To evoke is to summon or elicit or conjure or stimulate or arouse – all of these senses or synonyms of the word evoke reveal what doing Motivational Interviewing (MI) intends. Miller and Rollnick, the founders of Motivational Interviewing, talk about evoking transformation as the heart of MI. By engaging with clients or patients and being in the attitude, spirit, or mode of MI, we try to tease out change talk in clients by working with them to increase their own sense of the importance of a particular behaviour change, their confidence in making that change, and their readiness to move toward that change by taking a particular action and/or by learning more about the significance of that change in their lives. What we face sometimes are the ‘stories’ or labels that clients bring to an MI session or process. Consider the marvellous symbolism of this video clip and the kind of self-transformation that is implied:

Literally, the message is about not labelling children by their “disorder” and ultimately letting them choose or live by their own labels. Clearly, mental disorders aren’t “bogus labels.” Just as definitively, the mental disorder label does not come close to revealing and honouring the whole person behind the label. And, the message can be perceived as more metaphorical, that is, larger than the notion of labelling children. What keeps clients out of change is living under the dome of status quo, their own labels of ‘I-can’t,’ ‘I’m stuck,’ ‘it just doesn’t work for me,’ and a host of other barriers or limiting beliefs about making a behaviour change. Evoking transformation means working with people to elicit their own motivation, to help them rise up to their own greatest magnificence. It’s not as easy as tearing a label from one’s chest but in the collaborative, compassionate, and accepting model of MI, it really is at the heart of working with a client to ignite transformation.