How to Motivate Your Client

How do I motivate my client?

I am sure the question of client motivation arises as a topic of conversation quite regularly amongst personal Trainers (PTs) and coaches.
An experienced PT will respond with “it depends on the individual” after all what motivates one client will demotivate another. If we accept that this statement is fairly accurate then how is a PT supposed to know what will motivate a new client?

The first part of this question is easily answered if you are working with a client in a motivational interviewing (MI) consistent manner. The primary foundation of any sound PT/client relationship should be engagement. This is a key concept in MI and good engagement will tell you an awful lot about a client without ever having to do a formal assessment. The process of engagement is recurrent in MI and you always re-engage with a client at every subsequent session. This ensures you are always singing from the same hymn sheet.

The other tool in the PTs armoury is psychometric testing. This will give you an indicator as to where the client is in terms of readiness to change. The other really helpful aspect of the psychometric testing is the processes of change data. This will tell you which change processes the client favours. By adapting your programme to suit the clients preferred processes you will enhance their motivation.

My research data supports this notion as I noticed that PTs who adapted their programmes to the client’s needs also increased the client’s self-efficacy over the course of the programme. As an increase in self-efficacy is correlated to movement forward through the stages of change this leads to positive outcomes.

    It is also worth considering what will not work for most clients.

Scare tactics will crash and burn.
Telling someone if they don’t lose weight and get fit they will have a heart attack is going to be counterproductive.
here is a wealth of evidence in public health education that supports this view so it is a bit intriguing that the government still persist with putting pictures of diseased organs on cigarette packets. Not only will this not work it may further entrench the smoking habit as people get defensive.

The other thing that will have a poor outcome is PTs trying to impose their values and beliefs onto their clients.

Just because you like going to the gym and exercising and consume your every waking minute with your nutrition and how you look (I should add that this does not apply to all PTs before I start getting a mass of comments) this is very unlikely to fit the views and beliefs of most of your clients. If it didn’t there would be no need for PTs. You must remember that for the vast majority of the population exercise is boring/time consuming/uncomfortable or all three, plus possibly a few more. It’s a similar story when it comes to good nutrition. You must respect the client’s right to hold these views (respect their autonomy) and make these choices. With time and education these may change but never lose site of the fact that the only person that can make that change is the client. As I’ve said in previous posts “people do not like to be should on”.

If you have genuine empathy for the client and consistently good engagement there is a very good chance that the client will slowly change their own beliefs and views. This in effect is motivation as it comes from within. Motivation is not something you can just impose on an individual, they all most have to find it for themselves. The way you motivate your client is by coming alongside and engaging with them. If you display genuine empathy they will trust your insight and knowledge and ultimately find the motivation to succeed within themselves. Your job is to guide them on this voyage of discovery.