New Registered Dietitian Experiences Motivational Interviewing

IMG_2945Looking back on these past 6 weeks, there are so many new things I have learned from Susan and about myself. A highlight of my internship was finding out about motivational interviewing (MI) through the trainings I attended.

Motivational interviewing is a language to help resolve ambivalence with behavior change. What is remarkable about this language is that any profession can benefit from it. It is a language that gives you the tools to evoke change from within a client for what works for their individual lifestyle.

Although I had a counseling class that incorporated MI in my undergraduate program at Syracuse University, I had no idea about the “spirit” of MI. The spirit encompasses collaboration, partnership, compassion and evoking from the client what is important to them versus the clinician.

Research shows when you continue to talk about the problem with a client, you actually reinforce it. When using MI, you acknowledge the problem, but reflect the dream of what the client truly wants that allows a vision for the future.

My “aha” moment was during an advanced MI training that I attended the first week I started interning. We did an activity in pairs where I was the counselor and my partner (who was both a doctor and dietitian) was the client. She was ambivalent about taking more Spanish classes to help communicate with her Spanish-speaking families.

On the one hand she wanted to learn more Spanish but on the other hand she didn’t want to invest the time. By just listening and using MI reflections of what was important to her, she solved her own problem. She came up with the solution of learning Spanish with her daughter, a win-win for advancing her language skills while spending quality time with her family.

The moment I saw her face light up after our conversation, it affirmed my commitment of learning MI. A light switch also went off in my head, and I knew this was the language I would be using in my future career as a dietitian.

If you are genuinely 100% present with your client, and just listen, this is the simple part of MI. You don’t need to have an agenda, try to “fix” someone’s problem but rather have presence and curiosity for what makes them successful. This way of being takes the pressure off the clinician.

The best gift you can give to someone is just to listen to him or her as if you had nothing else to do at that moment. Although I am becoming a Registered Dietitian, I realize that knowledge means nothing without the MI spirit of listening, collaboration and partnership.

This blog was co-written by RD intern Elizabeth Wluka and Susan Dopart