Auburn pharmacy professors emeriti write book to help health care professionals discover motivational factors behind patient resistance and ambivalence

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Taking medications, engaging in healthy lifestyles and quitting harmful habits are vital for good health, but patients often don’t follow the advice of health care professionals and thus put their health at risk.

Two Auburn University professors emeriti address the problem in a new book written to help doctors, nurses, pharmacists – anyone working with patients – assess the patient’s motivation to engage in healthy behaviors, or not engage.

The book, “Motivational Interviewing for Health Care Professionals: A Practical Approach,” by Bruce Berger and William Villuame, professors emeriti of the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy, is being published by the American Pharmacists Association. It is due to be released in August.

“We are excited about the book and believe the motivational interviewing approach will help improve our nation’s health and well-being,” Berger said. “The book is for all health care professionals, such as pharmacists, doctors, nurses, dietitians, nutritionists, social workers, psychologists—really everybody who wants to help patients make better health care and lifestyle decisions.”

Berger, cofounder of the Auburn University Motivational Interviewing Training Institute with Villaume and Jan Kavookjian, is a former head of the Department of Pharmacy Care Systems.  He has conducted research which found that exploring a patient’s ambivalence or resistance to change, through the process called motivational interviewing, can greatly increase adherence to healthy behaviors and produce better health outcomes.

“Someone might quit taking medication because he doesn’t feel any improvement yet. We can’t make patients comply, but we can find out their motivation and increase the probability that they will make good decisions,” said Berger. “We train heath care professionals how to do motivational interviewing.”

Berger, who has a Ph.D. in social and behavioral pharmacy from The Ohio State University, retired from Auburn in 2009 after 27 years of service. He, along with Villaume, teaches motivational interviewing skills through workshops for hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies, organizations with health care plans and other groups. Clients include Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana and CVS Pharmacies.

“A patient with high blood pressure might say, ‘I don’t understand why I need this medicine. I feel fine.’ A traditional response could have been, ‘Just because you feel fine, doesn’t mean you are fine. You have high blood pressure and you need to take your medicine.’ This response would probably cause some defensiveness on the part of the patient,” Berger said.

“A better response would be, ‘So, because you are feeling okay, you’re wondering why you really need to take the medicine.’ This would be followed by, ‘That’s a great question. Would you mind if I told you a few things to address your question and you let me know what you think?'”

Villaume, who has a Ph.D. in speech communication from Ohio State University, retired in 2011 from Auburn, where he spent 21 years in the Department of Communication and Journalism in the College of Liberal Arts and eight years in the Harrison School of Pharmacy. Villaume has developed the new comprehensive motivational interviewing, or comMIt, program with Berger.

“Health care professionals are experts, but the patients are experts, too, in that they are decision makers and they have reasons behind their decisions,” Villaume said. “We want the health care professional to find the motivation behind those decisions and then help the patient make the best decision regarding his or her health.”

Berger and Villaume have posted videos online showing the difference between traditional health care interactions and motivational interviewing at

The book will be available this summer through and the American Pharmacists Association website at as well as other bookstores and websites. More information is available by email at

(Written by Charles Martin.)

Contacts: Charles Martin, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (, or Amy Weaver, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-7806 (