Can You Use Motivational Interviewing on Yourself?

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Melinda Hohman

I recently heard a person say that he had used Motivational Interviewing (MI) on himself. I thought, “Is this possible? How does that work?” Being an experienced MI trainer and teacher, I thought maybe I would give it a try by writing this blog.

My issue in this case is that I just got hearing aids. I have what some might call “residual ambivalence” about wearing them. Do they work? Yes. Do I like them? Not really. But they aren’t so bad–I got the kind that go behind my ear with a small wire into my ear. No one can see them. My friends are shocked when I point them out to them.

I have been eligible for hearing aids for about the past 5-6 years. I kept thinking that I am too young to wear them and tried to compensate for my moderate hearing loss. No one can explain why I have hearing loss like this in middle age; it may have been from a virus.  I had noticed difficulty over time with my hearing, especially while teaching in the university classroom. I couldn’t hear students in the back of the room and would have to walk up to them to listen more closely. I figured they would just think this was part of my teaching technique, to walk around the classroom. I knew in the back of my mind that they were frustrated with having to repeat things but were always quite patient. A bit unfair to them. Sometimes I would even pretend like I had heard them and just nod. Think I fooled them? Community training events that were held in large rooms brought some concern and I would tell my audience ahead of time that I had some “mild” hearing loss and might need them to speak a bit louder. I guess that really instills confidence in your trainer! Again, I would do the walking around bit and tried to make it look like this was quite normal.

Sometimes in restaurants or while out shopping, I would not quite hear what the waiter/clerk said and would have to ask them to repeat it. I noticed at times my family and friends jumping in to tell me, knowing right away that I had missed something. They meant well, but again, this was unfair to them. And it didn’t make me feel so great.

So, where does the Motivational Interviewing come in? Even in just writing the above paragraphs, I see how I struggled and tried to compensate for my hearing loss. I never quite put it together this way; I would discuss some of these aspects with my family and friends, and say, “Oh, my poor students! They must think I am really an old lady!” and laugh it off a bit. Reading all these aspects of the “down side” of not wearing hearing aids is like listening to a long summary where all the pieces are pulled together. Bill Miller, the founder of MI, likens this to presenting a client with a bouquet of individual flowers. When clients hear summaries, especially ones with lots of details, they may be listening to their reality in a whole new way.

OK, so now I am a bit more motivated. I see the problems that not having hearing aids has caused me. I could now go on about why I don’t like wearing them, although I am in the transition stage and have been told it takes time for your brain to get used to them. So far, they are uncomfortable, making my ears itch and even hurt a bit. There is also a feeling of being a bit disabled; just about everyone I know wears glasses, but I only know two people who wear hearing aids. Do I see them as disabled? No. So I am being silly when I think of myself in this category.  And so what if I was. As an MI trainer/teacher, I discuss how a counselor should be cautious of eliciting too much “sustain talk” from clients—why they can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, aren’t able, etc. I have to watch doing that to myself as well. Complaining doesn’t change things and only feeds my residual ambivalence. So it’s better to move on. I can bring up the itchy/pain problem when I see my audiologist.

Time for me to focus on some change talk or discussion regarding the positive side of the change one is making or considering making. What are the benefits of wearing hearing aids? Well, I can actually stand in the front of the classroom and hear from the back row. I can hear what people are saying when I am out in public. I am not driving my poor husband crazy by asking him to repeat everything when he talks from the next room. When using Motivational Interviewing, we can link change to personal values. It is important for me to do a good job as a teacher and trainer. Being able to more clearly hear students will increase my effectiveness in my work. It also makes me feel more “able”.

What is interesting is the reaction from friends. They act like I am some sort of trailblazer, leading the way into older adult issues. They say things like, “I  know, I need them too,” “I should be getting them.” Their affirming my decision to actually do something about my hearing loss has been helpful. So maybe in doing self-MI, we listen for affirmations that come from those around us.  And maybe we could even affirm ourselves. For instance: I feel like it takes guts for me to just write this.

Let us know if and how you have used Motivational Interviewing personally!

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