. It is not necessary to eliminate sustain talk for people to change and stick to that change over time.
What are some other strategies you have used cultivate your clients' change talk when it comes to New Year Resolutions? Suggestions are welcome!

5 Comments to Discussing Your Client’s New Year Resolutions:

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Online essay on Friday, January 27, 2017 12:34 AM
Thank you so much for sharing this blog with us. It provides a collection of useful information. You obviously put a lot of effort into it.
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Angela on Friday, January 27, 2017 10:22 AM
Thanks so much for the feedback! I'm glad you found this post to be helpful :)

card captions on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 2:43 PM
new year happiness
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wilson on Saturday, March 03, 2018 2:45 AM
What are some other strategies you have used cultivate your clients' change talk when it comes to New Year Resolutions? Suggestions are welcome!
Reply to comment
Angela on Saturday, March 03, 2018 9:39 AM
Great question! I'd be curious to hear what has worked for you in the past as well, however here are a few thoughts... I typically listen out for "desire" change talk, as developing a list of resolutions seems to be grounded in the desire to live in a different kind of way. So, I make attempts to strategically reflect this desire. I certainly explore perceived ability with open questions and reflections, and use OARS to strategically boost confidence (if that is an issue for the client). I affirm any attempts toward change and work to increase any commitment to planning. Finally, I refer to the "reset button" if people are feeling frustrated with or stuck in ambivalence. Maybe they're looking toward an old resolution that they haven't been successful in maintaining over time. I say, "press the reset button" to encourage them to give the change another try :)

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