Practices for working with motivation
The motivational interviewing model offers a useful framework for talking about motivation, using approaches such as:
- Be curious
- Respect autonomy
- Affirm strengths and values
- Elicit thoughts and perspective from the young person rather than tell them your opinions
- Enquire about the meaning of the change, not just the “how”
- Reflect on core meaning and motivation
- Gently explore differences between current behaviour and core values or desires
- Save planning for the end
- Refrain from advice where possible, and seek permission to offer it in small doses if needed.
Approaches like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and other mindfulness approaches also tend to focus on values and the key forces that guide us.
The following section looks at some strategies to explore motivation. The list is far from comprehensive and sometimes quite creative, individualised strategies work with particular people.
While motivation lies within each of us already, it can be difficult to pin down. It may be something sensed but difficult to articulate. If the young person is still in a fairly concrete developmental stage, it may be harder for them to think beyond immediate needs or desires. It’s common to work with people distracted by crisis, mental health symptoms, substance use and other pressing concerns. Depression and disillusion can make it hard to people to even begin to imagine what can be hoped for in life.
To show genuine curiosity in “who are you?” rather than “what’s going wrong?” is to honour them as a human being worthy of respect.
Working with motivation can sometimes feel more like being a detective or unraveling a cryptic crossword, picking up on clues and following possible leads to see where they take us.
Yet even if we feel we haven’t solved the puzzle, to try to discover what matters to a young person is valuable in its own right. To show genuine curiosity in “who are you?” rather than “what’s going wrong?” is to honour them as a human being worthy of respect.
"What you risk reveals what you value."