Resistance happens when someone or something refuses to be given or be changed by some thing else. It includes both mindful and unconscious defenses against change. It arises as a normal, expected product of an interaction. When resistance emerges, there are right reasons the client is now not ready to change in the way we are asking. The motives may not be clear to us or to the client, however they exist, and ignoring them gets us nowhere. To know if a consumer is being resistant, the client may interrupt you be destructed – searching at phone, watch, etc. or they might get defensive. To make it through to the resistive client, the key strategies of motivational interviewing are applied.
Motivational interviewing is a directive, client-centered style of interaction aimed at helping people explore and resolve their ambivalence and begin to make positive changes (“Motivating Clients for Treatment and Motivating Clients for Treatment and Addressing Resistance Addressing Resistance”, 2008). When using motivational interviewing, you are attempting to assist the client in talking themselves into changing, rather than using direct persuasion (Moyers & Rollnick, 2002). It is tempting to try to be helpful by persuading the client about; the importance or urgency of the problem being addressed and the benefits of changing a behavior. However, persuasion is not an effective method for resolving ambivalence and will probably backfire on you. It usually only increases client resistance and decreases the probability of change. You must only express empathy towards the client. Empathize with the concerns they put across and explore them without judgement. This assures client that they are being heard and understood and it Shows you recognize the barriers your client faces. This will allow for the client to feel safe and open up some more the more they are convinced of their safety and that they can trust you. Their resistance lessens eventually. Do not probe for significant personal events, nor explicitly encourage the client to experience hidden or unconscious emotions about the behavior in question. Attempt to only focus on the specific resistive behavior that has been identified as needing to change.
The next step asks that you develop discrepancy between the client’s most deeply held values and current behavior. This will help the client see that some behaviors don’t mesh with some of their ultimate goals that are important and also helps in clarifying the difference between their core values and their behavior(s). The desired change won’t occur without discrepancy which is used to visualize the gap between where the client is and where they want to be. Also, work on defining the client’s most important goals together. All this insight allows the client to realize their current behavior isn’t leading to their set goals and encourages them to be more open to change.
Thirdly, roll with resistance by meeting it with reflection rather than confrontation. Righting reflex is a common response to “make things right” when we see a problem and it happens with most of us. We want to change client behavior and we want to make things right, so we are most likely to argue or push back with the client. Since we are arguing for the change side of ambivalence, this usually causes the client to keep voicing sustain talk (the reasons not to change), (University of Missouri) and in the end effects no positive change in the client’s resistance. With motivational interviewing, the practitioner doesn’t try to make things right or doesn’t try to change the client’s behavior. Change comes from the client’s intrinsic motivation which is cultivated by the reflection you necessitate into the client’s thinking by providing them with insight. We have to acknowledge that the righting reflex is present and ask ourselves to override it. We have to ask it to step aside and focus on the person in front of us for effective interviews with the resistive clients.
Consequently, support Self-Efficacy by building confidence in the client that change is possible. You will need to cultivate the client’s self-belief in their ability to change and also to promote belief in your client’s ability to do the tasks needed for change to occur. You must show them that you believe in them and that they are able to fulfil the tasks needed for the desired change to actually occur. You can focus on past successes and skills and strengths the client has or can easily learn and use them to remind them of their immense potential and abilities. Promote their self-esteem and build their confidence.
Generally, interviewers using motivational interviewing will be asking open questions about the client’s values and goals and how they are discrepant with current behavior, responding with reflections to convey a sense of understanding, avoiding arguments when encountering resistance, and conveying hope that change is possible. This goes to show that to interview a resistive client, you will first have to deal with the resistance by planting intrinsic motivation in their minds do that you can get them to give you the desired answers to your questions.
Moyers, T. B., & Rollnick, S. (2002). A motivational interviewing perspective on resistance in psychotherapy. Journal of clinical psychology, 58(2), 185-193..
Motivating Clients for Treatment and Motivating Clients for Treatment and Addressing Resistance Addressing Resistance. (2008). Retrieved 26 February 2017, from https://www.unodc.org/ddt-training/treatment/VOLUME%20B/Volume%20B%20-%20Module%202/1.Leaders%20Guide/Presentation-VolB_M2.pdf
University of Missouri. (n.d.). Rolling With Resistance. Motivational Interviewing (MI), p. 2.