Motivational Interviewing: Easy methods to use it in teaching

All of us have an interior belligerent teenager who resists, rebels, and feels misunderstood.

When you’re a coach, you is likely to be accustomed to situations the place a consumer’s inner-teen surfaced.

Perhaps it was when a consumer…

… skilled even tougher regardless of you cautioning them to take time to recuperate.

… complained of heartburn, however if you prompt an acid-taming meal plan, they responded by happening a three-night spicy wings bender.

mentioned they wished to get higher sleep, however gave you 100 the explanation why they couldn’t put their cellphone away earlier than 1 am.

Earlier than you think about using reverse psychology (“By no means stretch, and drink eight ounces of Sriracha earlier than mattress each evening…”), what if we informed you there’s a framework that may dissolve these sorts of teaching tensions?

One that may show you how to perceive:

  • Why shoppers’ actions generally contradict their intentions
  • Why individuals usually insurgent in opposition to good recommendation 
  • Easy methods to assist shoppers make clear the modifications they’re truly prepared to make, and discuss themselves into motion 
  • Easy methods to collaborate higher with shoppers, getting them higher outcomes and making your job simpler and extra fulfilling

This framework exists!

It’s referred to as Motivational Interviewing—and when you get it, your consumer outcomes might be mind-blowing.

What’s Motivational Interviewing?

Developed by medical psychologists William Miller, PhD, and Stephen Rollnick, PhD, Motivational Interviewing is a communication type that helps individuals:

✅ Discover objectives

✅ Strengthen their very own motivation and dedication

✅ Undertake new habits

✅ Give up unproductive habits

✅ Efficiently change for the higher

Motivational Interviewing: Advantages for the coach

Coaches who use Motivational Interviewing perform sort of like tour guides for somebody exploring a brand new nation.

(On this case, that nation is the Land of Health and Vitamin.)

Like a private tour information, you have got experience, insider’s information, and concepts on the very best issues to do, however you don’t have a programmed route that you just’ll power shoppers to stay to.

You would possibly share a few of your insights, however finally, your shoppers will resolve the place to go.

A superb Motivational Interviewing coach can even be genuinely curious, respectful, and non-judgemental a few consumer’s preferences.

(“Oh, you’d relatively spend the day picnicking on the Seine as an alternative of visiting the Eiffel Tower? I completely get that.”)

You respect your consumer’s autonomy, and work together with them as an equal accomplice.

You usually say, “What would you love to do subsequent? I’ve some concepts, however I’d love to listen to what you’re considering first.”

Because of this, even once they’re in overseas territory, shoppers find yourself feeling supported, but in addition free.

Motivational Interviewing: Advantages for the consumer

Motivational Interviewing works particularly properly when an individual is:

  • Extremely ambivalent, caught between wanting to alter, and wanting to remain the identical (“I need to go to mattress earlier, however I don’t wish to hand over my free time at evening.”)
  • Not very assured about their capacity to alter (“I’ve by no means been athletic. I simply don’t know if I’m the exercising ‘sort.’”)
  • Unsure about whether or not they even need to make a change (“Do I actually wish to eat extra kale? Sounds gross.”)
  • Not satisfied about the advantages of change (“Will meditating actually decrease my blood strain?”)

Uhh.. that’s most shoppers, isn’t it?


How Motivational Interviewing works

The principle goal of Motivational Interviewing is to resolve ambivalence, or “stuckness” in a consumer.

That is achieved by means of empathy, rapport-building, and freedom to discover change choices—together with not altering in any respect.

Wait—not altering?!

When most coaches and practitioners hear this, they bristle. They really feel it’s their job to assist shoppers change and enhance.

If a consumer isn’t progressing, many coaches will (naturally, understandably) strive tougher—convincing, encouraging, even lecturing a consumer about all the nice, life-affirming causes to alter.


“Serving to tougher” often doesn’t work.

Positive, just a few unicorn shoppers simply want extra prodding to make progress.

However many consumers don’t reply to plain encouragement, rationalizing, and problem-solving. The tougher you attempt to assist them, the tougher they push again, persevering with their outdated habits.

Take this frequent teaching situation:

A consumer involves you as a result of they wish to eat more healthy.

A former athlete, their weight has crept up as a result of they changed a busy coaching schedule with a desk job, and plenty of snacking.

Their garments now not match, and their physician has warned them that they’re at excessive danger of growing prediabetes. They’ve two younger children, and their motivation is excessive to set instance for them and be a wholesome guardian.

You’ve taught them about parts, protein, greens—all of the diet fundamentals.

And but, just a few classes in, they haven’t modified a factor.

In fact, you ask them what’s up.

Shopper: I sit all day however really feel so drained after work. I don’t have the power to train; all I wish to do after I get house is watch sport highlights with a beer and a few chips.

Coach: Okay, I can perceive that. However your physician informed you it was essential to begin exercising, and keep on with a greater weight-reduction plan. She’s nervous about your blood sugar, proper?

Shopper: Yeah, I do know. I simply really feel like work is so loopy proper now, and I actually need time to decompress after work. It’s all I’ve earlier than the youngsters get residence, after which the home is nuts till they go to mattress.

Coach: Hmm, properly possibly you may simply put a stationary bike in entrance of the TV and have seltzer as an alternative of beer?

Shopper: However that doesn’t really feel stress-free to me. What I’m saying is that I actually need a while when nobody wants me to do something, and I can simply deal with myself. I by no means get to do this.

Coach: I get that. However you mentioned that long run, you wish to be wholesome in your children. And one of the simplest ways to do this is to take higher care of your self now.

Are you able to see the place that is going?

The coach is making an attempt to assist by suggesting options, and reminding the consumer of the significance of their selections.

The coach has a honest want to right course once they see the consumer getting off monitor. (In Motivational Interviewing, that is referred to as “the righting reflex.”)

Paradoxically, this causes the consumer to take the opposing place, to defend themself. 

Sadly, the coach finally ends up feeling pissed off as a result of they don’t really feel like they’re doing job serving to. (Which is what they had been employed to do… proper?)

In the meantime, the consumer feels misunderstood, and additional invested in justifying their present habits.

You understand your consumer desires to undertake higher habits—they informed you in your first session collectively.

However additionally they appear pulled to take care of their present comforts.

So how do you get this consumer to alter? (With out making your self the enemy?)

Observe these 5 steps and expertise the magic of Motivational Interviewing.

Motivational Interviewing expertise: 5 steps to higher consumer conversations

When a consumer is 100% prepared, in a position, and prepared to take motion RIGHT NOW, you gained’t want a lot assist.

(Heck, you would possibly by no means meet a consumer like that. Why would they rent a coach?)

Motivational Interviewing is most wanted—and efficient—if you sense friction in your consumer classes. Your consumer is expressing uncertainty, not following by means of on their intentions, or straight up resisting what you provide.

When that occurs (and it’ll), comply with these steps.

Motivational Interviewing Ability #1: Acknowledge that ambivalence is regular

Ever make an enormous resolution?

Get married? Purchase a home? Change careers?

Do you keep in mind how a part of you felt excited for the change, however one other a part of you felt grief or anxiousness over the lack of your single life, your outdated (low cost) condo, or your unstimulating-but-regular-paycheck job?

It’s the identical manner when shoppers ponder way of life modifications.

A part of them desires to be the kind of one that eats salads day-after-day, and the opposite half nonetheless desires to have a carefree angle in direction of meals, and sure, add fries to that.

This inner battle between wanting to alter and wanting to remain the identical is known as ambivalence.

And it’s completely regular.

Most shoppers gained’t know the best way to title this rigidity both, they usually actually gained’t assume it’s regular. They’ll in all probability simply say: “I wish to do that factor. However I’m not doing it. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME??”

Ambivalence is such a standard a part of change that each coach and consumer ought to bake it into their expectations.

(To deliver consciousness to—and generally even resolve—ambivalence, this train might be magic: 4 Loopy Questions Worksheet)

Nonetheless, ambivalence can also be a spot the place individuals can get caught.

Normally, being caught means sustaining the “outdated” manner. Which means: Your consumer isn’t getting any more healthy.

To be able to assist a consumer transfer by means of these pure emotions of ambivalence, don’t push tougher.

As a substitute…

Motivational Interviewing Ability #2: Assess your consumer’s readiness for change

Change is never a single occasion: You’re a method, then you definitely’re instantly “modified.”

Change is a course of with a number of phases. And through a few of these phases, it gained’t “look” like something’s taking place.

The concept change is a multi-step course of with distinct phases is known as the Transtheoretical Mannequin of Change.

Image of transtheoretical model of change shows 6 stages of change, arranged in a cycle. Although people may enter or exit at any phase, typically people enter in the precontemplation phase, then move to contemplation, then preparation, then action, then potentially relapse, then ideally enter a maintenance phase.

Purchasers can enter or exit at any stage of the above mannequin.

Nonetheless, assessing the place your consumer is in that course of will help you coach them higher—an individual may have totally different wants relying on which section they’re in. It’ll additionally show you how to keep away from getting forward of them and inadvertently scaring them away from change.

The transtheoretical mannequin of change: 6 phases

Table describes the transtheoretical model of change, which has 6 stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, then potentially relapse.

Most packages and coaches assume shoppers are within the “motion” stage already.

For instance, giving a consumer a meal plan or a exercise program after your first session assumes they’re already within the motion stage. Which isn’t all the time true.

By understanding and making ready for varied phases of readiness, you’ll have the ability to join with—and assist—far more shoppers.

Motivational Interviewing Ability #3: Perceive your consumer’s motivations

No matter your consumer’s doing that’s holding them again from higher well being—staying up late, getting too wound up at work, or stress-eating costly cheese—they’ve purpose for doing it.  

To dig into that purpose, Motivational Interviewing coaches use OARS:

Open questions




OARS represents a set of communication expertise that construct understanding and belief between the consumer and the coach.

Let’s go into how (and when) to make use of these now.

Open Questions

Typically, an open query is one which prompts a consumer to assume, and yields greater than a “sure” or “no” reply.

Open questions offer you perception right into a consumer’s emotions, expertise, and expectations.


  • What brings you in right this moment?
  • How are your present habits affecting you proper now?
  • What do you hope for your self sooner or later?

Open questions are a good way to begin off a session, or to discover a sure matter at any level within the session.

Good open questions additionally assist the consumer notice why change issues, and the way it is likely to be doable.


Affirming means accentuating a consumer’s strengths, efforts, and previous successes as a method to construct hope and optimism.

Your affirmations will help shoppers see themselves otherwise: Maybe as somebody who’s clever and worthy of respect—and most significantly, somebody who’s able to change.

Affirming must be real; When you’re really listening and understanding your consumer’s aspect of the story, you will see their constructive facets, reminiscent of their resilience or their creativity, and it’ll really feel pure to name it out.

Affirmations sound like this:

  • Wow, you’ve labored actually laborious on this challenge! I actually admire your persistence.
  • It seems like regardless that issues didn’t end up as you deliberate, your intention was good.
  • I do know you’re upset that you just couldn’t follow your new behavior completely, however I see enormous progress from the place you began.

Affirmations can be utilized to construct momentum when a consumer is making progress, however they’re equally essential when a consumer is feeling defeated and will use some assist reframing themselves or their actions.


Purchasers don’t all the time talk completely: They attempt to describe an expertise and don’t all the time convey their full which means.

Positive, you may press them to be extra clear or elaborate additional, however that may make some shoppers simply really feel like they’re doing a foul job of speaking, or that you just simply don’t perceive.

Reflections are a manner of guessing at a consumer’s deeper which means.

They show you how to affirm you’ve understood what the consumer is actually saying, and likewise offers you the chance to construct on what the consumer is likely to be making an attempt to get at, by weaving in a few of your personal insights.

When accomplished correctly, reflecting will help a consumer really feel deeply cared for, understood, and likewise improve their very own understanding of themselves and their scenario.

Listed here are some examples of reflections:

Shopper: I really feel nervous.

Coach: You’re feeling uneasy, possibly since you’ve by no means talked about these items earlier than.

Shopper: I really feel like I failed.

Coach: You are feeling upset that you just slipped up this week, and this makes you surprise when you can actually change in the long term.

Shopper: I’m so blissful I went to the health club this week!

Coach: You’re blissful you went to the health club and also you should be feeling so pleased with your self! You’re getting a style for what’s doable!

Consider it or not, it truly doesn’t matter a lot when you sometimes get a consumer’s which means unsuitable. Simply take a guess, and your consumer will right you when you’re unsuitable.

Test it out:

Shopper: This meal plan sort of freaks me out!

Coach: All these macros and energy might be overwhelming!

Shopper: Oh, that’s not it in any respect. I’m fairly snug with macros. It’s simply that I’ve two daughters, and I’m nervous in regards to the message I’m sending them in the event that they see me weighing all my meals.

In correcting you, your consumer helps you perceive what they imply anyway.

Getting it unsuitable can really feel awkward, however it’s higher than staying quiet and assuming you perceive a consumer’s full which means once they say one thing.

(Be aware: The above are all examples of complicated reflections. If all that decoding sounds dangerous, then strive a easy reflection, the place you simply repeat or barely rephrase what a consumer mentioned. Though fundamental, even this technique will help a consumer really feel such as you’re listening, and provides them an opportunity to elaborate.)


Summarizing is simply stringing collectively reflections—and generally affirmations—primarily based on a number of issues a consumer has informed you.

Like reflections, summaries show you how to affirm whether or not you’ve heard and interpreted a narrative accurately.

Additionally they give shoppers an opportunity to mirror on the whole lot they’ve informed you to this point, and probably to see their story another way. Generally once we hear another person inform our story again to us, it offers us new insights.

Right here’s an instance:

“So, you got here right here right this moment since you’re nervous about your well being. You usually really feel sore and drained, and that worries you as a result of you have got younger children who want you to be wholesome for a very long time. You’ve had hassle sticking to diet packages prior to now, so that you don’t really feel tremendous assured that you are able to do it now. Nonetheless, you’ve additionally continued to care about your well being, and attempt to discover options, which reveals me how resilient you’re.”

On the finish of your abstract, you possibly can ask, “Did I miss something?” or “Do you wish to add the rest?”

Use summaries if you:

✅ Wrap up a sure matter

✅ Shift from one section of a consumer session to the following

✅ Attain the tip of a session

With the entire image freshly laid out, you and your consumer can higher provide you with essentially the most applicable subsequent steps.

Motivational Interviewing Ability #4: Roll with any resistance that comes up

Resistance occurs when the consumer seems to maneuver away from change, and in direction of sustaining their outdated habits.

Resistance would possibly sound like this:

“However I make all my meals at residence! I don’t perceive how my weight-reduction plan might be unhealthy!”


“I’m simply not a health club individual.”

Resistance isn’t in regards to the consumer being “tough.”

Resistance occurs when the consumer feels some (regular) ambivalence about change, and the coach has moved too far forward within the change course of.

It’s usually the coach who creates resistance. If a consumer’s pushing again, it means you’ve given them one thing to push in opposition to.

[Swallows jagged pill]

So if you expertise resistance, you would possibly ask your self:

“What did I say to generate push-back?”

Perhaps you—with completely good intentions—prompt the consumer change an excessive amount of too quick. They usually’re now feeling insecure, and overwhelmed.

This causes your consumer to dig of their heels, creating a sense of friction when you proceed to push ahead.

A simpler method to cope with resistance is to step again, remind your self that ambivalence and resistance are regular, after which use reflections to assist perceive and transfer by means of your consumer’s resistance.

Right here’s what that may sound like:

Shopper: “I don’t see why my weight-reduction plan’s such an enormous downside.”

Coach: “You are feeling such as you’re probably not seeing the good thing about altering your consuming habits.”

Shopper: “No. I imply, my physician appears to assume there’s an issue, however I don’t.”

Coach: “You’re probably not positive your physician is true about this.”

Shopper: “Effectively, I’m positive she is aware of one thing. She’s a physician in spite of everything. I simply don’t really feel like I’m sick or something.”

Coach: “Your physician would possibly know what they’re speaking about, you simply don’t really feel you’ve skilled any destructive penalties of your weight-reduction plan.”

Shopper: “Effectively, I suppose I get heartburn a good bit. And I don’t have the power I used to.”

Coach: “Your heartburn’s bothering you, and it will be nice to really feel extra energetic once more.”

Shopper: “Yeah. These issues bug me lots truly. Sigh. I suppose I do know if I eat higher, I’ll in all probability really feel higher.”

With out making an attempt to persuade them of your place, you’ve simply walked the consumer gently in direction of change.

Your consumer initially felt defensive and slightly oppositional, however with some good reflections, they felt understood and free to discover their choices.

Now, you’re in a significantly better place to ask the consumer in the event that they’re okay with you sharing some issues about how diet would possibly enhance their particular well being points.

And your consumer would possibly truly really feel able to pay attention.

Motivational Interviewing Ability #5: Assist your consumer’s ongoing capacity to alter

Many purchasers who come to you’ll have tried to alter on their very own—and even with the assistance of one other practitioner—with out success.

They may even be used to individuals telling them their habits are “unhealthy” and pushing them to alter.

In different phrases, many consumers will come to you stuffed with self-doubt, mistrustful of their very own instincts and knowledge.

This will negatively impression their long run progress.

Right here’s what we all know—from teaching over 100,000 shoppers—what does assist individuals make significant and sustainable progress.

Individuals are extra profitable when:

  • They discover their very own motivation to alter. Individuals are extra persuaded by what they themselves say than what another person tells them to do.
  • They see challenges as alternatives to get stronger, relatively than hand over. Affirmations that spotlight a consumer’s efforts (relatively than simply outcomes) can strengthen their perception of their capacity to be taught, develop, and adapt.
  • They’re self-compassionate. When a consumer works with a coach who accepts them as they’re, sees the very best in them, and believes of their potential, it’s transformative. Purchasers who internalize this compassion and constructive regard usually tend to undertake more healthy habits, and have higher psychological well being outcomes.

By adopting the spirit of Motivational Interviewing in your teaching, you’ll naturally promote all of those outcomes in your shoppers.

(Learn extra about the best way to discuss to shoppers in a collaborative, compassionate manner: Efficient coach discuss: What to say to shoppers and why it issues)

Don’t anticipate your teaching to alter unexpectedly, although.

This was just a bit pattern of what Motivational Interviewing has to supply.

Even so, you is likely to be feeling overwhelmed about the whole lot we simply lined.

Or possibly you’re tremendous excited to place it into follow!

(Or possibly it’s each. Keep in mind: Ambivalence is regular.)

Both manner, know that Motivational Interviewing takes constant follow on the a part of the practitioner to actually “get.”

Motivational Interviewing is a sort of language. And similar to studying a brand new language, Motivational Interviewing takes time to grasp—and may really feel REALLY awkward at first.

Similar to you give your shoppers time and area to alter, permit your self to construct your Motivational Interviewing proficiency over time.

(If you wish to dig into it additional, plus be mentored by one in every of our Tremendous Coaches, take a look at the Precision Vitamin Degree 2 Grasp Well being Teaching Certification. Motivational Interviewing ideas are constructed into our teaching strategies—we name it “client-centered teaching.”)

Once you get the grasp of Motivational Interviewing, teaching will really feel totally different.

Your shoppers will get higher outcomes as a result of they really feel extra autonomous, revered, and appropriately supported. And that’s very rewarding to witness.

However you’ll additionally really feel higher: You’ll expertise much less frustration and battle in consumer classes, teaching will really feel simpler with much less strain to “produce outcomes,” and also you’ll really feel extra linked to the individuals you serve.

Motivational Interviewing is likely one of the only instruments you need to use to assist your shoppers change for the higher.

And it’ll change you too.


Click on right here to view the knowledge sources referenced on this article.

Miller WR, Rollnick S. Motivational Interviewing. Making ready individuals for change. third edn. New York: The Guilford Press, 2013.

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