Response to: How People Change – David Brooks

January 14, 2013

The following is a letter we wrote to the NY Times in response to David Brooks’ November 26th column, “How People Change“:

As psychologists at the Center for Motivation and Change we, too, happen to cover a field — substance use disorders — in which people are “perpetually bellowing at each other to be better”. We have seen countless emails like the “Crews Missile” fly from one frustrated family member at another.

Worse, in our field many professionals still use confrontational, blaming approaches. Despite forty years of research evidence to the contrary, interventionists and other traditional practitioners insist the way to help people change is to make them feel badly enough about the way they are.

Our team was thrilled to read David Brooks’s column, as we rarely find anything in the media reflecting the undramatic facts about how we learn and unlearn behavior, get motivated, and make change. Change happens slowly, with fits and starts. It takes longer than an ultimatum. Most of all it takes kindness and encouragement from other people.

Thank you kindly for the article. We hope it encourages others.

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