New counseling focus is on motivating, not persuading
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Change? Who wants to do that?
It’s hard enough convincing people to change, and it’s harder still if it comes with a price tag or requires giving up a favorite pastime.
So, what’s the best strategy for motivating people to change?
Over the summer, Denise Krupp, College of Humanities and Social Sciences lead counseling instructor, conducted sessions with two groups of Grand Canyon University employees — Super Team 7’s counselors and student conduct coordinators — that provided answers to that very question.
Krupp instructed them in motivational interviewing, a process she has used with success in her second job counseling court-ordered clients.
“It’s an approach to meet a person where they are at, to listen to them, learn what their needs are and help them,” she said.
At its core, motivational interviewing encourages connecting instead of persuading. Clients are more open to new ideas when participating in a conversation than when they are getting a lecture from a stranger.
“Ask about their day or how they are doing, what their goals are, what their values are,” Krupp said. “You have to build rapport or they will not engage.”
Persuasion is eschewed in motivational interviewing.
Krupp, for example, doesn’t try to convince her clients who face drunken-driving charges to enroll in alcohol-rehabilitation programs. Instead, she asks how alcohol is causing problems in their lives, and she and the client team up to arrive at solutions that, in the end, often include a rehab program.
Paul Fernandez, a University Counselor Manager (UCM), first heard about motivational interviewing from his wife, Robin Fernandez, an online instructor who teaches addiction counseling.
Fernandez is one of five UCMs who manage 12 counselors each on her team. He saw team members who wanted to grow but needed a new direction or focus.
“What I saw was people who wanted to get better,” he said. “I didn’t have a conceptual framework to help them grow.”
He reached out for information and was thrilled when Krupp volunteered to train more than 60 university counselors.
“She was awesome, and the team was pretty bummed out that school is starting because they know they won’t see her as much,” he said. “She loves motivational interviewing and is really good at it.”
He said her coaching made his team members more confident and skilled in their conversations. Krupp helped them change their performance at work — so they could help GCU students make a change in their lives.
“She encouraged us to listen more, to not throw a whole bunch of information at them and see what sticks,” Fernandez said.
Student Conduct Manager Alan Boelter, who oversees five coordinators, said his department already had been considering motivational interviewing when Pastor Tim Griffin, GCU’s dean of students, connected him with Krupp.
Boelter said his department is shifting from a more punitive approach to one that motivates students to embrace growth.
“We probably see students at their lowest point,” Boelter said. “We want to work with them and develop them as global citizens.”
Boelter said a key suggestion was to help students realize that the payoff for change — a college degree and more satisfying jobs — is greater than the payoff for continuing down the same path.
“It’s finding the positive motivational thing to help them get to their next step,” Boelter said.
GCU, Krupp said, is a family, and she enjoyed using her skills to help out her family members.
“We are all in this together,” Krupp said. “We all have the same goals. Why not work together to use each other’s skills to meet our goals?”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].