Normalizing and Reassurance

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Definition Communicating that the patient's experience or feelings are typical of many people.

Rationale: "Normalizing" helps communicate to patients that they are not alone in their experience and struggles, including feelings of ambivalence and resistance to change. Normalizing helps patients understand that many people have difficulty changing their behaviors and beliefs (Westra, 2012).


Definition Communicating that a situation is safe or a that a positive outcome is likely.

Rationale: Reassurance that other patients have succeeded despite similar difficulties or feelings of ambivalence helps patients believe that they can succeed, thus building confidence.

Examples of Normalization and Reassurance

Last time you told me I'd have to exercise to maintain my weight loss. I used to like to walk, but not so much any more. It's a bit of a struggle with my knees and when I'm feeling down.

That does sound difficult [Empathy]. I can see how being active is challenging with your knee pain. And many people struggle with being active when they feel depressed [Normalizing]. There may be some ways to help [Reassurance]. [Proceeds with a quick depression screening (negative) and discusses use of a cane and a physical therapy referral.]

When To Use These Skills

Normalizing and reassurance are especially helpful early in the patient interview in the Engaging step. These skills help when you are trying to connect with the patient and gain their trust and interest in making a change.

Connecting with the patient is also important later in the Eliciting step, when you guide the patient in stating their thoughts and feelings.

View ReferencesHide References
Westra HA. Motivational interviewing in the treatment of anxiety . Guilford Press: New York. 2012. Available at: Accessed on: 2015-06-25.