The Four Processes: Focusing

By Mia Croyle, MA

In the third edition of Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change (Miller & Rollnick, 2013), we are introduced to the four processes. In our newsletter, we discussed the first of these, engaging. The second of the four processes is focusing. Our objective in this process is the collaborative, ongoing process of seeking and maintaining direction. 

In Motivational Interviewing. there are three main sources of focus, and in almost every instance. we rely on some combination of them all:

01. The other person (the “patient”): people generally have concerns, preferences, ideas, and values that influence our focusing process. For example, in BSI, if a patient screens positive for potential risk in the areas of tobacco use and depression, the patient will have some ideas about where he or she would like to start, and we certainly give priority to those ideas.

02. The setting: in BSI, we are in a healthcare context and generally, our health educators have a pre-established list of behaviors that they are trained and sanctioned to address. If patients have concerns that fall outside these areas, the health educator can refer patients to other resources.

03. The helping professional’s clinical expertise: in BSI, this is informed by the results of the screen and brief assessment. Other members of the healthcare team, such as the physician, may also have clinical expertise that informs our focusing process.

Like each of the four processes, focusing is an ongoing process. Once we have established a focus, we continue to attend to focusing throughout our interaction. We may need to revisit our focus at times to make sure we are still on the same page with the other person.

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