The Menu of Strategies

The Menu of Strategies was devised by Rollnick, Heather and Bell (1992) as a brief intervention method for people at different stages of readiness for change. It is designed to help people explore their ambivalence to change and to move towards behavioural change at an appropriate pace. The strategies can be used with young people in supporting behavioural change.

The Menu of Strategies, adapted for working in youth and educational settings is as follows:

The Menu of Strategies (adapted from Rollnick et al, 1992)

The Menu of Strategies
1 Opening discussion
2 A typical day/My lessons
3 The good things and the less good things
4 Providing information
5 The future and the present
6 Exploring concerns
7 Helping with decision making

Each of the strategies is now described in more detail:

1. Opening discussion

This is a chance to give the young person an opportunity to talk about current situation in a ‘safe’ way. The discussion may relate specifically to the behaviour that is causing concern. It is important to establish rapport with the young person at this stage and also to discuss the value of exploring behavioural change.

2. A typical day/My lessons

This strategy asks the young person to describe a typical day when a particular problem behaviour did or did not occur. The facilitator should ask them to talk about the day right from the time they woke up. Doing so may allow the facilitator to identify triggers (for example, a fight at breaktime may have been preceded by a dispute on the way to school) and also times when the problem does not occur.

For school-based professionals, another useful strategy is to ask the young person to think about all their different lessons and to identify times when the problems do or do not occur.

3. The good things and the less good things

The young person should be given the opportunity to talk about the good things and the less good things about a particular behaviour. For example, truanting might mean they have fun with friends but get into trouble with teachers. It is important to describe the ‘less good things’ rather than the ‘concerns’ as this allows the young person to identify problem areas without feeling that these behaviours are being labelled as problematic.

4. Providing information

This should be dealt with in a sensitive manner. The facilitator should ask permission of the young person before offering information and avoid giving direct advice. Describing what other young people in the same situation have done can be helpful to the process of decision-making.

5. The future and the present

This strategy is most useful with young people who have expressed some degree of concern about the behaviour in question. It allows exploration of present circumstances and can help to elicit a desire for change. A typical question might be, “How would you like things to be different in the future?”

6. Exploring concerns

Rollnick et al (1992) describe this as perhaps most important strategy of all. It involves getting the young person to identify their reasons for concern about a particular behaviour. It involves listening carefully to what they are saying and helping them to identify positive changes they can make a ‘step forward,’ perhaps to a different stage of readiness for change or to where they can see things from a slightly different perspective.

7. Helping with decision making

This strategy can only be used with young people who indicate that they want to make some sort of behavioural change. Rollnick et al (1992) highlight a number of key principles in helping with decision making:

  • Do not rush young people into making decisions about changing their behaviour.
  • Present options for the future, rather than one single course of action.
  • Describe what other young people have done in similar circumstances.
  • Emphasise that the young person is the expert in their own behaviour and may be the best judge of what is best for them.
  • Failure to reach a decision to change does not mean that the work carried out has been in vain. Change is a complex process and sometimes the time and circumstances need to be right for the young person to effect a positive change to their behaviour. The work you have carried out will allow the young person to make more informed choices about their behaviour and its consequences.
  • Provide information in a neutral, non-personal manner.
  • Resolutions to change often break down (as we know from our own New Year attempts!). Make sure the young person understands this and does not avoid contact if things go wrong.
  • Commitment to change may be variable according to the young person’s circumstances (e.g. home life, friendships, school pressures). Be sensitive to their predicament.

The different sections of Facilitating Change 2 describe activities linked to each of the strategies and also offer guidance as to when it might be most appropriate to use the strategies with young people.