Four Questions That Can Help Patients Make Their Own Arguments For Change

By Mia Croyle, MA

Motivational interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based method of facilitating a collaborative conversation focused on strengthening a person’s own motivation for and commitment to change.

One of the processes in MI is to evoke change talk.  Change talk is defined as the other person’s own arguments for change.  Research suggests that helping the other person to develop and verbalize arguments for change increases the likelihood of change.  To this end, the MI practitioner may utilize many different strategies to create opportunities for patients to articulate this vital change talk.

One of the most straightforward ways to elicit change talk is to ask for it using targeted evocative open questions:

  • “How would you like for things to change (in regards to your marijuana use)?”
  • “If you did decide to cut back in your drinking, how could you do it?”
  •  “Most smokers feel two ways about quitting.  You’ve probably got some reasons to keep things the way they are, and you’ve probably considered a few reasons to quit or cut down.  What are some of the reasons you’ve considered for quitting or cutting down?”
  • “How serious or urgent does it feel for you to address your depression?”

I encourage you to try out these questions  – others like them – as a way to actively create opportunities for patients’ own arguments for change to occur.  You might be surprised by what you hear!

2 Comments on “Four Questions That Can Help Patients Make Their Own Arguments For Change”

  1. Tim Banwell says:

    I have been exploring motivational interviewing and came upon your newsletter. I am looking at implementing this process in a different venue. As a public health worker, changing peoples’ behavior is key to improving their health as well as the health of those around them. How can I and my staff learn these skilss to motivate change in people such as test your house for radon, sample your well for bacteria, or use safe food handling practices? Do youhave any ideas or can you point me in the right direction? Tim Banwell, Rock County Healt Department, 608-757-5441. Contact by phone or email is OK

    • wiphl says:


      We would love to help you implement this process! You should be hearing from Mia, our motivational interviewing expert, shortly. Thanks for your interest.


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