Using motivational interviewing and brief action planning for adopting and maintaining positive health behaviors

Steven A. Cole, Deepa Sannidhi, Yuri Tertilus Jadotte, Alan Rozanski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Lifestyle medicine practice can be enhanced with interpersonal communication skills to help patients adopt and maintain positive health behaviors, such as improving diet or initiating exercise. We review two approaches that incorporate evidenced-based skills for this purpose: motivational interviewing and brief action planning (BAP). Motivational interviewing involves four processes conducted in a climate of compassion, acceptance, partnership, and empowerment. First, “engaging” (or connecting) with patients uses the “relational” skills of active listening and empathic communication. Second, “focusing” elicits patients' full spectrum of concerns, expectations, and desires to negotiate a collaborative agenda. Third, “evoking motivation,” utilizes uniquely innovative skills (e.g., “softening sustain talk” and “cultivating change talk”) to increase intrinsic motivation of patients with ambivalence (or resistance) to become more open to choosing healthier behaviors for themselves. Fourth, “planning for change,” uses collaborative goal-setting skills to help patients specify concrete action plans for health. To this end, brief action planning (BAP) has been developed as a specific pragmatic algorithmic approach, utilizing collaborative “SMART” (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based) action planning, encouragement of patient commitment statements, scaling for confidence, problem-solving to reduce barriers for change, fostering patient accountability, and emphasizing follow-up. BAP can be introduced at any point in a patient encounter when patients are ready or nearly ready for change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-94
Number of pages9
JournalProgress in Cardiovascular Diseases
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Brief action planning
  • Health behavior change
  • Lifestyle medicine
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Self-management support


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