For this week’s post, I wanted to introduce some motivational techniques I’ve used in speaking with my students. I’ve found that using this way to speak with students who are not motivated, angry often, and living without a strong role model in their life (i.e. divorced/separated parents, parents working late, etc) seem to slowly open up in our sessions and talk about their issues at school and home. If you’re a parent reading this and you’ve been having trouble communicating with your child, try using these steps below. The goal is for him or her to realize their issues independently and realize they need to take steps to change into who they want to become and what they want for their life. This technique is something I’ve practiced during grad school and in my current job as a counselor. I hope you find them useful.
- Affirmation: This step is giving a statement in response to what the student tells you. The goal is to recognize the student’s strengths and efforts to change. They help to increase a student’s confidence in their ability to change.
“You showed a lot of (insert person’s trait, strength, determination) by doing that.”
- Open-Ended Question: This allows the student to tell their story and to do most of the talking. This gives the counselor an opportunity to respond with reflections or summary statements that express empathy. Too many back-to-back close ended questions can make the student feel like they’re being interrogated.
“What makes you think it might be time for a change?”
“What brought you here today?”
“What happens when you (insert problem behavior)? What is that like for you?”
- Giving Advice: Telling students what to do usually does not work well. Most students prefer to be given choices to make their own decisions. Talking to the student in a non-judgemental tone of voice can allow him or her to make informed decisions about changing the problem behavior.
“What do you know about how your (insert behavior) affecting your (i.e. relationships, health)?”
“Are you interested in learning more about (insert problem behavior) and the benefits of quitting or changing (insert problem behavior)?”
If the individual doesn’t want to change at this time..(which is common, he or she is not ready to hear more information or trust you yet)
“I get the feeling that you are not ready to talk more about this at this time. We can discuss this at a later time when you are ready/ change your mind.” Let the student know that you will be around to listen which gives him or her the feeling that they’re not alone.
- Approval: Students are more likely to discuss change when respected and asked than when being told to change.
“I noticed that you have (insert problem behavior). Do you mind if we talk how changing/quitting (insert problem behavior) might affect your life?”
- Normalizing: This technique is used to communicate that having difficulties changing is not uncommon for many students. I’ve found that giving personal examples or telling a story about someone I know can help in letting them understand this is a normal process.
“A lot of students think about changing their (insert problem behavior).”
“Most students struggle with (insert problem behavior).”
- Reflective Listening: This technique allows counselors to listen and paraphrase the student’s comments back. The goal of this technique is to build empathy, encourage the student to state their own reasons for change, and affirm the counselor understands their feeling.
Example of starter sentences:
“It sounds like… , It seems as if.. , What I hear you saying.. , I get the sense that.. , I get the sense that this has been difficult..”