Seasons Change  holly

By: Trudy-Lyn Wittig

Dec 2016 

Like the turn of a page so ends the hot, humid, sunny days of summer transitioning to the crisper days of fall where the green leaves of the trees change to magnificent shades of red, orange and yellow! What follows is colder temperatures and falling snow which brings the great expectations of the Christmas season.   Although I look forward to the holidays with the glee and giddiness of a child, I also find myself getting caught up with the hustle and bustle of the season which fogs my lens for the true beauty and meaning of Christmas.

With the passing of each change of season I find myself feeling two ways about the next arrival. While I can clearly see all the wonderful benefits the new season will bring, I also find myself dreading other characteristics of the new arrival. And so it goes when we are ambivalent.

Seasons change… and people work at making changes too.  When doing so this feeling of ambivalence often arises.  We see ambivalence all around us- with our clients, co-workers, family and friends. Feeling two ways about making a change is normal.  How we go about supporting someone to make the change is instrumental in moving them forward.

As a practitioner, I encourage you to take stock of what you bring to the table when discussing change with your clients.  If you are reading this blog there’s a good chance you have completed some motivational interviewing training which is used with ambivalent clients.  Guiding your client forward towards the change using motivational interviewing ensures a client centered, strategic approach.  However, in addition, may I also encourage you to do some self-reflection?  On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being low and 10 being super high, what is your level of self-awareness?  How aware are you of the utterances that you are articulating, the tone that you are using and the influence these utterances are having on the recipient?  What are your own mental model/perceptions of the client and the circumstance they are in and how does that mental model influence the conversation about change that you are having?  How willing are you to let go of your own ideas for change for this client and allow them to choose their own path?   These are just a few of the things that can influence an MI conversation.  It is not only your MI competency level which will determine how strategic you are in guiding someone forward; it is also your level of self-awareness.  A high level of self-awareness combined with competency in MI is a recipe for a beautiful conversation about change.

Seasons change and so too can individuals make behaviour change when their ambivalence is resolved.  I encourage you to make the most of the time you have with your clients and like the turn of a page focus on the new season that they anticipate coming their way, the new chapter they wish to write in their life.

All the best for a wonderful holiday season and may much peace bless you in 2017.


How do YOU act on your intention of Compassion?

By: Trudy-Lyn Wittig

Nov 2015 

Many of you who have gotten to know me through training and/or coaching session are all too familiar with my love of animals and my passion for my Shiloh Shephard, Lexi.  This circle of love and passion was extended this past July to a beautiful litter of Shiloh Shephard puppies delivered by our gorgeous gal Ms. Lexi.   The puppies went to their forever homes in September with one young gal, Somer, and one tank of a male, Sully, remaining with my family, Lexi and I.

These wee pups wrapped around our hearts more than words can say.  Sully was chosen and super special to us as he was the only male of the litter of 8. Somer was chosen and pulled on our heart strings as she wasn’t breathing when delivered and my hubby Ron quickly put his CPR skills to work and saved her life.  Somer was a fighter and quickly proved she had spunk, determination and adept Ninja skills to escape the whelping box where the litter was safely housed…. She kept my husband very busy as he continuously increased the height of the sides on the whelping box!

Somer and Sully became the dynamic duo of our household.  Rarely would we call one without the other- Somer and Sully were like butter and jelly- they just belonged together.  OH how I enjoyed seeing them romp with their mama and friskily play.  OH how I adored having a son and daughter of Ms. Lexi’s— her legacy.

This joy was brought to an abrupt HALT October 25 when we found Somer deceased in her crate in the am.  She had been fine the previous day and then without any warning she was gone!  Pure panic ran through my veins not knowing the cause and if my male Sully would be subject to the same peril.  The range of emotions that swept through me and still do as I write this blog render me almost breathless- fear, grief, anger, guilt….

The passing of Somer has provided me with an up close and very personal look at compassion and empathy.  Family and friends reached out to me and my family in various ways, many demonstrating accurate empathy and compassion.

What I found helpful:

My long time vet reflected that losing Somer was like sharp chards of glass which cut deep and that I was trying to navigate through very rough waters.  He asked permission to offer further insight which I accepted.   He shared that just as rough waters smooth the edges of sharp glass in lakes and oceans, the sharp jabs that were cutting deep in me would feel less intense over time, and that as I navigated my way through rough waters in time I would find a calm pool where I could find peace.  He clearly understood how I was feeling and provided me with the space I needed to navigate through my journey of grief.

Roxanne reflected that she could hear the pain and sorrow in every word that I wrote to her- she clearly knew how painful it was for me to tell her about my horrific loss.

One friend popped into my country home to see how she could assist us.

Another friend reflected that she had no words to express the depth of the sorrow that I was experiencing.

An emergency vet asked if she could hug me after examining Sully.

Friends reached out offering to bring over lunch, bring over dinner, wine, take care of Lexi and Sully if we needed to attend to things.

Many asked if they could just sit with us in our sorrow.

Another friend brought baked goods and extended her support.

The above are demonstrations of accurate empathy and acts of compassion.

What wasn’t helpful to me:

Some significant others told me to be strong, and that I needed to be strong for my children.  This added to my range of emotions. I was already feeling guilt and grief in losing Somer and terror in not knowing if Sully was going to be okay.  As well as a barrage of other emotions.  Now I felt shamed as well as angry.  They were telling me something that I already knew and was already feeling terrible about.  I felt so depleted in emotions I didn’t feel I had much left in me to comfort my loved ones.

One individual left me a message saying “Wow that really sucks” after hearing about the passing of Somer.  Really??? That sucks!  A bad hair cut sucks.  Running out of gas, or getting a flat tire sucks!  This person clearly did not ‘get me’.

Many individuals left messages for me saying that they were sorry to hear about the passing of Somer.  These messages were polite and appreciated. However, I didn’t feel they understood the depth of my loss.  The empathy piece was missing.

I spoke with Dr. Miller in Berlin in October and asked him if he could share with me how he distinguished Empathy and Compassion. He said, “Empathy is a way of acting on your intention of compassion”.

The individuals that demonstrated accurate empathy with me made themselves very vulnerable in going to a place within themselves that enabled them to reflect back and truly demonstrate that they understood my perspective. They were able to match the intensity of my emotions.

May I invite you to consider and reflect on how you act on your intention of compassion?  Further how do you think your good intentions are received by your clients and significant others?


How does The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing fit in with your daily life?

By: Trudy-Lyn Wittig

Aug 2015

I recently was given the honour of being asked by my niece to be the Master of Ceremonies at her wedding along with my baby bro Brad.   Okay so a couple things here. Baby bro Brad isn’t technically a baby; however he is 17 years my junior so I call him ‘baby bro’ ALL the time.   Secondly, I am curious if the title ‘master’ of ceremonies is the correct terminology for my new fancy bang dangled role since I am female. Never the less, these curiosities are conversation for another time.

With the wedding date approaching fast and furious, (August 29/15)—only weeks away, I got my creative juices rolling and started coming up with all kinds of wonderful ideas to make this very special day fun, exciting and memorable. My niece was born several years before I had my own children and I think of her as a daughter. Therefore, as the MC I wanted to incorporate very unique and special ideas into the reception.   Of course, I thought all my ideas were the ‘cat’s meow’ and everyone would love them as much as I.

This didn’t turn out to be the case—my co MC, baby bro Brad, didn’t have the same enthusiasm for all my ideas as I did. When my ideas were shared he would politely respond with, “We’ll have to discuss that one further”, or “I am wondering if there will be time for that one”, or “We may wish to look at that one further and see how we can adapt it”, etc etc. Admittedly, I was initially taken back by his responses. Admittedly, I was even somewhat annoyed by his lack of enthusiasm and affirmations for my creative ingenuity. Not to mention the amount of discussion and processing this man wished to continue to do. Goodness, didn’t he realize I HAD this—I had done hours of brainstorming and transcribing – I was like a sea of resources and originality!  I asked myself over and over ‘What is there to discuss?’

After a recent conversation I had with baby bro I took some time to do some reflection. What prompted this reflection was Brad’s articulated enthusiasm to be co MC’ing (is that a real word or a word I just added to the dictionary?? –again another conversation!) with me and his positive energy and assurance that we would end up on the same page by combining our individual strengths.

My reflection got me thinking about the Spirit of Motivational Interviewing.   I found myself reflecting on ‘What was my mind-set and heart-set in this current situation?’ As a gentle reminder, the Spirit of Motivational Interviewing has 4 key interrelated elements: partnership, acceptance, compassion, and evocation.

Partnership is an active collaboration between experts. The partnership works in harmony to address an issue or work on an idea. Each individual may have different roles however the process is supportive. Was I seeing Brad as an equal partner as my co-MC?…

Acceptance has four aspects: absolute worth, affirmation, autonomy, accurate empathy. Acceptance involves an attitude of profound acceptance of what the individual brings to the table, seeking to understand their perspective and affirming their strengths and efforts. How hard was I trying to see Brad’s perspective? He could see that our combined strengths would make us a dynamic duo!

Compassion is to actively promote another person’s welfare and give priority to their needs. The spirit of compassion is to have your heart in the right place so that the trust you create will be deserved. Was I working with a spirit of compassion….. I have thought about this long and hard… and to be honest I am unsure at this point exactly how this element fits with my current MC situation. I do feel, however, that my heart is where it needs to be.

Evocation is about calling upon the individual’s perspective, wisdom and experience as the assumption is that the individual has these resources. How hard was I trying to tap into Brad’s wisdom?

Where has my reflection taken me? There is much conversation for Brad and I to have in preparation for OUR MC role. The spirit of MI has guided me to enter into the next conversation with more collaboration and acceptance as well as working hard to evoke baby bro’s ideas! Okay, Okay, I will be transparent (important for partnership) and freely admit that I may, play the big sister card to get my way with one of the activities!! Seniority, a few grey hairs and wrinkles has to count for something! (However, in MI, this can get us into trouble when we think we know better because of our years of experience. Remember our experience isn’t the focus in MI – it’s combining our knowledge with their knowledge.)

In my journeys, I have found that the spirit of MI can be extremely helpful in guiding my way in all my relationships and conversations. It’s not something I just embrace with my ambivalent clients in an MI session. How does The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing fit in with your daily life?



By: Trudy-Lyn Wittig

July 2015

Golf is a funny thing, or should I say frustrating?  In any case, I’d like to share with you the events that occurred on a recent trip I had to the golf course with 3 of my friends.

The first hole is something we all just wanted to get through.  We had several groups behind us eager to tee up and we felt like we were in a fishbowl.  We all ended up at the end of the first hole saying something like, “phew, we did it, we got those monkies off our back”, which is code for ‘wow if they hadn’t caused all that pressure I wouldn’t have flubbed my first shot!’

We come to the second hole and each of my friends in succession teed up, swung their clubs only to find that their ball landed in the cabbage patch, code name for ‘the woods’.  It was then my turn to step up to the tee blocks. I teed up, took a few deep breaths and swung.  Drum roll please!  I was very pleased to see my ball go right down the pipes, code for ‘straight as an arrow right down the middle of the fairway’.  My friends in unison hollered to me, “Way to go TL, that’s incredible lady luck!”  Indeed that’s exactly what it was.

You see folks I have been at this game for close to 8 years and only last fall did I take 2 lessons from the pro at a local golf club.  Throughout the eight years I gathered little tips from friends, but never did I take a formal lesson from someone extremely knowledgable in the field and receive concrete feedback to act on in order to develop my competencies in the game of golf.  I left my skill development to lady luck, to chance.  Unfortunately, this spring I could not even recall how my golf instructor had taught me to hold my club in order to improve my distance— I had taken my lessons; however, I had not practiced afterwards.

Motivational interviewing in not unlike a game of golf.  In order to build solid skill sets and gain competency it takes training and practice with feedback and then more practice.  The cycle continues.

To gain a breadth of knowledge and skills in MI, many practitoners have found it helpful to do a combination or all of the following: join coaching circles, read articles and books on MI, watch MI sessions on the internet, send their recorded sessions in for MITI coding, work 1-1 with an MI coach (or 2), attend advanced trainings, attend webinars, host and/or attend lunch and learns, record their MI sessions and act as their own feedback loop or have a colleague provide feedback.   The key is to consistently be working those MI skill sets and be practicing the four processes, not just the micro skills in isolation.  Putting those microskills INTO the four processes builds competency in MI!

Do you want to leave your skill development in MI to lady luck, to chance, to a roll of the dice?  Where are you hoping to be a week from now, months from now, years from now in your own personal skill development?  You hold the cards and the decision is yours to make!


Back to the Basics of Motivational Interviewingabc

By: Trudy-Lyn Wittig

June 2015

My journey learning and gaining competency in Motivational Interviewing has covered several years and had me involved in many training workshops, coaching circles and coaching sessions. It has also involved reading diverse materials on the topic at hand- Motivational Interviewing!

Gaining competency in MI can often feel like an overwhelming feat for many individuals. In my own journey I found that staying true to the Spirit of MI and remembering some key concepts and constructs was extremely helpful. Let’s get back to the basics and take a look at the A, B, C’s of Motivational Interviewing.

AFFIRMATIONS: strength based affirmations build confidence

BENEFITS OF CHANGING: explore the benefits of changing with your client

Cultivate: actively cultivate change talk in your session

DISCREPANCY: create a discrepancy for the incongruence between the person’s inner voice and his current behavior

ELICIT: elicit, provide, elicit (EPE) when giving advice

FOCUSING: focusing your session enables you to have a clear and specific direction for your conversation about change

HEAR: when you hear change talk ensure you respond to it, use your EARS (elaborate, affirm, reflect, summarize)

INTRINSIC: explore the person’s intrinsic and external strengths to build confidence

JOIN: Monty Roberts talks about ‘joining up’, coming alongside his horse, a great way to think about building our partnership with our clients

KEEP: keep focused on the change target throughout the session

LISTEN: active and reflective listening is integral to an MI session

MOTIVATIONAL: MI is not the same as cheerleading

NEURO-PATHWAY:   creating a neuro-pathway for the change increases confidence

OPENENDED: open ended questions open doors in MI

PLANNING:   don’t move to the planning process until your client is ready

QUESTIONS: be strategic in your use of questions

REFLECTIONS: add substantial meaning/emphasis to what your client says by using complex reflections

SUMMARIES: are made up of several key points which shows the client you are listening, & allows him to add more information, and can be used to change the direction of the session

TECHNICAL: the technical side of MI is made up of cultivating change talk and softening sustain talk

UMBRELLA: I like to think of the Spirit of MI as a HUGE umbrella under which an MI session is facilitated. This umbrella creates a safe and comfortable place to explore change

VACILLATE: Clients usually vacillate between change and sustain talk when exploring their change. This is a normal part of ambivalence

WHY: What’s your client’s ‘why’ for making the change? What values do they hold that support making the change? Finding their why is an important part of an MI session

XRAY: No one wants to feel like they are behind an X-ray machine or in a fishbowl being examined. Engage with your client, create a solid partnership, and demonstrate accurate empathy. The relational component of MI creates an environment where there is equal power sharing, understanding, and allows the client to do self-introspection

YIELD: to your desire and /or tendency to fix your client’s problems. Your client will become an effective problem solver on their own once their ambivalence is resolved

ZOINKS: as Scooby-Doo would say—we have come to the end of the alphabetabc-1