Embrace Indecisiveness to Promote Change in Your Life With Author Dr. William Miller

Dr. Miller

Verywell / Julie Bang

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews authors, experts, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Dr. William Miller

William Miller, Ph.D, is a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Mexico. His primary area of interest is on the psychology of change and he’s conducted research on a variety of topics including addictive behaviors, self-regulation, and the intersection of spirituality and psychology. 

Dr. Miller and Stephen Rollnick are the co-founders of motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing is a respectful style of communication that uses change language in the client’s own words.

He’s the author of many books–many of them are college textbooks. His most recent book, "On Second Thought," explores the subject of ambivalence. 

Why Dr. Miller Is Mentally Strong

Dr. Miller changed the way clinicians tackle motivation with their patients, especially when it comes to substance use disorders. He teaches people how to use motivational interviewing techniques to encourage change and he warns against using strategies like confrontation which can lead to resistance and denial. 

He’s taught professionals and students around the globe how to respectfully communicate with people who are ambivalent about making changes in their lives. He continues to share his knowledge and research with the world and has made a huge impact on how substance use is treated.  

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • What ambivalence really is and why it is normal
  • How to accept that you’re not completely motivated to change
  • Why most New Year’s resolutions don’t work
  • How to handle mistakes and setbacks
  • How we all have an inner committee who offers different perspectives on what we should do and how to know which voice to listen to
  • What to do when you think someone else should change
  • What you shouldn’t do if you think someone else should change
  • The ruler strategy that can help increase people’s motivation to change
  • How to help people become more ready to change
  • How to talk yourself into doing something
  • How to prepare for setbacks in advance by having a fire drill

What You’ll Learn About Mental Health and Mental Strength

There’s a common notion that you have to feel 100% ready to change before you can take action. But, second-guessing yourself and being on the fence isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re normal.

You might only take your prescribed medication some of the time because you aren’t convinced you need it. Or, you might keep drinking alcohol despite your intention to quit. Those struggles don’t mean you’re weak. They mean you’re human. 

Fortunately, we can all learn to recognize our ambivalence, accept it as normal, and then take steps to move forward. Sometimes, we can do this on our own. At other times, we may need a little help to get off the fence. 

Quotes From Dr. Miller

Dr. William Miller

Trying to help people voice their own positive motivations for change is much more powerful than then trying to persuade people.

— Dr. William Miller
  • "If you're diagnosed with diabetes or you begin to wonder if you're drinking too [much] or whatever, it's normal to both want and not want a change or see reasons for it and see reasons against it simultaneously."
  • "What you probably should not do is become the champion for change and tell the person what's wrong with them and what they should do, because the normal response to that is for the person to voice the other side of their ambivalence."
  • "Instead of telling people what they should do, I'm likely to ask people what they think they should do and why they would want to do that and how they would go about doing it so that they're actually voicing their own motivations for change rather than responding to my arguments for change, which they probably don't care about."

More About the Podcast

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Links and Resources

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.