Motivational Interviewing: How you can use it in teaching

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

For those who’re a coach, you is likely to be aware of eventualities 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 once you advised an acid-taming meal plan, they responded by occurring a three-night spicy wings bender.

mentioned they needed to get higher sleep, however gave you 100 the reason 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 assist you perceive:

  • Why purchasers’ actions generally contradict their intentions
  • Why individuals usually insurgent towards good recommendation 
  • How you can assist purchasers make clear the modifications they’re truly prepared to make, and speak themselves into motion 
  • How you can collaborate higher with purchasers, getting them higher outcomes and making your job simpler and extra gratifying

This framework exists!

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

What’s Motivational Interviewing?

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

✅ Discover targets

✅ Strengthen their very own motivation and dedication

✅ Undertake new habits

✅ Stop unproductive habits

✅ Efficiently change for the higher

Motivational Interviewing: Advantages for the coach

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

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

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

You may share a few of your insights, however in the end, your purchasers will resolve the place to go.

A great Motivational Interviewing coach may even be genuinely curious, respectful, and non-judgemental a couple of consumer’s preferences.

(“Oh, you’d moderately 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 companion.

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

Consequently, even after they’re in international territory, purchasers find yourself feeling supported, but in addition free.

Motivational Interviewing: Advantages for the consumer

Motivational Interviewing works particularly effectively 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 need to quit my free time at evening.”)
  • Not very assured about their skill 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 need to eat extra kale? Sounds gross.”)
  • Not satisfied about the advantages of change (“Will meditating actually decrease my blood stress?”)

Uhh.. that’s most purchasers, isn’t it?


How Motivational Interviewing works

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

That is achieved by 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 purchasers change and enhance.

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


“Serving to tougher” often doesn’t work.

Certain, a number of unicorn purchasers simply want extra prodding to make progress.

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

Take this frequent teaching state of affairs:

A consumer involves you as a result of they need 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 many snacking.

Their garments not match, and their physician has warned them that they’re at excessive danger of creating prediabetes. They’ve two younger children, and their motivation is excessive to set an excellent instance for them and be a wholesome dad or mum.

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

And but, a number of classes in, they haven’t modified a factor.

After all, you ask them what’s up.

Consumer: I sit all day however really feel so drained after work. I don’t have the power to train; all I need to do once 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 necessary to start out exercising, and stick with a greater food plan. She’s apprehensive about your blood sugar, proper?

Consumer: 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 children get dwelling, after which the home is nuts till they go to mattress.

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

Consumer: 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 need to be wholesome on your children. And one of the best 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 decisions.

The coach has a honest need to appropriate course after they see the consumer getting off observe. (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 an excellent job serving to. (Which is what they have been employed to do… proper?)

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

You understand your consumer needs 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 raised consumer conversations

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

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

Motivational Interviewing is most wanted—and efficient—once you sense friction in your consumer classes. Your consumer is expressing uncertainty, not following by 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 choice?

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 nervousness over the lack of your single life, your previous (low cost) house, or your unstimulating-but-regular-paycheck job?

It’s the identical approach when purchasers ponder way of life modifications.

A part of them needs to be the kind of one that eats salads day by day, and the opposite half nonetheless needs to have a carefree perspective 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 purchasers gained’t know the best way to identify this pressure both, and so they actually gained’t assume it’s regular. They’ll in all probability simply say: “I need 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 convey consciousness to—and generally even resolve—ambivalence, this train will 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 “previous” approach. Which means: Your consumer isn’t getting any more healthy.

As a way to assist a consumer transfer by these pure emotions of ambivalence, don’t push tougher.

As an alternative…

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

Change is never a single occasion: You’re a technique, then you definately’re all of a sudden “modified.”

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

The concept that 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.

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

Nonetheless, assessing the place your consumer is in that course of can assist you coach them higher—an individual may have completely different wants relying on which part they’re in. It’ll additionally assist you keep away from getting forward of them and inadvertently scaring them away from change.

The transtheoretical mannequin of change: 6 levels

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

Most applications and coaches assume purchasers 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 numerous levels of readiness, you’ll be capable of join with—and assist—far more purchasers.

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 an excellent 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 provide you with perception right into a consumer’s emotions, expertise, and expectations.


  • What brings you in at this time?
  • 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 start out off a session, or to discover a sure subject at any level within the session.

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


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

Your affirmations can assist purchasers see themselves in another way: Maybe as somebody who’s clever and worthy of respect—and most significantly, somebody who’s able to change.

Affirming needs to be real; For those who’re actually listening and understanding your consumer’s aspect of the story, you will see their constructive facets, resembling their resilience or their creativity, and it’ll really feel pure to name it out.

Affirmations sound like this:

  • Wow, you’ve labored actually arduous on this situation! I actually admire your persistence.
  • It appears like regardless that issues didn’t end up as you deliberate, your intention was good.
  • I do know you’re disenchanted that you just couldn’t apply your new behavior completely, however I see big progress from the place you began.

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


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

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

Reflections are a approach of guessing at a consumer’s deeper that means.

They assist you affirm you’ve understood what the consumer is actually saying, and in addition 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 performed correctly, reflecting can assist a consumer really feel deeply cared for, understood, and in addition improve their very own understanding of themselves and their scenario.

Listed below are some examples of reflections:

Consumer: I really feel nervous.

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

Consumer: I really feel like I failed.

Coach: You’re feeling disenchanted that you just slipped up this week, and this makes you marvel in the event you can actually change in the long term.

Consumer: I’m so completely happy I went to the health club this week!

Coach: You’re completely happy you went to the health club and also you have to be feeling so happy with your self! You’re getting a style for what’s potential!

Imagine it or not, it truly doesn’t matter a lot in the event you sometimes get a consumer’s that means mistaken. Simply take a guess, and your consumer will appropriate you in the event you’re mistaken.

Test it out:

Consumer: This meal plan type of freaks me out!

Coach: All these macros and energy will be overwhelming!

Consumer: Oh, that’s not it in any respect. I’m fairly comfy with macros. It’s simply that I’ve two daughters, and I’m apprehensive concerning 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 mistaken can really feel awkward, nevertheless it’s higher than staying quiet and assuming you perceive a consumer’s full that means after they say one thing.

(Notice: The above are all examples of complicated reflections. If all that deciphering sounds dangerous, then attempt a easy reflection, the place you simply repeat or barely rephrase what a consumer mentioned. Though fundamental, even this technique can assist 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—based mostly on a number of issues a consumer has informed you.

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

Additionally they give purchasers an opportunity to mirror on every little thing they’ve informed you up to now, and presumably to see their story differently. Typically after 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 at this time since you’re apprehensive about your well being. You usually really feel sore and drained, and that worries you as a result of you’ve got younger children who want you to be wholesome for a very long time. You’ve had hassle sticking to vitamin applications 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’ll be able to ask, “Did I miss something?” or “Do you need to add the rest?”

Use summaries once you:

✅ Wrap up a sure subject

✅ Shift from one part of a consumer session to the subsequent

✅ Attain the top of a session

With the entire image freshly laid out, you and your consumer can higher provide you with probably 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 previous habits.

Resistance may sound like this:

“However I make all my meals at dwelling! I don’t perceive how my food plan could possibly be unhealthy!”


“I’m simply not a health club particular person.”

Resistance isn’t concerning the consumer being “troublesome.”

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 towards.

[Swallows jagged pill]

So once you expertise resistance, you may ask your self:

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

Perhaps you—with completely good intentions—advised the consumer change an excessive amount of too quick. And so they’re now feeling insecure, and overwhelmed.

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

A more practical solution to take care of resistance is to step again, remind your self that ambivalence and resistance are regular, after which use reflections to assist perceive and transfer by your consumer’s resistance.

Right here’s what which may sound like:

Consumer: “I don’t see why my food plan’s such an enormous downside.”

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

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

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

Consumer: “Properly, I’m certain 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 may know what they’re speaking about, you simply don’t really feel you’ve skilled any destructive penalties of your food plan.”

Consumer: “Properly, I assume 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.”

Consumer: “Yeah. These issues bug me lots truly. Sigh. I assume 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 a little bit 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 vitamin may enhance their particular well being points.

And your consumer may truly really feel able to hear.

Motivational Interviewing Ability #5: Help your consumer’s ongoing skill 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 “dangerous” and pushing them to alter.

In different phrases, many consumers will come to you full of 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 purchasers—what does assist individuals make significant and sustainable progress.

Persons are extra profitable when:

  • They discover their very own motivation to alter. Persons are extra persuaded by what they themselves say than what another person tells them to do.
  • They see challenges as alternatives to get stronger, moderately than quit. Affirmations that spotlight a consumer’s efforts (moderately than simply outcomes) can strengthen their perception of their skill to be taught, develop, and adapt.
  • They’re self-compassionate. When a consumer works with a coach who accepts them as they’re, sees one of the best in them, and believes of their potential, it’s transformative. Shoppers 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 purchasers.

(Learn extra about the best way to speak to purchasers in a collaborative, compassionate approach: Efficient coach speak: What to say to purchasers and why it issues)

Don’t anticipate your teaching to alter all of sudden, although.

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

Even so, you is likely to be feeling overwhelmed about every little thing we simply coated.

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

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

Both approach, know that Motivational Interviewing takes constant apply on the a part of the practitioner to essentially “get.”

Motivational Interviewing is a type of language. And identical 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 purchasers time and area to alter, enable your self to construct your Motivational Interviewing proficiency over time.

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

If you get the cling of Motivational Interviewing, teaching will really feel completely different.

Your purchasers 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 stress to “produce outcomes,” and also you’ll really feel extra linked to the individuals you serve.

Motivational Interviewing is among the only instruments you should utilize to assist your purchasers 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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