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Relating Motivational Interviewing, Stages of #Change and #Gestalt

I think you will spend 152 seconds reading this post

During my recent readings, I stumbled (again) upon information on Gestalt Therapy, which I am not familiar with. Reading further a bit, it occurred to me that it’s mainly about patients needing to first become what they are in order to become what they want, later (I bookmarked some articles, including one that make the link between AI and Gestalt on my delicious tags for Gestalt).

And so I made the connection with Motivational Interviewing that itself is built on the Stages of Change model. MI does not force clients into change, but rather:

  • take them where they are and
  • help them understand the pros and cons of where they are

Only when people move to Contemplating change are they helped building an intrinsic motivation for the change.

Some recent discussions on Appreciative Inquiry forums also mentioned cases where AI practitioners had to deal with negative feelings first before moving on to positive. I see a form of Gestalt practice in this where it helps people recollect who they are now (including negative aspects) before recollecting their best selves and building on them. Also, it’s a way of acknowledging the fact that the system is locked in a deficit-based way of thinking and that it obviously obsesses it to the point of needing to explicit it and dig it out. A form of second level of acknowledgment of the need for positivity (first is stop being into problems, second is stop thinking about finding problems to grow).

I’m writing this blog entry to try to articulate how these fit together. It seems to me that, with respect to change, a change agent or change practitioner would be better to:

  • help the system acknowledge where it stands now, both on the problematic/deficit side and on the life-giving side (what it is when it is at its best). Also, acknowledging the system’s need to be always deficit-based without ever considering the strengths may further help build that gestalt image of itself (if gestalt experts are reading this, I’d be grateful for their comments!)
  • only after when that here and now recollection has been done should the work with AI be allowed to continue (make meaning of the strengths, Dream, Design and Destiny)
  • all of this could be done with the help of the MI techniques that take the system where it is without forcing him through stages of change to which it might not be ready to go to.

I, myself, through (limited) AI experience, sensed some form of resistance in people I facilitated to move to a strength-based approach (I’m in a highly problem-solving skilled environment, and so not dealing with problems… is problematic!). I’m also wondering whether or not I may have created this myself in expecting it from the people I facilitated (social construction, again!) Hence the need to always listen, listen and listen to the system and always take it where it stands, nor where I would like it to be…

Thoughts still wandering…

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  • Hi Nicolas,

    Interesting post. I do sometime go through a step of acknowledging the pain (or shadow as it is sometime referred to) – it is part of building a platform for change (see SF approach). Acknowledging the pain is important but ‘understanding it’ isn’t that important…

    I wonder if I can influence your way of relating to AI… AI is very much a problem solving approach! It isn’t a ‘problem avoidance’ technique. There are wonderful AI tools to help reframe the topic of the problem to a new, generative topic that address the problem and helps the team or organisation go even beyond. I’d be happy to talk about it if you are interested.


  • Nicolas Stampf

    Hello David,

    I do agree with your reflecting their pain.

    As for AI, I also do agree that’s it’s a problem solving approach, only that it focuses people on what works for them and help them move on and gives them energy to do so, solving their initial problem at the same time (or rendering them irrelevant sometimes).

    Still, I did encounter people here that were reluctant to address that kind of “positive paraphernalia”. Indeed, what “gives life” to them is solving problems using IT solutions.

    They are not in a socially constructed reality where one can speak of “flourishing at work”. With respect to this, SF talks (what works, when is the problem weaker, etc) works better than AI talk (what gives you life).

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