Autonomy – The Underused Tool in MI
Many of us went into the helping profession since we want to help others achieve health and well-being. Unfortunately, this “helper instinct” as Bill Miller (co-author of MI) states can get in the way of that goal. Although we want the best for our clients, we must learn how to evoke in them what will make the difference for them.
Besides empathy, autonomy may be one of the biggest predictors of behavior change.
Autonomy feeds into seeking collaboration with a client – let’s problem solve this together. When we give clients the power in a conversation it allows them to truly contemplate what they desire and is one key to unlocking their potential for change.
Statements that emphasize autonomy might look like:
“You’re the one who knows yourself best – what do you think the solution might look like?”
“You are weighing your options and figuring out what will work best for you.”
A wonderful place to emphasize autonomy is when your client “baits” you and asks what you would do in their situation. If you take the bait, it will usually backfire in the next session with them telling you why it did not work.
Instead consider stating “part of our work together is figuring out what is the best path for you. I’m a completely different person and what will work for me is different than what will work for you.”
Look for opportunities to emphasize autonomy and notice how change unfolds before your eyes. Our clients want control and choice and reminding them of during a conversation could be the key to helping them realize their potential and path to change.