Despite this vast potential, communication on animal well-being does not always stimulate the change we envisage in response to our ever improving expertise. When advising, we often intuitively sense that if we can just provide the ‘right’ choices and facilitate their implementation practically, change will follow. Unfortunately, when it comes to helping clients dealing with complex change, a helping response built upon ‘fixing’ a problem for a client often stimulates arguments against a behaviour rather than in favour of it (a phenomenon known as psychological reactance) due to the ambivalence clients commonly experience in the contemplation of change. This approach also offers little opportunity to meet the basic psychological needs necessary for inspiring motivation: autonomy (volition over behaviour), relatedness (to experience connection with another) and competence (perceived self-efficacy).

To successfully promote animal health and welfare, enhancing our communication skill set to avoid these pitfalls is critical to support our clients and empower them to engage in positive change.

Why Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing (MI) fosters a mutualistic communication approach as the backbone of practice, helping us avoid these pitfalls when helping clients manage complex change. It is an evidence-based, collaborative conversation style developed in the medical sciences for strengthening a person’s own motivation to change. MI specifically explores and resolves ambivalence to influence the motivational processes that facilitate change by evoking a client’s own desires, reasons and willingness to change as a means of clarifying and strengthening their positive intent. Critical to this process is the relational context of empathy, acceptance and partnership, which facilitates the spontaneous emergence of client language of change, combined with technical communication skills that shape and enhance this language.


This introductory workshop will offer participants the opportunity to gain an understanding of the verbal skills and communication processes that underpin the practice of MI, in addition to the ‘spirit’ of the methodology that informs its use. This will be achieved through a mix of experiential exercises, group discussion and presentation. Research at the University of Bristol on MI and veterinary communication, combined with wider research and theory on communication, motivation and behaviour change will support and inform the experience. Participants can expect to take away a better understanding of how to engage clients in conversations about change, combined with ways to practice and learn more about the MI methodology.​

Venue: Bristol University, Langford Campus, UK

Cost: £65 for the day, refreshments included, please bring a packed lunch. Reduced price available if you have arranged to book three or more workshops with us - email us to arrange. Payment by cheque or through PayPal. 

Times: 10 am (arrive for tea/coffee at 9.45) to around 4 pm 


Wednesday 1st November 2017
Introduction to Motivational Interviewing

​For more information please email You can book via PayPal using the link below, or to pay by Bank Transfer or cheque please contact us by email. Places are strictly limited and not available on the door.

​Presenter: Alison Bard
How do veterinarians communicate on matters of herd health, and what does this mean for their farmers? As a PhD student at the University of Bristol, Alison is fascinated by this question. Her research aims to provide a detailed picture of the current advisory and communication strategies employed by UK cattle veterinarians in discussions of disease management, and to examine the feasibility of Motivational Interviewing (MI) - a communication methodology used widely in the medical sciences - applied in this context. She is passionate about enhancing the advisory experience for both veterinarians and farmers.

Since the commencement of her studies, Alison has provided training in the MI methodology to myriad professionals in the field of animal health and welfare, from veterinarians and behaviourists to farm assurance inspectors and scientific researchers. Alison also supports undergraduate learning at the University of Bristol, assisting with elective courses and providing lectures on her communication specialism. As a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Training, these activities are supported by a wealth of expertise in the theory and practice of MI.
Looking to the future, Alison hopes her research endeavours will help support a paradigm shift in communication on behaviour change within the veterinary profession. With international collaboration already established with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the support of her funders - the British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation – and increasing commercial interest in the training she has created, she is confident that this aspiration is off to a promising start.

Communication and behaviour change

Being an advisor on animal health and welfare is not just about science and methodology. To have a meaningful impact and improve the lives of animals, encouraging and motivating animal carers to improve animal husbandry and adopt advisory recommendations remains a critical challenge. This places communication at the heart of animal well-being; communication is the bridge between advisor and animal carer that enables the passage of ideas and advice on implementing change, one that can inspire motivation, arouse action and enhance confidence.