Therapists can take a wide variety of approaches to mental health counseling. The best therapeutic style for you depends on your needs, your values, and your method of communication. Many older adults benefit greatly from motivational interviewing (MI) a style of counseling that aims to increase your motivation to improve your health.
If you value your independence and autonomy in therapy, you may find a number of powerful benefits in this type of counseling. You should know what motivational interviewing is, how it works, and why it can be so valuable for seniors.
What Is Motivational Interviewing?
Motivational interviewing is an approach to therapy developed in the 1980s by William Miller. The technique was originally created for people with alcohol addiction, but it can also be used to support a wide range of other people.
The goal of this approach is to guide the individual to find their own motivation for improving or maintaining their overall health. It’s rooted in the belief that everyone has an internal motivation to reach their full potential and that you have to tap into that motivation to achieve wellness. Motivational interviewing also places a strong emphasis on empathy and self-acceptance. When you develop such a positive relationship with yourself, you want to grow and improve.
The MI Spirit
Four guiding principles make up the MI spirit. Therapists often use the acronym “PACE” to define these four principles:
The therapist and individual work together as equals. As much as possible, the therapist’s communication style prompts the individual to think independently and come to their own conclusions. One of the most important underlying beliefs is that the individual is the expert on themselves. The therapist’s job is to help facilitate a conversation, but they don’t have the authority to tell the individual what to do.
The therapist accepts their client for who they are without judgment. Even if they don’t agree with the individual’s beliefs or behaviors, they don’t approach the conversation in a confrontational manner. Although the therapist shouldn’t condone any unhealthy behavior in their client, their job is not to judge or condemn the individual.
The therapist empathizes with the individual no matter what they’re going through or what they express. The sense of empathy from the therapist is one of the most valuable aspects to any form of counseling, and it’s especially vital in motivational interviewing.
Motivational interviewing involves talk of change, so the therapist helps the individual understand what they want to change in their life and why. The counselor may ask questions out of curiosity, which allows the individual to explore their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
The OARS Approach
The OARS approach is a technique that therapists use to connect with their clients and help them self-reflect during motivational interviewing. It involves the following four elements:
The therapist’s communication style involves mostly open-ended questions that guide the client’s thinking. Instead of asking leading questions that guide the individual to a predetermined answer, the therapist asks probing questions that simply allow the individual to self-reflect.
The therapist reinforces the individual’s strengths and accomplishments. This validation can help the individual feel understood, and it motivates them to continue with the therapy process.
The therapist actively listens to the individual and reflects on what they say. This adds extra insight to the conversation and helps to continue the discussion.
The therapist explains what the person says back to them, which ensures that the therapist understands correctly and isn’t missing anything. Because the individual is the expert on themselves, the therapist never assumes they know what the person thinks or believes.
Benefits of Motivational Interviewing for Older Adults
Mental health is a major area of concern for many seniors, and motivational interviewing can be an ideal approach to therapy. The communication style used in motivational interviewing can help older adults maintain their sense of independence and autonomy during the counseling session, which is very important for effective treatment. Seniors are sometimes skeptical about counseling or feel hesitant to open up to a therapist. However, the equal partnership between the therapist and client in motivational interviewing can help them feel more comfortable.
Many seniors struggle with apathy or a loss of motivation. Your older years can be a great time of life, but the effects of aging can also be difficult to handle emotionally. Some older adults shut down, spend too much time at home, and decline to engage in their once-preferred activities. Motivational interviewing may help them regain their enthusiasm for life and create a stronger sense of meaning and purpose.
This approach to counseling is also very helpful for maintaining or improving your physical health. When you find your internal motivation for self-improvement, you’ll likely become more active. You might leave the house more frequently to socialize and participate in hobbies, and this increase in physical activity has countless health benefits. As a result, you can maintain more independence, which improves your mental health and overall quality of life.
Motivational interviewing is especially beneficial for seniors who have chronic health issues, have experienced a recent change in health, or take an extensive amount of medication. You may need to make drastic changes to your lifestyle to manage these challenges, and motivational interviewing can make these adjustments feel more attainable.
Older adults can use motivational interviewing as an opportunity for self-exploration. Your sense of identity may change with age, but this form of counseling allows you to explore who you are and what you value. You can reflect on your life and discover how aging has affected your sense of self. Then, you can define your values and discover what means the most to you at this stage of your life.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides therapy services for older adults. If you’re interested in exploring how motivational interviewing could benefit you or an aging loved one, please contact us today.