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What Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy?

Through this comprehensive article, you’ll learn about how motivational enhancement therapy can help improve your quality of life.

What Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy?

Motivational enhancement therapy, or MET, is a form of treatment that focuses on helping individuals make positive changes in their lives. MET can be for people struggling with addiction, as well as those who want to make other changes in their lives, such as quitting smoking or improving their diet.

MET is based on the premise that each individual has the inner resources needed to make positive changes. The goal of therapy is to help individuals tap into these resources to make the changes they want to make.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

How Motivational Enhancement Therapy Works

During motivational enhancement therapy, therapists will work with individuals to help them clarify their goals and develop a plan for how to achieve them. Therapists will also provide support and encouragement throughout the process. 

Motivational interviewing is a significant element of MET, involving identifying clients’ ambivalence, exploring why they want to change, and enhancing their commitment and motivation. This allows individuals to look inward and gain a better understanding of why they want to change and what is holding them back.

What Can Motivational Enhancement Therapy Help With?

Motivational enhancement therapy has been shown to increase encouragement and motivation to seek treatment and achieve recovery for the following:


Many people who suffer from addiction have trouble mustering up the motivation to seek help or continue treatment. One study found that MET increased days abstinent for patients with alcohol use disorder by 13.66% at the six-month follow-up. 1

Eating Disorders

People with eating disorders often have a negative view of themselves and their bodies. This can make treatment difficult, as they may not be motivated to change their patterns. Data shows that less than 50% of patients with anorexia nervosa are ready to change their behaviors. Research indicated that MET increased motivation to change and decreased binge behavior in patients. 2

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People with OCD often know that their compulsions are irrational, but they cannot help engaging in them anyway. This can be frustrating and lead to a feeling of hopelessness.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People with GAD often feel overwhelmed by their anxiety and may not see the point in seeking treatment. One study found that MET significantly reduced anxiety sensitivity by 24%. 3

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

It is common for individuals with PTSD to have negative views of themselves and the world around them. This mindset can hinder motivation to seek and follow through with treatment.

Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar disorder can often impede people’s motivation to seek help or enter treatment, making MET an ideal solution.

Techniques of Motivational Enhancement Therapy

The therapist will use a number of different techniques to help the patient achieve various goals. These techniques will be detailed below.

Developing and Expressing Empathy

To help the patient feel understood, the therapist will try to develop and express empathy.

Acknowledging the Disparity Between Thoughts and Reality

The therapist will help the patient acknowledge any discrepancies between their thoughts and reality.

Avoiding Arguments

The therapist will avoid getting into arguments with the patient. Instead, they will focus on helping the patient to explore their own thoughts and feelings.

Accepting Resistance as Part of the Process

The therapist will accept resistance from the patient as part of the process. They will not try to force the patient to change but will instead help them to explore their resistance.

Supporting Self-Efficacy for Those Recovering From Addiction

The therapist will support the self-efficacy of the patient recovering from addiction by helping them set realistic goals and providing positive reinforcement. When comparing self-efficacy scores between MET and treatment as usual (TAU), one study showed a significant score increase in patients who received MET.

The mean pre-treatment self-efficacy scores were 56.30 for the MET group and 56.25 for the TAU group. After both groups received treatment, their mean scores were 60.75 for MET and 57.30 for TAU. 4

Principles of Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy has several key principles that guide the therapy process. These will be discussed further below.

Reinforcing the Individual’s Ability to Change Themselves

One of the main goals of motivational enhancement therapy is to help people realize that they have the power to change their own behavior. This empowerment can be a crucial motivator in making positive changes.

Avoiding Conflict

Another goal is to avoid any sort of confrontation or argument that could potentially undermine the client’s progress. Instead, the focus is on understanding and empathizing with their perspective.

Fostering Empathy

The therapist needs to be able to see things from the individual’s perspective in order to understand their motivations. This empathy can help build trust and create a rapport essential for therapeutic success.

Understanding That There Is Always Progress to Be Made

One of the foundations of motivational enhancement therapy is the understanding that change is a gradual process. There will always be ups and downs, but as long as the overall trend is moving in the right direction, progress is being made.

Dealing With Resistance to Change

It is common for people to resist change, even when they know it is for the best. Motivational enhancement therapy helps individuals deal with this resistance by exploring the underlying reasons.

What Happens in a Motivational Enhancement Therapy Session?

There are a few key things that happen in a typical MET session, including:


The therapist will assess the person’s readiness to change their behaviors. The assessment usually includes discussing the patient’s goals and understanding what has been keeping them from reaching those goals.

Addressing Concerns

The therapist will address any concerns the patient has about changing their behaviors. This may include discussing potential roadblocks or challenges and developing a plan to overcome them.

Create Action Plan

Once the person is ready to change their behaviors, the therapist will work with them to create an action plan. This plan will outline what steps the person needs to take to reach their goals. It may also include developing coping mechanisms for difficult situations or triggers.

Supporting Personal Choice and Control

The patient is ultimately responsible for creating their plan. The therapist is there to provide guidance and support throughout the process, such as helping them stay on track with their action plan or providing encouragement during difficult times. The goal is to help the person feel in control of their own choices and their own life.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy and Stages of Change

The stages of change which MET focuses on will be explained in the following sections.


Individuals in this stage are not considering change and may be unaware that their behavior is problematic. They may deny that there is a problem or be ambivalent about changing.


In this stage, people are aware that there is a problem but are not yet committed to taking action. They may feel ambivalent about the pros and cons of change, wavering between deciding whether or not to make a change.


Individuals in this stage have decided to take action and are starting to make plans. They may still be uncertain about how to make the change or worried about potential roadblocks.


The action stage is where individuals are actively working on making the desired change. They may be trying out new behaviors or making changes to their lifestyle.


In this stage, people have successfully made the desired change and are working to prevent relapse. They may be using coping strategies and support systems to maintain their progress.


relapse is when someone returns to their old patterns after making progress in changing their behavior. It is important to remember that relapses are part of the process and do not mean that change is not possible. If you experience a relapse, try to identify what triggered it and use that information to make a plan to prevent future relapses.

How Effective Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy?

MET has been shown to be effective in helping people make changes in a variety of areas, including substance abuse, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions and behavioral problems. In general, MET is most effective when used in conjunction with other treatment methods, such as individual counseling or group therapy. However, there are some cases where MET may be the only treatment method necessary.

Benefits of Motivational Enhancement Therapy

MET is designed to help people ambivalent about change overcome any resistance they may have. The focus is on helping the person see that they have a choice and that change is possible. One of the benefits of motivational enhancement therapy is its ability to produce quick results.

MET can also help reduce any feelings of shame or stigma that may be holding someone back from seeking help. Ultimately, the goal is to help the person see that change is possible and that they have the power to make it happen.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Find Motivational Enhancement Therapy at Genesis Recovery

Addiction can be challenging, but it’s important to know that help is available. At Genesis Recovery, we offer a variety of evidence-based treatment options, including motivational enhancement therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance commitment therapy, and 12-Step programs.

Our experienced and compassionate team will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve lasting recovery.


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