It has long been known that having the support of family or social ties is an important part of treatment. Individuals who feel that their loved ones support their efforts to get better have better treatment outcomes than those who do not have support. Seeking treatment for alcohol and drinking problems is on area that has shown to be heavily impacted by social support. For instance, if an individual’s family members support their efforts to quit, they will be more likely to try. However, if their friends and family members encourage their drinking behaviors, quitting may be far more challenging. Along with the influence of support systems, the therapist working with the client also influences the level of change talk. However, until now, few studies have explored how the presence of significant others during treatment effects a client’s level of change talk.
Timothy R. Apodaca of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri wanted to gauge the impact of significant others (SOs) on clients’ change talk during motivational interviewing (MI) conducted after clients were admitted to an emergency room. Apodaca looked at the consistency of therapist MI as an indicator of change talk. He also evaluated the therapists’ acceptance and spirit. He found that therapists’ consistency did not affect client change talk, but higher levels of therapist spirit and acceptance did affect change talk negatively.
Not surprisingly, Apodaca found that clients whose SOs supported their willingness to change had more positive change talk than clients whose SOs wanted them to continue drinking. Also, the SOs who demonstrated behaviors that clearly indicated they were unsupportive of the drinking in the months leading up to hospitalization had the biggest effect on producing positive change talk in the clients. Although it is well known that SO support is integral to a client’s recovery, this study now sheds light on the significance of their presence during initial interviewing sessions. Additionally, even though the therapists did not directly impact change talk in the clients in this study, their role was vital in the process of change. “In the presence of an SO, the therapist’s role may become that of facilitator, reinforcing supportive behavior and reframing confrontational or unsupportive behavior on the part of the SO,” said Apodaca.
Apodaca, T. R., Magill, M., Longabaugh, R., Jackson, K. M., and Monti, P. M. (2012). Effect of a significant other on client change talk in motivational interviewing. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030881
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