Are "Motivational Interviewing techniques" & "Solution Focused Approaches" just buzzwords?

In this blog, I am going to explain my journey of discovery and subsequent experience of Motivational Interviewing & Solutions Focused Approaches.


I first came across the term Motivational Interviewing about 6 years ago when I was in an L&D role within a public service and a manager asked me if I had had any experience of Motivational Interviewing [MI].

As an L&D professional, with over 30 years of experience, I had become, for various reasons, complacent around my own development and I was taken aback by this request as I had never heard of MI. I then did what all L&D professionals do, I ‘Googled -it!’



What I discovered, was that MI was a way of enabling people to make sustainable changes in their life and that it was primarily linked to health issues such as drug and drink addiction, obesity and many more conditions.

This description led me to advise the manager that ‘No I didn’t have any experience or knowledge in this area.’


About the same time, a company was being commissioned to deliver Solution Focus Approaches [SFA] to a team of social care workers and again I recognised I had no experience or knowledge in this area too.


How did these two events, impact upon me?


Well to be truthful, I thought they held some sort of ‘mystic aura’ around them and that they could only be applied by ‘elite-specialists’ in the field of health and social care. I, therefore, accepted that I would not be able to help transfer any knowledge and skills to others outside of these professions and filed it away, thinking the interactions I had would never raise their head again.


Gee was I wrong!


Fast forward to 2019 and I managed to secure a 5-month contract to help co-facilitate some development sessions for a large number of people who worked in social care, working with educational psychologists to deliver MI and SFA. Initially, my remit was one whereby I would be offering training delivery support to the trainers [Educational Psychologists] who had no experience of delivery but knew both MI and SFA.


What transpired over the next 5 months was an adventure of ‘myth-busting,’ and ‘recognition’ that these 2 personal development tools could be used in so many different ways and contexts.


I discovered that MI helps people to motivate themselves into action, sometimes with small steps sometimes with bigger steps. MI helps individuals to identify what they might be unhappy with and picture what the change they want could be like and the steps needed to make it happen. It is different to other motivational theories in that MI focuses only on ‘intrinsic ways to motivate an individual.’


SFA on the other hand, deals with the mindsets of individuals and how they see their world

and the events that happen. SFA enables people to move away from a ‘fixed mindset’ which is limiting in nature to a ‘growth mindset’ whereby choice[s] and opportunities are in abundance for the individual. SFA can help an individual to recognise their experience, skills and abilities and offer them possibilities thereby encouraging them to take a far more responsible and accountable outlook to the ‘curve balls’ which life, in general, can through at them whether that be at work; in relationships or in day-to-day life.


During this adventure, I had numerous conversations with the Educational Psychologists about both of these models and their application outside of Health and Social Care and we explored together different ways to use the tools with me even delivering various tools to the audience as I had been able to identify the relationship between the models and people.


I learnt quite early in this exploration that the tools used in either model can be used together, on their own and were even interchangeable. More importantly, I recognised that they can both be applied in a much wider work context, such in the following areas:


· Coaching either individual or team

· Tackling negativity within an individual or team

· Improving autonomy and actions in an individual or team

· Changing an individual’s perspective about an issue

· Helping to find direction & / or motivation


And many more situations.


Subsequently, I have used these two techniques and the tools from both models in my executive coaching practices, with some enlightening results for my clients and in numerous training interventions to help support individuals / teams on a practical level.


One of the key things I learnt during this exploration of these techniques is that it doesn’t make problems / issues or challenges any easier to tackle, it does though give people tools that relate to them as a means of tackling those challenges.


So, Are "Motivational Interviewing techniques" & "Solution Focused Approaches" just buzzwords?


Put simply, NO!


They are Learning tools that any individual can learn to use, to help them resolve any challenge a person may be facing whether it be personal or work-based.


Am I now an ‘elite specialist’ errrr No, but I’m working on it 😉


If you want to learn more about these two topics you can complete our bite-sized online courses: Motivational Interviewing and Solution Focused Approaches


Or book onto a webinar with our 'elite specialist', Chris.


Chris is a credible trainer and facilitator [Cert.Ed.; Action Learning & Insights Discovery qualified] with over 25 years experience in the fields of:

Leadership skills and development utilising Insights Discovery Tools, Team and Individual Development and Coaching.

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