We know changing lifestyle behaviors is easier said than done. Our first tendency, especially with family members, is to come down on them (berate) to do things such as quit smoking, lose weight, or simply just get up off that couch and move around. Eventually, they just tune us out, or continue unhealthy behaviors just for spite.
The challenge for wellness coaches is to motivate our clients to make changes. We are trained on motivational interviewing techniques. We assist our clients in identifying areas of possible change and then their willingness to change. We work with our clients to set realistic achievable goals. We are in contact with them on a regular basis to provide support, suggestions, empathetic listening, and work through barriers to changing.
In the April 29th, 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal, an article titled “To Motivate Patients to Change, Doctor’s Stop Scolding”, it is stated that “instead of telling patients what to do and scolding them when they don’t do it, clinicians ask the individual what changes he or she is willing and able to make, and then promote patients’ desire, confidence and commitment to following through.
The article goes on to say “in workshops and courses, doctors, nurses, and health coaches are trained to collaborate with patients on treatment decisions, offering choices rather than prescriptions and avoiding terms like “must”, “should”, and “have to”. They might ask patients why they think they aren’t losing weight or taking their medications properly, and they elicit goals from patients.”
So now, medical professionals are beginning to participate in training to use motivational interviewing techniques with their patients. This becomes a more productive tool, rather than just lecturing or using “scare” or berating tactics. The key to change is being motivated enough to sustain and maintain as a way of life.