The guts of it

December 2009


Influencing behaviour change in general practice

Part 2 – motivational interviewing approaches

Volume 38, No.12, December 2009 Pages 986-989

Moira G Sim

Toni Wain

Eric Khong


Behaviour change toward achieving a healthy lifestyle is important for all Australians, and general practitioners have a key role to play in assisting patients to make these changes.


This is the second of two articles on influencing behaviour change in general practice. This article deals with the ‘how to’ of motivational interviewing in the general practice setting.


Motivational interviewing can help build motivation, commitment and confidence to change. General practitioners can use motivational interviewing to help their patients achieve their health goals. Motivational interviewing is not about a set of techniques and questions; it is about creating a climate that facilitates change; it is more about listening than telling, evoking rather than instilling. Motivational interviewing can be done in the brief periods available in consultations over time.

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a collaborative person centred guidance strategy to elicit and strengthen motivation to change.1 It evolved from Carl Roger’s client centred counselling approach which focuses on the person’s interests and concerns, but differs by being consciously directive toward resolving ambivalence and moving toward change.2 The goal is to increase intrinsic motivation rather than to impose it externally.3 It was initially developed from work with problem drinkers, where in comparison with confrontational directive styles, motivational reflective styles were associated with lower levels of resistance and a higher likelihood of long term change.4

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