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Affirming is a way of enhancing the confidence of clients to take action, by the AOD worker showing their genuine appreciation and positive regard for the client [758]. It is the client, rather than the AOD worker, who produces change in MI, and as such, the process of MI relies on the client’s own personal strengths, efforts and resources. Affirming therefore focuses on the positive with direct compliments and statements of appreciation and understanding rather than attempting to produce change by making the client feel bad [758]. The technique of affirming helps build rapport, self-efficacy and reinforces open exploration.

Among clients who may be experiencing symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions, affirming can be inspiring and build rapport [1918]. Affirming can be general (the AOD worker respects the client as a person of worth, who has the capacity for growth, change, and the choice about whether to do so), and specific (recognition of the client’s strengths, abilities, intentions, and efforts) [758]. AOD workers may find the following strategies helpful to consider when affirming [1847]:

  • Focus on the client’s strengths, previous successes and efforts, however small, to achieve their change goals.
  • Take care not to confuse affirming with praise. Praise implies the worker is approving the client, expresses judgement (of praise or blame), and is more likely to begin with an ‘I’.
  • Use phrases that begin with ‘you’ rather than ‘I’, to maintain focus on the client. For example, rather than ‘I am proud you came in today’, which shifts the focus to the AOD worker, try ‘You worked really hard and persisted in being here today’, which illustrates appreciation and maintains focus on the client.

Some other examples of affirming statements that AOD workers may find useful include [758, 1847]:

  • ‘You took a big step in coming here today.’
  • ‘That is a great suggestion for how you might avoid situations where you might be tempted to use.’
  • ‘Your intention was really good, even though it may not have turned out as you would have liked.’
  • ‘You were discouraged this week, but you still came back. You are persistent.’
  • ‘Welcome back! It’s good to see you.’
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