What is Motivational Enhancement Therapy?

What is motivational enhancement therapy? Read on to learn more about MET, its benefits, and therapy effectiveness.

What is Motivational Enhancement Therapy?

Motivational enhancement therapy, or MET is a short-term therapeutic model to help those with alcohol and substance use disorders. It is important to note that while connected, motivational enhancement therapy and motivational interviewing are different.1

The distinguishing elements pertaining to motivational enhancement therapy will be detailed in this article. It is important to know both the affiliated highlights and potential drawbacks in order to discern if motivational enhancement therapy is right for you or your loved one.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Origin of MET

Originally developed to help treat substance use disorders, MET focuses on helping you uncover the motivation to change and alter harmful and destructive behaviors.

While both aim to enhance the desire for behavioral change, motivational interviewing therapy is a broader therapeutic approach. In contrast, MET focuses on individualized assessment, feedback, and plans for change. Unlike some therapeutic models, which focus on a step-by-step recovery process, motivational enhancement therapy strives to achieve rapid and “internally motivated” change.2

Motivational Enhancement Therapy Principles and Techniques

It is not uncommon for someone with an alcohol or drug use disorder to experience challenges acknowledging their harmful relationship with substances. For this reason, they may find it challenging to want to change if they believe nothing is wrong. Motivation enhancement therapy focuses on helping people become more confident, willing, and ready to change. MET approaches therapy focuses on five principles or techniques. 3

As mentioned above, MET is a brief therapy, often lasting four to six sessions. During the first session, a trained motivational therapist conducts a thorough assessment. All remaining sessions are dedicated to utilizing motivational enhancement therapy techniques to help you achieve awareness, develop motivation, and create a change plan. The five fundamental principles include:4

Express Empathy

A strategy designed to help people develop and express empathy for and towards others by assisting them in understanding how their behaviors affect others.

Develop / Acknowledge Discrepancy

The principle often recognizes a discrepancy between where one wants to be and where they are. Understanding this can encourage people to take the needed steps to close the gap between the two.

Avoid Arguments

Counselors do not argue or confront the individual about substance use because it is ineffective and frequently leads to defensiveness and resistance. MET therapists help patients become more aware, so they become motivated to change for themselves, rather than at the behest of someone else.

Accept (Roll With) Resistance

Motivational enhancement therapy acknowledges that resistance is a common challenge to achieving treatment goals. Rather than fighting resistance, MET counselors look for ways to minimize it and encourage the individuals to develop an internal desire to change.

Support Self-Efficacy

Motivational therapy principles follow that for people to change, they must believe they can. MET aims to improve self-efficacy (one’s belief in their ability to change) to build on their inner strengths and capabilities.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy Stages of Change

Motivational enhancement therapy stages of change are like the stages of change applied to many forms of addiction and mental health treatment. Also called the transtheoretical model, the six stages of change help better clarify one’s mindset before, during, and after motivational counseling.

Data from the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that up to 9% of the US population could benefit from drug or alcohol addiction treatment in a year. Of those, less than 1.5% received the help they needed. By applying the stages of change, those seeking help to overcome addiction can benefit from a framework to guide addiction recovery. The six stages of change are as below.5


This stage is very early in the process. In many cases, when people are in the precontemplation stage, they have not reached a point where they view (or accept) their behavior as being problematic. People still in the precontemplation stage often view the behavior associated with their addiction as positive or pleasant. However, negative consequences do eventually influence people who are exhibiting addictive behaviors. Eventually, these negative impacts will push an individual into the second stage of the model, the contemplation stage.


Once someone reaches the contemplation stage of the stages of change model, they have reached the point where they begin to think about changing, quitting, or cutting down on their engagement in the addiction or addictive behavior. Someone who has reached the contemplation stage is more open to hearing or receiving information about their addiction or addictive behavior and the possible negative consequences.

Determination / Preparation

Arrival at the preparation stage means a person has moved forward from thinking about change to planning and preparing to follow through with the changes they were considering during the previous stage. The preparation stage is different for everyone and will look different depending on individual circumstances and needs. This stage requires time, support, and commitment.


The action stage is where all the contemplating, planning and preparing comes to fruition. For many attempting to overcome addiction, this is the stage that receives the most focus, as it is the stage at which real change starts to happen. For many trying to overcome substance addiction, the action stage will begin with their entrance to a detox center where trained staff are on hand to help with the early phase of detoxing from substance use.


The most important element of this stage is continuing to make progress and maintaining the progress achieved during the action stage. For those recovering from substance addiction, this means upholding and adhering to the decisions made during the preparation stage and the new lifestyle behaviors introduced during the action stage. This generally means staying “clean” or abstinent from drugs or alcohol to maintain the sobriety reached during the action stage.


This stage is not a concrete stage that everyone should go through during the stages of change. Unfortunately, it is a stage many will unwillingly (and sometimes willingly) go through at least once during their recovery process. Statistics show that between 40% and 60% of individuals in recovery experience at least one incidence of relapse. Some may experience several before successfully attaining and maintaining sobriety.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

What Motivational Enhancement Therapy Can Be Used For?

MET was initially developed for addiction treatment; however, research suggests it may be effective for several mental health conditions. Examples include anxiety disorders, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, compulsive gambling, eating disorders, and motivational enhancement therapy for substance abuse.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy Benefits and Effectiveness

Studies suggest motivational enhancement therapy techniques suggest this therapy model is an effective therapy tool. One study shows a 20% or more reduction in drinking among study participants.

While effective as a comprehensive treatment tool, the most notable benefit of MET is that it helps reduce ambivalence and resistance to treatment. MET helps someone with an addiction or mental health challenge better understand their inner strengths and develop a desire to change from within. This treatment method often provides a greater opportunity for success as it is the individual’s desire or goal rather than the advice or suggestion of another.

Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy for You?

When choosing a treatment model to overcome a substance use disorder or mental health concern, selecting the type of treatment best suits your needs and goals is essential. MET may not be suitable for everyone in all cases. MET is a brief therapy that might not be well suited for someone with a severe addiction or who needs urgent, comprehensive detox services before they can actively engage in treatment. MET might also be ill-suited for those who have completed an addiction treatment program previously and experience relapse.


In these cases, there are several alternatives to motivational enhancement therapy. Common examples of widely used treatment models for addiction and mental health concerns include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Also, many treatment programs incorporate family therapy, alternative therapies, and peer support groups to help address addiction (or mental health needs) from a holistic or “whole person” approach. Contact a member of our team today if you would like to learn more about how to get help for substance use disorder at Essence Healthcare Healing Center using MET therapy or another treatment model.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.