Maximizing the Confidence Question

Posted on May 9, 2014

In the last post we discussed having clients think and talk about their values as a way to prime the brain to build motivation for a critical change.  This week’s post will look at priming to build hope and self-confidence, utilizing a process to increase change talk, specifically around the client’s ability.  I’ve created a worksheet to help structure the process, which you can find by following this link.  To begin let’s look at the role of hope and self-confidence in the change process.
For the purpose of this post, hope is defined as believing that change is possible, and self-confidence is defined as the belief that clients can make change happen.  I like to use an analogy related to mountain climbing in Colorado to show the role of hope and self-confidence.  In our beautiful state, we are lucking enough to have 53 14ers (mountains with peaks above 14,000 feet).  When hiking these mountains in summer, it is important to get off the mountain before the afternoon thunderstorms roll in, because lightening is a real danger, especially if your 6’7 like me!  This means people have to wake up and start hiking around dawn, all to bust their butts for several hours.
In Motivational Interviewing (MI) there is a concept termed the MI Hill (I call it the MI Mountain due to do the difficult changes our clients face).  The climb up the mountain is associated with the Pre-Contemplation and Contemplation stages of the Stages of Change Model.  In these stages the client is either not considering making the change (Pre-Contemplation) or just beginning to think about changing (Contemplation).
As a helper we assist the client in identifying preparatory change talk or DARN (Desire, Ability, Reason, and Need).  Preparatory change talk builds as the client considers new healthier behaviors and ways of living.  The Importance Question helps elicit Desire, Reason and Need.  The Confidence Question help the client realize they have the Ability to make the change a reality.
When I take on a 14er, the alarm clock is not my friend.  Often going off around 4am, I know it is calling me to a day of intense climbing, exhaustion and a ton of work – a well-deserved beer by the campfire is still 12 hours away.  All cozy in my sleeping bag, it is so easy just to turn off the alarm and sleep a few more hours. 
For our clients I see hope and self-confidence as what gets them up and to the trailhead of the MI Mountain.  No matter how great a client’s Desire, Ability, Reason and Need for change, if they do not believe the change can occur there will be little or no motivation.  As helpers, we are often in a position to find hope when the clients don’t see it themselves.  In addition we can help clients realize that they do have the strengths necessary to climb the mountain in front of them.  Here in lies the genius of the Confidence Question.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been having you think about a change you are trying to make.  I want you to think about this change again. On the Confidence Worksheet (please download if you haven’t already) answer the question:
On a 1 – 10 Scale (1 being not at all confident and 10 being extremely confident): How confident are you that you can accomplish this change?
Now, review the Some Characteristics of Successful Changers Checklist, circle the characteristics you have used to make changes in the past.  Next, pick ten of the characteristics you identified that could be utilized to make the change you are currently considering.
Next, think about your change again and answer these two questions:
·         What five changes have you made in your life that were difficult for you?
·         Given what you know about yourself, how could you make this change successfully?
What this exercise is designed to do is elicit preparatory change talk about the client’s ability to change.  Many clients walk through the door with little or no hope or self-confidence.  Trying to convince them that they could make the change usually just elicits arguments on why they can’t and won’t move forward.  Priming the brain by thinking of strengths, gives you numerous opportunities to have conversations around change talk. 
This change talk can focus on reflection of positive changes that were made in the past, which will build self-confidence.  Then you can ask the client how they might utilize past strengths and strategies to address their current change. Again, the important thing here is that you are eliciting change talk, which we know predicts actual change. 
Before we wrap up, let’s revisit the last Confidence Ruler Question on the Confidence Worksheet. 
On a 1 – 10 Scale (1 being not at all confident and 10 being extremely confident): How confident are you that you can accomplish this change?
What happened to your number? What about your self-confidence?
Again, I would love to hear feed
back on what this process was like for you.  Think about integrating this and the Importance Question into your conversations of change with clients and please let us know how it goes.  Happy priming and changing!!

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