Quick Tip for Motivational Interviewing

APNA News: The Psychiatric Nursing Voice  |  March 2019 Members' Corner Edition

Content expert CCarol Essenmacher, DNP, NCTTParol Essenmacher, DNP, NCTTP explains the "spirit of motivational interviewing" to build rapport and support patient engagement. Below, see Carol's quick tip for embracing the spirit of motivational interviewing (MI):

Using Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a skill that can net nurses substantial rewards! What is referred to as “the spirit of MI” aligns well with the practice of nursing. The spirit of MI is all about “coming alongside,” really listening to someone, and showing that you truly heard what they are saying, which gives nurses a means of quickly building rapport. It can help you convey to a patient that you understand what they are feeling – and it does not convey agreement with status quo behavior.

Open the Door for Communication

For example, someone going through a messy divorce, being financially vulnerable, and at risk to have limited contact with their children may engage in substance abuse as a coping skill. Using the spirit of MI may be in a statement such as, “This divorce and all the fallout has you really stressed out. One of the ways you’ve been coping is to drink, maybe more than recommended. I think of things like alcohol as 'tools in a toolbox'. I wonder if this is a tool that will ultimately make things better for you, or make things even more complicated and stressful for you. What do you think about that?” This opens the door for the patient to verbalize that they recognize that this may not be an effective tool – and they may even be willing to admit that the drinking was one of the things that led to the divorce.

Nurses can reap great feedback and build rapport by listening closely to patients. In this case, the patient sounds stressed out. When you use that emotion in your communication, it conveys that you really heard the patient, understand how they are feeling, and are not passing judgment.  And provides a platform for them to start evaluating their own coping skills.


Want to learn more about motivational interviewing? Check out these articles in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association for other ways to embrace the spirit of MI.

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