I attended a meeting last week. We learned how to recognize “change talk” and “sustain talk.” If you have a family member living with a mental illness and who has been reluctant to seek a professional or the guidance of a coach/peer, then listen to what they say.
When you here the person indicating that she wants to deal with her depression or mania or substance abuse, it will normally come with mixed signals. “I love the energy I get from mania I just wish it didn’t make others miserable.”
Realizing that others are miserable is “change talk.” If the statement is “I love the energy I get from mania. I get a lot more work done.” That’ sustain talk.
Change happens when there’s conflict in a person’s belief’s or values. A person caught between loving the mania and regretting the pain it causes others is a person in conflict. Focus on the change talk. Say something like, “You know you are making the other person miserable.” Don’t sound judgmental. Just repeat what was said. This is just holding up a mirror and reflecting back, amplifying the conflict. It gives the person a chance to reflect and say more.
“Yes, it’s bad. I come home irritable, drink a lot, do drugs. My family is afraid of what I’ll do.”
Amplify. “You’re family is frightened of you, you take away their happiness, you feel twisted inside, stuck between seeking help and enjoying the manic high.”
In response you might get, “Yes, I’m sick of it.” More change talk, now amplified.
Now say something like, “You know a professional can help you and put and end to your personal pain and the misery you are causing other.” Response, “I know. I’m going to make an appointment and deal with this.”
The door is still closed with sustain talk, but you can help direct you friend or family member when they offer change talk.
I found this simple with the potential of being very helpful; I intend to apply the principles in my coaching business. Give it a try.
For more information see: Motivational Interviewing