Jun 7 / Niccole Rowe, BA, COTA/L, Aspire OT Founding Partner

5 Reasons to Use Motivational Interviewing in Your OT Practice

Motivational interviewing changed my OT practice more than anything else in the last 10 years. As an OT practitioner, you know how important it is to support clients in making meaningful changes in their lives. Yet, I used to feel a bit lost when trying to find the best way to motivate clients that seemed hesitant to adopt some of the things that we were talking about in treatment. That’s where techniques for Motivational Interviewing (MI) comes in. It can be a key technique when “Addressing Health Management in Occupational Therapy.” This evidence-based, client-centered approach can be a game-changer in your practice, so if you are looking for effective strategies to enhance client engagement and drive meaningful change in your OT practice this is going to be a blog that you will find helpful.

In this blog post, you'll discover the value of integrating motivational interviewing (MI) into your therapeutic approach. We’ll explore how techniques for motivational interviewing can boost client collaboration, facilitate lasting behavior change, address resistance, and strengthen your therapeutic relationships. By reading this post, you'll gain practical insights and tools to make your interventions more effective and aligned with the holistic, client-centered care you strive to provide. Whether you're facing challenges with client motivation or seeking ways to improve your practice, this article offers actionable reasons and benefits related to techniques for motivational interviewing to help you elevate your occupational therapy outcomes.

Learn about these benefits of using techniques for motivational interviewing in your OT practice:

  Boosting client engagement and collaboration
  Facilitating changes behavior
  Increasing adherence to important recommendations
  Addressing when the client seems ambivalent or resistant to change
  Strengthening your therapeutic relationship
  Aligning with our core principles of holistic, client-centered care

1. Boosts Client Engagement and Collaboration

Have you ever felt like you’re working harder than your client to achieve their therapy goals? MI changes that dynamic by fostering a collaborative environment. Instead of being the sole driver, you engage your clients as active participants in their care. This approach not only increases their engagement but also empowers them to take charge of their own health and therapy goals. It’s amazing to see clients light up when they realize they have a say in their treatment!

2. Facilitates Behavior Change and Adherence

One of the toughest parts of our job can be helping clients stick to new routines or lifestyle changes. MI is all about tapping into your clients’ intrinsic motivation to drive behavior change. Whether it’s sticking to a medication schedule, committing to an exercise plan, or making necessary lifestyle adjustments, MI can help your clients develop the motivation they need to succeed. Many times we are working to increase our clients ability to self-manage their conditions and MI can play an important technique for that. (Read more about one OT practitioner’s journey to help her clients become better at self-management). And when clients are motivated from within, they’re much more likely to adhere to the therapeutic interventions we recommend.

3. Addresses Ambivalence and Resistance

We’ve all had clients who seem to be their own worst enemies, struggling with ambivalence or outright resistance to change. MI provides a structured way to address these feelings. By validating their experiences and gently guiding them through their ambivalence, you can help clients see the benefits of change and work through their resistance. This supportive approach often leads to breakthroughs where clients move past their barriers and make meaningful progress. It can also increase client confidence.

4. Strengthens Therapeutic Relationships

Building a strong therapeutic relationship is at the heart of effective occupational therapy. MI enhances this by emphasizing active listening, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. When clients feel heard and valued, they’re more likely to trust you and engage fully in the therapeutic process. This trust not only improves client satisfaction but also enhances the overall effectiveness of your interventions.

5. Aligns with Holistic and Client-Centered Care

As OTs and OTAs, we pride ourselves on taking a holistic, client-centered approach. MI fits perfectly with this philosophy. It respects the client’s autonomy and supports them in setting and pursuing their own goals. By incorporating MI, you ensure that your interventions are tailored to the unique needs, preferences, and circumstances of each client. This alignment leads to more relevant and impactful therapy sessions, ultimately contributing to better outcomes.

Are you ready to start using this in your OT practice?

Incorporating motivational interviewing into your OT practice can transform the way you work with clients, making your interventions more effective and your therapeutic relationships stronger. It’s all about fostering a collaborative, empathetic, and client-centered approach that empowers clients to achieve their goals.
Here are some things you can do now:

Incorporate Open-Ended Questions

Start integrating open-ended questions into your client interactions. These questions encourage clients to share more about their thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Instead of asking, “Do you want to work on your exercises today?” try, “What are your thoughts on the exercises we’ve been doing, and how do you feel they’re helping you?” This approach helps clients explore their own motivations and barriers, providing you with deeper insights to tailor your interventions.

Practice Reflective Listening
Make a conscious effort to practice reflective listening during your sessions. This involves actively listening to your clients and then reflecting back what they’ve said to ensure understanding and validation. For example, if a client expresses frustration with a particular task, you might say, “It sounds like you’re feeling frustrated because this task is challenging for you.” Reflective listening builds rapport and trust, showing clients that you value their experiences and perspectives.

Support Self-Efficacy
Encourage clients to recognize and build on their strengths and past successes. Use affirmations to reinforce their abilities and boost their confidence. For instance, if a client successfully completes a task, acknowledge their effort by saying, “You did a great job sticking with that exercise, even when it was tough. That shows a lot of determination.” This positive reinforcement helps clients see their own potential and motivates them to continue making progress.

Helpful resources

As always, Aspire OT has you covered if you are looking for support when growing your knowledge and confidence with techniques for Motivational Interviewing.

These options can help you in your journey:
• Take our course, “Motivational Interviewing for Occupational Therapy Practitioners”. This one hour course will give you a great foundation and action items for your OT practice. There is even a webinar this month for this course: https://www.aspireoted.com/course/aspire-ot-motivational-interviewing-for-ot-practitioners

• Check out this resource which has some specific phrasing suggestions for some of the techniques for motivational interviewing:Motivational Interviewing Strategies and Techniques (colorado.gov)

• This is a common book recommended for learning more about motivational interviewing: Amazon.com: Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change and Grow (Audible Audio Edition): William R. Miller PhD, Stephen Rollnick PhD, Michael Quinlan, The Guilford Press: Books

We hope that this blog has lit your fire to consider techniques for motivational interviewing as a new part of your OT practice.

 Live webinar

Motivational Interviewing for Occupational Therapy Practitioners

Tuesday, June 11
 7 pm CT/ 8 pm ET
1 Contact hour
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