Enhancing Human Services Professional Practice: The Application of Motivational Interviewing Techniques


As a Human Services Professional Practitioner, it is essential to reflect on one’s experiences and identify areas of growth and improvement. This reflection aims to address what went well and where I struggled, any surprises or unpreparedness encountered, areas for improvement, and the application of Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques to support the success of the Human Services Professional Practitioner.

What Went Well and Where I Struggled

Building Rapport and Active Listening: One area where I excelled as a Human Services Professional Practitioner was in building rapport with clients through active listening (Greenberg et al., 2018). I found that by demonstrating empathy and genuine interest, I was able to establish a trusting relationship, which facilitated open communication. Active listening involves attentively focusing on the client’s words, non-verbal cues, and emotions, allowing them to feel heard and understood. This skill contributed to creating a safe and supportive environment for clients to share their experiences and concerns.

Strength-Based Approach: Another aspect that went well in my practice was the application of a strength-based approach (Sorensen et al., 2018). By emphasizing clients’ strengths and resources, I empowered them to recognize their own capabilities and develop a sense of self-efficacy. This approach helped to shift the focus from problems and deficits to potential solutions and possibilities. It promoted a positive mindset and fostered a greater sense of hope and motivation for change.

However, I faced challenges in maintaining a balance between providing support and avoiding over-identification with clients’ experiences. Empathy fatigue, or compassion fatigue, affected my ability to remain fully present and engaged during sessions (Greenberg et al., 2018). As a compassionate practitioner, it was challenging to witness clients’ pain and struggles without internalizing their emotions. This struggle hindered the quality of support I could offer, as it impacted my capacity to provide effective guidance and interventions. I recognized the need to develop strategies for self-care and seek supervision to prevent burnout and maintain professional boundaries.

Surprises and Feeling Unprepared

Prevalence of Complex Trauma: One surprising aspect of my work as a Human Services Professional Practitioner was the prevalence of complex trauma and its profound impact on clients’ lives. Many individuals I worked with had experienced significant trauma, which was often layered and multifaceted (Purtle, 2019). This realization highlighted the need for a deeper understanding of trauma-informed care and its application in my practice.

Feeling unprepared to effectively address the complexities of trauma, I recognized the importance of further training and education in this area. Trauma-informed care involves understanding the pervasive effects of trauma, recognizing trauma triggers, and providing a safe and supportive environment for clients to process their experiences (Purtle, 2019). By enhancing my knowledge and skills in trauma-informed care, I can better serve clients who have experienced trauma and provide them with the necessary support and resources.

Continuous Professional Development: Encountering the depth of trauma-related issues was a reminder of the importance of continuous professional development and staying informed about the latest research and best practices in the field. The field of human services is constantly evolving, and new insights and interventions emerge regularly. To stay effective and up-to-date, it is crucial to engage in ongoing education, attend conferences, participate in workshops, and engage in supervision and consultation with experienced professionals (Purtle, 2019).

By actively seeking out opportunities for professional development, I can enhance my knowledge and skills in areas such as trauma-informed care, cultural competence, crisis intervention, and other relevant topics. This proactive approach will enable me to better meet the diverse needs of clients and provide them with the most effective and evidence-based interventions and support.

Areas for Improvement for the Human Services Professional Practitioner

Based on my reflection and experiences, there are several areas for improvement for the Human Services Professional Practitioner:

Enhancing cultural competence: Recognizing and addressing cultural biases and developing a deeper understanding of diverse backgrounds will improve the effectiveness of service provision (Uebelacker et al., 2021).

Strengthening crisis intervention skills: Developing strategies to effectively respond to crisis situations and providing appropriate support and resources during critical moments is crucial (Brock et al., 2020).

Emphasizing self-care: Prioritizing self-care practices, seeking supervision and support, and establishing healthy boundaries will help prevent burnout and enhance professional longevity (Sorensen et al., 2018).

Motivational Interviewing Techniques

To support the success of the Human Services Professional Practitioner, I recommend integrating Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques. MI is a collaborative, person-centered approach that aims to elicit and strengthen an individual’s motivation for change (Hettema et al., 2017). Some recommended techniques include:

Open-ended questions: Using open-ended questions encourages clients to explore their thoughts and feelings, fostering self-reflection and motivation for change.

Reflective listening: Reflecting back what clients express helps them feel heard and understood, enhancing rapport and encouraging further exploration of their desires and goals.

Affirmations: Providing affirmations acknowledges clients’ strengths and efforts, boosting self-efficacy and motivation.

Eliciting change talk: Actively seeking and reinforcing statements that express a desire, ability, reason, or need for change can help clients strengthen their commitment to change.

Application of MI Techniques

Collaborative and Non-Confrontational Approach: The application of Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques supports the success of the Human Services Professional Practitioner for several reasons. MI promotes a collaborative and non-confrontational approach to working with clients (Hettema et al., 2017). By adopting a non-judgmental and empathetic stance, practitioners create a safe and supportive environment that encourages open communication and client engagement. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of partnership between the practitioner and the client, allowing for shared decision-making and increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes.

Navigating Ambivalence and Resistance: MI techniques are particularly effective in helping practitioners navigate ambivalence and resistance, which are common barriers to change (Hettema et al., 2017). Ambivalence often arises when clients have mixed feelings about making changes in their lives. Through the use of MI techniques such as reflective listening and open-ended questions, practitioners can explore and validate clients’ ambivalence, helping them gain clarity and resolve their conflicting emotions. MI also addresses resistance by avoiding confrontation and instead focusing on understanding and addressing the underlying reasons behind the resistance. This approach promotes autonomy and self-determination, empowering clients to find their own motivations for change.

Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment: MI techniques contribute to the success of the Human Services Professional Practitioner by creating a safe and supportive environment for clients (Hettema et al., 2017). Reflective listening, a key MI technique, involves actively listening to and reflecting back clients’ thoughts and feelings. This empathetic approach helps clients feel heard, understood, and validated, fostering trust and rapport. By providing a non-judgmental space where clients can freely express themselves, practitioners create an atmosphere conducive to self-reflection and exploration of their motivations for change.

Enhancing Client Engagement and Commitment: The application of MI techniques supports the success of the Human Services Professional Practitioner by enhancing client engagement and commitment to the change process (Hettema et al., 2017). MI focuses on eliciting and strengthening a client’s own motivations for change, rather than imposing external motivations. Through techniques such as eliciting change talk and affirmations, practitioners help clients articulate their desires, reasons, and abilities for change. This process enhances clients’ self-efficacy and empowers them to take ownership of their change journey. By fostering intrinsic motivation, MI increases the likelihood of sustained behavior change and positive outcomes for clients.


Reflecting on my experiences as a Human Services Professional Practitioner has highlighted both strengths and areas for improvement. The challenges faced, surprises encountered, and the application of Motivational Interviewing techniques have contributed to my growth and development in the field. By continuously enhancing my skills and knowledge, I can better serve my clients and support their journey towards positive change.


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Purtle, J. (2019). Connecting the dots: Trauma, social determinants of health, and health outcomes. Preventive Medicine, 123, 286–288. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.03.014

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