Motivational Interviewing Questions: Evoking Change Talk Through “Exploring Goals and Values”

When we ask the client what matters most to them, it can be a good way to continue building rapport. This conversation can explore what the client really cares about and how these goals and values may guide their lives. And we also know that goals and values are aspirations, so there may be some discrepancy between where the client is currently (related to these goals and values) and where the client would like to be in the future. In a counseling session, if this exploration is done in a respectful and genuine way, it can lead to the motivation the client needs to move forward in creating change.  Exploring goals and values may be discussed in the engaging, focusing, and evoking processes in order to elicit the client’s own motivation for change. The key, again, is to explore and discuss the discrepancy between important goals and values and the client’s current behavior.

Please find below a tool that may be helpful for some client’s in exploring goals and values. At UNC, we used a similar “menu of goals and values” with an incarcerated population being released from prison. A more specific menu can be created for any particular population you serve. Visuals can be helpful if a client is “stuck” and may need some options or suggestions to think about related to their goals and values or if there are any literacy challenges. And this may be the tool that assists the client in seeing the direction they want to be moving in.


This is one tool that may be useful in discussing goals and values. Other tools include: goals and values cards that can be selected, having the client express their goals and values through art, or by simply having an open and honest conversation about what is most important to the client.

Again, once the client has expressed his or her goals and values the next step is to compare current behavior to future behavior.

Next month, we will continue with more ways of evoking change talk.

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For more information about Motivational Interviewing or related services, contact Steve Bradley-Bull, LPC, by phone, (919) 812-9203, or by email,


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