When people come to therapy, they often talk about how they want to feel better, have a better relationship, or to solve or alleviate their problems.
What that really means is that something in their life needs to be changed.
As we all know, change can be difficult; yet its opposite, stagnation, is not a very appealing proposition either.
We struggle with change due to our internal conflicts over what we value more: whether it be gain or loss; safety or risk; the familiar versus the unfamiliar; right or wrong.
Resistance to change is inevitable in therapy. However much research has been done in this field, to identify the factors that help motivate people to change so we can break through this resistance.
Factors that Motivate People to Change
Some of the most common influences when it comes to motivating people to change include:
- Self-Efficacy – A sense of capacity to perform particular actions. When one believes he or she can achieve something and it is to be rewarded, the probability they will engage in the activity is high.
- The Power of Reinforcement – Behavioural psychology suggests that the less desirable but more convenient alternatives are often powerfully reinforced. Hence, one of the most effective behavioural strategies to improve motivation is to encourage rewards when positive steps are made towards change. One way of doing this is for the individual to contemplate what making change might look like – in particular, to contemplate the results and build a picture of how their life could improve. This visual image provides something concrete for the individual to hold on to.
- Concrete Steps and Small Goals – The likelihood of carrying out change increases as the individual takes concrete steps and attains reachable goals, thus building their self-confidence.
- Desires, Dreams and Aspirations – These are the driving forces for behaviour change. it is the emotional experiences of feeling aspired that provide the incentive for directing purposeful behaviour and change, rather than being based on outcomes (as goal setting is).
Although change can be difficult, the good news is that the purposeful change process makes us feel curious, alive and meaningful.
Your Individual Program for Change
I have a great interest in this area, and in particular, understanding what motivates people to change. When working with clients, I take into account their individual personality, strengths, weaknesses, background and environment, in order to develop tailored and evidence-based interventions to enhance the likelihood of achieving long lasting change, more quickly and effectively.
Author: Claire Pang, B Psych (Hons), Masters of Clinical Psychology.
As a Clinical Psychologist, Claire has been trained in psychological assessment and evidence-based therapies for both individual adults and couples. She is result-orientated, practicing a wide range of therapeutic approaches with great success. Claire has a special interest in helping adults and couples coping with change; she gains great fulfillment and inspiration through witnessing human resilience again and again in her clinical work.
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- M.Evans (2013). How and why people change. Oxford University Press.
- De Jong, P., I.K. (2008). Interviewing for solutions. Belmont. CA: Brooks/Cole
- Castonguay, L.,G., & Beutler, L. E. (Eds.). (2006). Principles of psychotherapeutic change that work. New York: Oxford University Press.