Dietitian Blog, MNT Guidelines | Dec 14 2021

7 motivational interviewing techniques to help your patients achieve their goals

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What do you do when you have a patient or client who has completely stalled out in their progress toward their nutrition goals? Achieving goals is a process and depending on the type of goal, it could take a significant amount of time to achieve! Progress ebbs and flows, and success is measured by looking at your client’s overall progress. But sometimes, even small incremental changes aren’t being made.

Dietitians can use motivational interviewing to help move a patient or client from being completely stalled out to being back on track. Help your clients begin making progress again by following these steps.

  1. Ask open-ended questions. An open-ended question allows the patient to answer without guidance from you and requires them to say more than “yes” or “no.” This gives you an opportunity to really find out what is going on.
  2. Listen for change talk. Change talk involves words and phrases that give you insight into the client’s desires, needs, goals, and abilities.
  3. Reflect resistance and/or change talk. Reflecting means summarizing and repeating the words back to the client just to help verbalize their thoughts. This is especially helpful when someone is resistant to change. Saying the reasons for resistance back to the client allows them the opportunity to talk themselves out of those reasons and into solutions.
  4. Talk about the patient’s motivations for change. Remind the patient why making changes was important in the first place—what their overall goals are.
  5. Listen for the patient’s commitment of what they’re willing and able to do. When you hear a patient say something they could do, build your solutions on that.
  6. Offer options for solutions. Present the client with choices that can lead to achieving their goals based on the commitment they are willing to engage in. Choices provide more opportunity for success.
  7. Follow-up with more open-ended questions. Be sure your patient is ready to move forward with change by giving them an opportunity to say so again.

Registered dietitian nutritionists want to help people change their health through nutrition. If a patient or client has stopped making progress, this goal of impacting health through nutrition cannot be achieved. Motivational interviewing can effectively move your patient or client from being stalled out to making progress again.

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About Courtney Lee

Courtney Lee, MS, RDN, CLT, CFCS has a virtual private practice specializing in personalized nutrition and anti-inflammatory diets. She loves helping people use nutrition to change their lives and enjoys empowering other RDNs to do the same!

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