To Change or Not to Change?

“Why is change so hard?” I hear this statement often for the patients I see in primary care. From taking a medication as prescribed to tobacco cessation – change is hard. Many of the conditions health professionals treat are chronic conditions – which are heavily influenced by lifestyle and behavior modifications. What is a health professional to do???

Over the past year, I have had the honor to teach a course on something called “Brief Motivational Interviewing” through the Department of Lifelong Learning in the School of Nursing at UT Health San Antonio. What is “Brief Motivational Interviewing” or Brief “MI”? Brief MI is a communication approach or, really, an intervention that can help a patient begin to resolve ambivalence and increase self-confidence toward behavior change in brief encounters. Brief MI even be used in a 2-5-minute patient encounter!

According to this approach, the patient experiences internal conflict regarding the pros and cons of behavior change. The internal conflict, or ambivalence, must be resolved in order for the patient to engage in behavior change. The role of the health professional is to help the patient “…overcome his or her negative perception of change in favor of a positive recognition of the benefits of change” (Cummings, Cooper, & Cassie, 2009, p. 198).

In the Brief MI course, participants are able to engage in web-based learning as well as in-person practice of the brief MI skills learned. The addition of the live portion makes this training experience unique – getting to practice MI consistent approaches to care is MUCH different than just hearing or reading about them. In the live portion, we also view and discuss provider-patient encounters, discuss complex patient cases and of course, practice on each other! It’s painless, I promise!

As a clinician and educator, it is imperative that the trainees that work with me are exposed to and practice brief MI skills during patient encounters. But not every health care provider had this opportunity during their training – but now you can!

Let’s all make this shift towards behavior change together. I would like to see not only patients empowered to make important changes in their lives, but I would also like to see clinicians feel confident in their ability to meet their patients wherever they are in their journey of change and make an impact. It has been my passion to educate and provide technical assistance to those interested in improving their daily interactions with patients.

Imagine how many patients and communities would be impacted by you starting the conversation towards change? The conversation is similar to a chain being linked – one person starts the conversation but someone else may pick up where you left off – or YOU may be that person!

Healthy patients make healthy communities.  So, health care providers, let’s recognize our patients as being partners with us in their care and help them along this journey called change.

Please share your experiences with health behavior change!


Cummings, S. M., Cooper, R. L., & Cassie, K. M. (2009). Motivational interviewing to affect behavior change in older adults. Research on Social Work Practice, 19, 195-204. doi: 10.1177/1049731508320216


Rollnick, S., Miller, W., & Butler, C. (2007). Motivational Interviewing in health care: Helping patient change behavior. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Link:

Post written by: Stacy Ogbeide, PsyD, MS, ABPP, Board-Certified Clinical Health Psychologist and Change Enthusiast


Article Categories: Blog

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