Change takes effort and work. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not necessarily linear with plenty of ups and downs along the way.
Because of this and other factors, it can be difficult for people to stay motivated and to see the treatment through.
While the goal of any therapeutic effort is to produce a change in a person, if a person isn’t motivated it can become a profoundly difficult and sometimes even fruitless endeavor.
That’s where something like motivational enhancement therapy (MET) can be a gamechanger.
But what is motivational enhancement therapy?
What Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy?
Motivation is a common problem for a lot of things in life. Getting going and being invested in something, even if it’s a clear net positive, takes dedication. Quite frankly, sometimes it’s just tough for people to get there.
Addiction specialists and treatment centers have come to understand this and now actively work to build that motivation with MET.
As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) puts it like this:
Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a counseling approach that helps individuals resolve their ambivalence about engaging in treatment and stopping their drug use. This approach aims to evoke rapid and internally motivated change, rather than guide the patient stepwise through the recovery process. This therapy consists of an initial assessment battery session, followed by two to four individual treatment sessions with a therapist. In the first treatment session, the therapist provides feedback to the initial assessment, stimulating discussion about personal substance use and eliciting self-motivational statements. Motivational interviewing principles are used to strengthen motivation and build a plan for change. Coping strategies for high-risk situations are suggested and discussed with the patient. In subsequent sessions, the therapist monitors change, reviews cessation strategies being used, and continues to encourage commitment to change or sustained abstinence.
In a very specific study used to find out the helpfulness of motivational enhancement therapy on those with an alcohol use disorder and hepatitis-C, it was found that MET appeared “to increase the percentage of days abstinent in patients with chronic hepatitis C, alcohol use disorders and ongoing alcohol use”.
Why Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy Used in Addiction Treatment?
MET is used because on a basic level it takes motivation to get motivated and then to use that motivation to truly commit to a full-scale change in your life.
Motivational enhancement therapy isn’t itself a treatment for addiction but rather a complementary tool that aids in the effectiveness of a rehab program.
A manual published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism lays out basic principles of the MET approach, which serve to explain why it’s used:
Motivational enhancement therapy is about understanding and “listening rather than telling”. It’s not pushing anyone towards anything.
As the manual puts it, “motivation for change occurs when people perceive a discrepancy between where they are and where they want to be”. It’s only when you see this divergence that you can make a change.
Arguing can lead directly to defensiveness and ultimately resistance to change and “when MET is conducted properly, the client and not the therapist voices the arguments for change”.
Roll With Resistance
Resistance in many ways is part of the process of rehab and changing one’s habits. The idea with MET is for the counselor or therapist to not meet resistance in a combative way but rather to take it in stride with the intention of shifting the patient’s perspective and perception.
On a basic level, this is about encouraging someone with a substance use disorder to believe in themselves and their internal power to change.
These principles are the building blocks of motivational enhancement therapy and why it’s used as a powerful tool in treating addiction.