Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is an approach to counseling that assists individuals in taking an active approach to stopping their own drug and/or alcohol use. MET rapidly evokes a sense of intrinsic motivation in drug and alcohol abusers, as opposed to slower methods that guide recovering addicts through a step-by-step process.

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MET is based on a technical called motivational interviewing. In motivational interviewing-based counseling, the patient and therapist work together in a partnership to overcome harmful behaviors. Motivational interviewing operates on the assumption that all humans possess a capacity for beneficial change. Some people are able to make positive changes on their own, while others require help in the form of professional treatment to induce those changes. In situations where patients are not necessarily ready to make a positive change, motivational interviewing can still be used as a framework for future therapy.


This type of therapy includes an initial patient assessment, followed by two to four treatment sessions that take place between the patient and the therapist. In the first session, the therapist discusses and delineates the initial assessment and elicits discussion from the patient, including motivational statements. These statements are used to help the therapist work with the patient to build a plan. The plan involves coping strategies and in some cases, rewards that work to motivate the patient to stay clean. The subsequent sessions involve monitoring of the patient’s progress by the therapist and continued encouragement towards sobriety.

Key Components

MET involves five key components.

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  • Express Empathy: A good rapport between client and therapist is essential. A sense of unity must be established from the first session.
  • Develop Discrepancy: Clients are given the opportunity to talk about their personal goals, while the therapist identifies what they will have to do to achieve those goals over the long-term.
  • Avoid Argument: Arguments between therapist and client should be resisted at all costs. Both parties are encouraged to avoid initiating and engaging in arguments.
  • Rolling with Resistance: When resistance arises, the therapist and client should focus on working through it together. Resistance is bound to arise in the context of drug addiction therapy.
  • Support Self-efficacy: The therapist encourages the client to realize their own personal capacity for change. Self-efficacy is promoted.


Studies MET have shown that type of addiction plays a role in the effectiveness of the intervention. The approach has been successfully utilized for individuals suffering from alcohol addiction. MET has been shown to improve their ability to participate and engage with treatment and over time to minimize problem drinking. This form of therapy has also been used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy to effectively treat adults dependent on marijuana. For other drugs, including cocaine, nicotine, and heroin, the results of studies are mixed. MET has also shown varying levels of effectiveness when used to assist young adults who abuse multiple drugs. In general, it is more effective in engaging addicts in seeking treatment as opposed to helping them stop their drug use.