What We Say MATTERS: The Working Alliance

Part of any successful relationship, personal or business is the working alliance.

Is there a true partnership? How is the collaboration?

Through learning and teaching Motivational Interviewing I realize the working alliance is not only important, but also vitally essential.

How do your words “land” on your clients? Are their eyes shining? How is your language being received?

How is your engagement from the moment you meet your client’s eyes? Do you thank them for coming to their visit?

When a client shows up for their appointment there is some level of motivation for their health. Valuing them coming and acknowledging they are spending their time to come to the appointment affirms what they are doing well, a step towards building their self-efficacy.

After engagement, what is the focus of your conversation? Is it your agenda or the client’s agenda? What is important to them? Having a premature focus will not bode well on the alliance so spending some time on the reason they are actually in front of you will go a long way towards “change talk” in which the client is arguing for change rather than the practitioner.

Finally, are you spending too much time on the problem for which they came in or focusing on the dream or vision of what they would like to accomplish?

  • “When you have had a good day of eating what was different?”
  • “On the days you drank less alcohol what helped with that?”

Having them go inside themselves and realize what makes them successful with behavior change and then reflecting that back to them makes a double reflection. The client saying it out loud and then you reflecting it out loud reinforces to the brain what makes them successful.

They will leave feeling valued, heard, and having their brain start to think about what they really want to do with their life. Emphasizing autonomy is important to a client making choices and feeling control over their life decisions.

Keeping the working alliance healthy not only makes your client happy and motivated towards change but will also go a long way towards self-satisfaction with one’s work with making a difference in the world towards health, well-being and behavior change.