Motivational Interviewing is a collaborative, goal-oriented style of communication with a particular focus on change. It is designed to strengthen personal motivation for and commitment to a specific goal by eliciting and exploring person’s own reasons and incentives for change within an atmosphere of warmth and empathy.
Focusing on the management of children and their families with obesogenic behaviors, even if there is the intention to change daily lifestyle habits towards a positive direction, this is not always translated to sustainable changes or at least to changes of high duration.
Behavioral changes and actions like “following a healthy diet”, “increase physical activity” or “regular self-monitoring” may seem simple enough to comply with. However, health professionals working with such families can often find themselves thinking “if only they would just……”, “take more exercise”, “stop worrying” or simply “just LISTEN”.
What the health professional has to understand is that there is a gap between what people “know” and what they “actually do”. The process that maintains the gap between knowledge and behavior is ambivalence. Individuals have to deal with conflicting motivations and pressures. In most cases, the change seems too big, the rewards too distant, the personal or financial costs too high or maybe it was never their idea to change in the first place.
Motivational Interviewing is a directive person-centered approach designed to explore ambivalence and activate motivation for change.
A key component of a motivational interviewing conversation is to acknowledge that individuals have every right to make no change. It uses a guiding communication style which invites people to consider their own situation and find their own solutions to situations that they identify as problematic and prevent them from change.
Hence, a health professional that talks with a child or his parent has to elicit their actual view on the problematic condition so as to make them understand the situation and to set specific goals.
The highlight here is that motivational interviewing is a collaborative approach.
The health professional uses his knowledge and communication skills to guide the process, connecting what they know about obesity with the goals of the child and his family to facilitate positive change but always with respect to individual’s autonomy as well as being ready for any resistance.