Teens Only Listen to One Person…Themselves: How a Child’s Own Reasons for Change Lead to the Most Success
By Michael Pantalo..., August 26 2011
[Please note: Reclaiming Futures and its partners are not endorsing or promoting the author's book. We are reprinting his column because it does a good job of showing how the principles of Motivational Interviewing (an evidence-based practice) can be used to help youth make positive changes. Though written for parents with teens using alcohol and drugs, it also applies to juvenile probation officers and other professionals who work with youth to help them change their behavior -- all sorts of behavior, not just alcohol and drug use. --Ed.]
Imagine you are in the Emergency Department (ED) with your 16-year-old daughter, who was brought in for her second episode of alcohol poisoning in six months. The doctor is about to discharge her because, medically, she’s fine, but you know she’s going to go right back to heavy drinking if you don’t do something. You and your husband feel you’ve tried everything to help your daughter, but you also believe that there has to be some way to take advantage of this dire emergency to motivate her to get into treatment and to stop drinking.
I’ve seen hundreds of families in this very situation and their dilemma is always the same: they all want to influence their child to get on a better path, but they don’t know that there is a quick, easy and scientifically-proven way of getting the job done. The approach I’m referring to is called “Instant Influence.” It’s based on Motivational Interviewing (which in its briefest form has been shown to reduce substance use among adolescents and young adults seen in the ED) and my 20 years of experience motivating some of the most resistant-to-change substance abusing children and adults in a wide variety of settings.
People tend to only listen to one person — themselves. And, as a result, they’re only influenced by one person … again — themselves. So, as frustrating as this may be for a parent who would like to sternly say, “You have to stop!” and to have that be enough, the real trick to motivating someone is to get them to convince themselves to make a change for their own good reasons.