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How do people get motivated for change?

There is a specific technique called motivational interviewing. The components professionals use include feedback on the risks related to the specifics of the drug or alcohol use, personal responsibility to change (opposite of fault or blaming, ie. this isn’t your fault but you are responsible to make this better), specific advice for change tailored to the situation, giving appropriate options for ways to change for the better, empathy and understanding that all of this is difficult, and emphasizing self efficacy and the fact that things can and will improve. All of this can take a short period of time, if the person is at a stage of contemplation and considering the idea that s/he may have a drug or alcohol problem. Medical and mental health professionals and clergy can be helpful with this, as can family, and friends.

Many times motivation for change comes down to a perception of need. While it is a myth that a person has to lose everything in order to decide to change, having consequences in terms of health, legal, job, marital or family, or perhaps an intervention may help this occur. Indeed, it is useful to recognize that if someone still has something to lose, more motivational leverage can be applied by the employer or family. Sometimes a brief intervention by the physician is very useful in moving someone towards recognizing that s/he has substance abuse or dependence, and that health consequences are stacking up. If you think you may have a problem, or someone you know thinks you do, have a formal assessment to find out. When empty promises of “I can do it myself” no longer work, seek help right away. No matter where you are in terms of motivation, education is always appropriate and helpful. Watch the WYNK flash videos that fit your situation.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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