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These four steps can make the principles of motivational interviewing doable during brief office visits.

Fam Pract Manag. 2023;30(6):27-29

This content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial relationships.

Motivational interviewing is an effective strategy for encouraging health behavior change and improving outcomes for people with alcoholism, substance abuse, and several chronic medical conditions.1,2 Despite its effectiveness, translating the use of motivational interviewing into primary care visits has proven difficult because of the increased time it takes to get at the “whys” behind patients' behaviors.

Two key elements for successful health behavior change are that the patient must have 1) the desire to change and 2) the confidence that they can change. Only then can you help the patient establish a workable process for change.

Using a modification of motivational interviewing principles to promote health behavior change has significantly increased my effectiveness at helping my patients set goals they want to accomplish and they succeed in completing. This process is about helping patients build the skill of setting a goal they can — and want to — accomplish and keep. Many health conditions are amenable to motivational goal setting, but this article will focus on four areas where this can be done in a reasonable amount of time in the office setting. Those areas are 1) nutrition, 2) activity, 3) emotional well-being, and 4) smoking reduction.

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