What is it about?

This paper describes a novel approach to conducting a motivational interview (MI) with a couple. This approach deviates from previous couples Mi efforts in two ways. First, we view the couple -- as a whole -- as the client. This contrasts with the identified patient approach where one partner in the couple is viewed as the client and the other as an adjunct participation in the counseling process. Second, we viewed relationship functioning as a catalyst for behavior change -- rather than an outcome unto itself. These two assumptions have implications for the process of conducting MI with couples. First, just like one person can feel two ways about change, ambivalence about behavior change can exist interpersonally (between partners). Second, interpersonal ambivalence has to be resolved (the partners need to reach consensus) before partners can plan for change together. Third, In order to facilitate the formation of consensus (health behavior goals shared by both partners), counselors need strategies to mitigate conflict and enhance relationship functioning in session.

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Why is it important?

Despite the general success of Motivational Interviewing (MI) in individual and group contexts, applications with couples have encountered challenges. The existing MI framework provides limited guidance on what to do in situations where partners feel differently about whether or how change should happen. Unlike participants in a counseling group, relationship partners influence one another in many ways outside of session. This paper represents the first attempt to articulate a framework for couples MI that addresses these challenges. The novel processes and counselor strategies within this framework are illustrated in extended narrative case examples drawn from MI sessions conducted with real couples.

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This page is a summary of: Motivational interviewing with couples: A theoretical framework for clinical practice illustrated in substance use and HIV prevention intervention with gay male couples., Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, June 2018, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/sgd0000297.
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