Behaviour Change: Tips for Clinicians

Every consultation counts. We have limited time with our patients so don’t forget to reinforce good behaviour each time you see them. There are 5 key areas that you should think about when giving effective behaviour change advice for your patients.

  1. Focus on first steps and facilitate change:

    Make change less daunting by helping your patient focus on the first small steps rather than unrealistic large ones. Help your patient to think for ways of making the action easier to do than avoid e.g. buying a parking permit well away from work meaning that they will have to walk that bit further each day or doing an activity with a friend who they cannot let down.

    These planned actions need to be easy to do so they become routine. A regular routine then becomes a habit.

  2. Self monitoring:

    Avoid using terms such as ‘willpower’ and ‘self-control’. Instead empower your patient by asking them to self-monitor. A food or physical activity diary gives them the opportunity to write down and reflect on how they are doing.

  3. Make change relevant by knowing your patient:

    Focus on ‘Patient engagement’ not just ‘Patient information’. Successful advice needs to be tailored to the individual it is being delivered to. Your patient needs to feel like it is relevant to their health, their well being and ultimately their life.

  4. ‘Go public’:

    Encourage your patient to ‘go public’ with their goals. This can help them stay motivated for longer and indirectly creates a powerful support network of loved ones.

  5. Not a ‘one-off’ event

    Be positive about any relapse. Explain that behaviour change is a process and not a ‘one off’ event. Help them to reflect and learn from each relapse so that they can avoid similar pitfalls next time.

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