NutritionJobs Interviews Molly Kellogg, RD, LCSW; Nationally Recognized Expert on Behavior Change and Motivational Interviewing.
By TALI SEDGWICK, RD on FEBRUARY 1, 2011
NutritionJobs: You have been an RD for over 30 years and are also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. You have two Master’s Degrees (Nutritional Science and Social Service), you are the author of several publications, including “Counseling Tips for Nutrition Therapists,” and you are a leading expert in Motivational Interviewing. All this while also running your own nutrition and psychotherapy private practice that specializes in eating disorders, disordered eating and binge eating. Impressive! Can you tell us how you got where you are?
Molly Kellogg: My first jobs in nutrition were in a WIC program and then in a hospital pre-natal clinic. I wanted to help people eat better! I then started a private practice on a part time basis in the 1980’s. During this time, eating disorders started coming my way and I realized I needed more skills. I started taking workshops, reading, trying to figure it out, until finally I decided I needed to more training and went back to school to get a Social Work degree in the mid 1990’s. As I was getting that degree I realized my colleagues were going to be therapists, and that I could become a psychotherapist too. I never planned to leave the field of nutrition but this is the way it evolved, and the fields are very complimentary. I started getting asked by nutrition colleagues to do workshops and training on counseling skills. Now half of what I do is writing, speaking, and training nutritional professionals on counseling. I mostly train dietitians who work in private practice, outpatient hospital clinics, or eating disorder programs where they realize, as I did, that we didn’t get enough counseling training in our nutrition training.
Sounds like you love what you do! What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The fact that I have a positive effect on people lives. Not only in my private practice where I see patients making changes but also the dietitians I work with. When dietitians come to my two-day workshop and leave happy, having learned new skills, and having had their eyes opened.
In contrast, what is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The fact that I need to keep shifting gears. I sit in an office and see individual clients alongside planning training workshops, addressing e-mails, writing, etc. I can do it, and it keeps me from burning out, but it is also challenging.
That seems to be a skill you needed to learn along the way. What other skills have you needed to learn?
There have been loads of them. How to manage myself, time-management and shifting gears, are skills I’ve needed to learn. Another is how to run a business. I have been self-employed for quite a while now and I learned by making mistakes. Also, I worked with a life coach for almost 10 years, who specializes in working with “solo-peneurs”, those who work for themselves, and I found this very helpful. Of course the other skills I have picked up along the way are the counseling skills. The other area that I have had to grow into (and continue to do so) is the skill of training. Doing training workshops, training on the phone, doing supervision groups. Last fall I went to a training program for Motivational Interviewing (MI) trainers; which is a whole other skill! I love doing it but it does take a lot of continuous practice and feedback.
Can you tell us more about Motivational Interviewing?
The official definition, which keeps changing, is a client-centered directive method for enhancing intrinsic motivation to change by exploring ambivalence. It is a conversational style that has the designed effect of moving someone towards positive change. Some people think of it as a counseling style and it is deceptively difficult to learn to do well. When you watch someone doing MI, it seems like they are having a conversation, it seems so easy, but to do it effectively and help someone move towards change without eliciting resistance is very tricky. I am still learning it myself.
How were you introduced to Motivational Interviewing and where did MI come from?
I first found it in articles and books and then did a series of training and had individual supervision. I am now a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers. MI was originally developed to work with substance abusers (people who are very resistance to change) and was shown to be quite effective. It then moved to other areas, particularly the healthcare field because you are talking about people making behavior change. For example, dietitians advise people on what changes they can make but dietitians can’t make people change. However, by using MI techniques it makes it more likely that our clients will take our advice, and make those changes. That adds an extra level of skill beyond just nutrition knowledge.
With your extensive experience in the field, what are your predictions for future dietitians and nutrition professionals?
We will all continue, as we do now, to need to change and grow throughout our careers. Staying static is not going to work. Not only will we have to keep growing in our knowledge, and staying up with the research, but also growing in our skills.
Do you have any job search tips can you offer for other dietitians and nutritional professionals?
Networking! Particularly networking with the people who do what you would like to do, no matter what that is. That is how you find out about the jobs that are out there. You talk to people who are doing what you want to do even though you think they are competition. Of course, I also recommend volunteering for professional organizations; either local or dietetic practice groups, or whichever organization fits.