Practical Application of Motivational Interviewing by Julie Alsup, GPC

I recently participated in my colleague Tracey Diefenbach’s training on Motivational Interviewing (MI). I was inspired! Between having a degree in psychology and gaining these new skills and techniques, I was convinced I can now motivate people to do what I need them to do!

In Tracey’s presentation, she covers the basics about MI.

Change Talk, or statements made by the person indicating they are moving towards change.

Open Ended Questions that explore context and dig into the motivation behind the situation a bit more.

Affirmations recognizing the client’s strengths and acknowledging behaviors that lead in the direction of change.

Reflections can either be simple or they can be complex and move conversations along Simple reflections restate what has been said without attributing meaning, and complex reflections verify what the person said and add meaning.

I immediately had an opportunity to practice these skills. I had recently completed a grant narrative for a client and, I will be honest, I was proud of it. It required me to stretch my skills as a grant writer and work with the project team to help craft a scope that aligned to the funder’s priority areas. The entire project team had read it, but when it went to the CEO for final review, he said the scope was too complicated. He said the funder was aware the project was a bit different from what they normally accept and that we needed to have a call to discuss the proposal approach.

I have a lot of experience with the funder they were approaching.  I also have experience with CEOs who call program officers to discuss a project idea. Sometimes, once they hear what they want to hear, they don’t hear the rest, and then that CEO comes back and tells the grant writer that the funder said “sure, that sounds fine.” However, when grant writers are not at the meeting with the funder, details are often left out. Grant professionals are great at hearing or listening for the “yes but” part of these conversations.

I started writing this blog ahead of this client meeting. Assuming how the conversation would go, I began blogging in anticipation of how MI would be the answer for how I would enlighten my client.

My assumptions were that this is what was really said-

“Yes, your idea sounds like it could align with our funding priorities…. but it will still need to benefit the target population on which we focus.”

“Yes, those activities are fundable…but what are the measurable objectives and how will they lead to better health outcomes?”

Based upon my assumptions for how this was going to play out, I had the whole conversation in my own head. I had potential complex reflections ready to go.

Client Statement: We need to just write the grant for this one activity, that is it.

Complex Reflection: You are confident that the funder is going to accept a scope of work that does not benefit their priority target population or have measurable health outcomes.

And then…. I realized my error. My prepared reflection statements struck me as passive aggressive, and I realized I was not doing this correctly. Backing up, I called my colleague Tracey for some coaching. Her advice was spot on. The goal for MI is not manipulation, but shared understanding to find common ground. Success of this practice is also based upon conversation and building upon what the interviewee says- seeking to understand where each person is coming from and what is behind any resistance along the way.

Her advice was simple.

1) Draw back to the place that each side is coming from. The grant professional knows the funder’s guidelines and the required components of the grant application. Think about where the other person is coming from.

2) Think about what the root of any resistance on each side of the conversation might be. Lean into that resistance and listen for the “why” of the project that the client is speaking about. Reflect personally on my own resistance to changing the scope.

3) Listen for key words that are “change talk.”

4) Stick with affirmations and simple reflections if there is still resistance. Continue to ask open ended questions that provide additional understanding and depth to the scope the client is proposing and move toward alignment.

5) As appropriate, restate the goal of conveying a quality proposal that will be funded so that the client can complete the scope and effect the change they desire.

6) Use the new understanding to identify the scope’s outputs and outcomes that truly reflect the client’s motivation and the change they seek.

Tracey’s additional coaching helped me enter the meeting with less resistance and an open mind. My initial assumptions of the client’s resistance and desired change were erroneous. In the end, the scope will not change tremendously and, in fact, we may have identified multiple phases of an overall strategy that will lead to multiple grant proposals.

Alignment to GPCI competencies

Competency #1: Knowledge of how to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs

Skill 6. Identify fundable programs and projects for specific organization

Skill 7. Determine best matches between funders and specific programs

Skill 8. Interpret grant application request for proposal (RFP) guidelines and requirements to               accurately assess funder intent

Competency #2: Knowledge of organizational development as it pertains to grant seeking

Skill 6. Identify strategies and procedures for obtaining internal institutional support and approval of decision-makers for grant-seeking activities

Competency #3: Knowledge of strategies for effective program and project design and development

Competency #8: Knowledge of methods and strategies that cultivate and maintain relationships between fund-seeking and recipient organizations and funders

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