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Top Posts of 2011 #8 – Motivational Interviewing crash course for parents

Posted Jan 02 2012 9:24am

photo credit: sampsyo

After setting up a scene of a parent with a child in the ER for the second time with alcohol poisoning, a blogger at intervene.drugfree.org offers some advice:

People tend to only listen to one person — themselves.  And, as a result, they’re only influenced by one person …again — themselves.  So, as frustrating as this may be for a parent who would like to sternly say, “You have to stop!” and to have that be enough, the real trick to motivating someone is to get them to convince themselves to make a change for their own good reasons.

The two most important things to do are:

1)    STOP trying to motivate your child by telling her about your feelings, thoughts or reasons for change, such as, “You’re worrying me to death!” “I think you HAVE to go to rehab right from the hospital” or “The best reason for you to stop drinking is for your health.”

2)    START asking your child questions that are specially-designed to evoke her own good reasons for change.

DON’T…

DO…

This approach is a huge improvement over yelling, begging, shaming and freaking out. It steps out of the argument and gets the substance user talking about their use rather than defending his/her self. However, Motivational Interviewing demands a kind of detachment that I suspect is unrealistic for parents or anyone who is emotionally entangled with person misusing drugs and alcohol. Of course, the big question is, “What then.” Because, unlike a therapist, parents live the other 167 hours of the week with this person in the physical and emotional space.
I think the spirit of this combined with the spirit of the Love First intervention approach might provide helpful instruction for parents. (Theses are instructions for writing a letter for an intervention, however their spirit can be instructive. Note that these are based on the assumption that the loved one is an alcoholic and could be adapted if that is less clear.):
  • begin with a simple statement of love and concern…. come straight from the heart.
  • recall a time when the alcoholic has been especially helpful to you, or when you have been proud of [him/her]
  • make a brief statement about your new understanding of alcoholism as a disease, and your desire for the addict to get help in a formal treatment setting
  • This should be followed by a statement of facts about the alcoholic’s negative behavior. As Sargent Joe Friday used to say: “The facts ma’am, just the facts.”
  • repeat your love and concern, and then ask the addict to accept help for the illness
What then? Take care of yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically.

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