The Four Processes of conversations about change outlined in Motivational Interviewing can be a helpful frame of reference. How we work with motivation will depend which of the four processes we are in.


Exploring motivation can be a good way to get to know someone and establish a respectful partnership. When we show curiosity about “Who are you?” rather than “What’s the problem?” we demonstrate their value as a person rather than their behaviour. This can also be refreshing for the young person who is used to adults making assumptions about them and telling them what they need to do. In the engaging phase, we are trying to get a sense of:

  • Who are they?
  • What matters to them?
  • What drives them?
  • How do they perceive the situation they are in?
  • How does that sit with what they want in life?

"When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and to go on."

Carl Rogers


When we explore motivation in the focusing stage, it becomes a less general enquiry about who the person is, and starts to consider where they want to be going at this point in their life. The attention to motivation starts to become more purposeful, with an eye to the direction they may wish to go:

  • How do they want their life to be?
  • What in their life do they want more of?
  • What do they want less of?
  • What kind of person do they want to be?
  • What kind of changes might help take a step in that direction?
  • Which change makes sense as the next step?


Once we have a good connection and a sense of where the person wants to go, we then move into evoking their momentum for change that is meaningful for them. In this phase, exploring motivation is more specifically tuned in to the possible changes the person might want to make.

We might look for the ways the change is consistent with their deeper wishes or values. We might gently tease out the way current behaviours or choices are at odds with those desires. As this can be a challenging thing to think about, it is important to explore discrepancies with warm curiosity rather than to confront or “catch them out”.

In the evoking phase we are not neutral, and work in a thoughtful way with the person’s potential for change. This means it is all the more important we have engaged well, with a comfortable way of communicating, and have a clear, shared sense of purpose.

We can evoke a deeper sense of meaning in a specific change –what the change means or what it might be a step toward. For example, changing drug use might be about becoming more connected with family or working toward a more independent or interesting future. We can also be curious how deeper meaning or values might help with making the change. For example, if family, or ambition, or humour is important, how might those values be useful in how they go about making change? In the evoking phase we may explore:

  • Why do they want to make this change?
  • How might this change help them get something else of importance?
  • How does this change help them be true to what matters to them?
  • What does this change represent to them?
  • How might their values or motivations help them to make this change?
  • What helps them to “dig deep” and find more energy or determination for change?


In the planning phase, we move more into exploring how the change might be made. Ideally, we help them to develop their own plan, and only offer information or suggestions if needed after we have drawn out their own ideas.

In this phase we want to help to reinforce their sense of faith in themselves. Returning to motivation can help deepen their sense of worth and hope that life could be better. If certain desires or values are particularly motivating, they may offer clues about how the young person might have their best chance at success. Equally we may want to explore how to protect the motivation – how to keep the central motivation in mind during the ups and downs of making change and everything else going on in the person’s life. Helpful questions to explore might include:

  • How might the motivation be incorporated into the plan?
  • What options or choices are more consistent with their motivation?
  • Which options are most consistent with how they want to see themselves or who they want to be?
  • How might taking core motivation or values into account open up new or creative solutions?
  • What might help them to stay focused on their core purpose or desire?
  • How can they connect the change with its meaning in real and practical ways?

"A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at."

Bruce Lee