The Basics of Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy is a type of talk therapy that is designed to quickly assess and provide treatment for addiction and certain mental health issues. The goal of MET is to help individuals overcome any ambivalent feelings about treatment so that they can approach sobriety and other aspects of treatment with more commitment and engagement.

Literally, the therapy is meant to enhance someone’s motivation to seek both a better future and a solution to their addiction or other mental health disorder.

Generic Treatment Name Motivational Enhancement Therapy
Other Names MET; motivational interviewing (or MI) is sometimes used interchangeably with MET, but these are slightly different therapeutic practices
Conditions Commonly Treated Substance abuse and addiction, including addiction to alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, and certain drugs, such as amphetamines, cocaine, and ecstasy

In some cases, MET is used to treat co-existing mental health diagnoses alongside substance abuse issues, including bipolar disorder, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Where does MET occur? Motivational enhancement therapy can occur in a variety of environments, including inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, as well as via individual counseling.
Who provides MET? A licensed therapist or physician provides this type of therapy
Can MET be used with other treatment methods? MET can and often is used alongside other treatment methods, including medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, abstinence programs, and 12-Step programs.
Is MET an effective treatment method? MET is considered to be an evidence-based approach to treating a number of addiction and mental health disorders; evidence-based means the treatment method is well-researched and backed by a number of clinical trials showing it to be effective in certain circumstances.
How long does MET take? MET takes place over four to five individual treatment sessions with a therapist.
Can MET involve others? Depending on the circumstances surrounding the issue being treated, MET providers might encourage someone to bring a significant other to one or more of the therapy sessions.

How MET Works and How It Is Used

Motivational enhancement therapy strives to evoke a changed thought process in individuals who are struggling with addiction. It works based on psychological principles to rapidly promote someone’s own strengths and desires to become part of the solution.

Specifically, MET is designed to move someone from a passive contemplation that maybe there is a solution to becoming an active and determined proponent of that solution. The concept behind MET is that a person who is positive about and determined to make a difference in their own thoughts and behaviors is more likely to activate his or her own resources. Those resources might be internal, but they can also include social and family support systems.

MET is typically only used as a stand-alone therapy in cases when an individual is not facing immediate, severe consequences from their addiction or mental health issue. For example, individuals who are dealing with alcohol, marijuana, or nicotine addiction may be able to continue managing life’s responsibilities while going through treatment. They may only need the motivation to deal with their addiction. That makes MET a possible treatment to consider.

In other cases, MET may be combined with other treatments within inpatient or outpatient programs. Individuals who are dealing with cocaine addiction or a co-occurring and serious eating disorder, for example, may be facing more serious immediate consequences or even be in physical danger. In these cases, MET may be used to help bring them more fully into the fold of treatment, which might also include other therapies, education, or even medication.

How MET Is Administered

MET takes place over four to five individual therapy sessions. During the first session, the qualified counselor conducts an initial assessment, asking questions and talking to patients to determine how motivated they are to engage in treatment. To effectively enhance patients’ motivation for a positive outcome, the therapist must understand if they are ready to begin treatment.

The next two counseling sessions build upon that initial assessment. The therapist engages patients in motivational discussions to help them understand why they should invest the time and energy into treatment and overcoming their addictions. Because every patient has different desires and motivations, this can be a highly customized and personal approach.

The therapist also helps patients begin to plan for how to turn the goal of overcoming addiction into a reality. The therapist begins to monitor and encourage positive change. A final session — typically the fourth or fifth session — involves a final assessment and directions for continuing forward in treatment or recovery with full motivation.

Cost, Side Effects, and Other Considerations for Motivational Enhancement Therapy

In an outpatient setting, MET costs are typically on par with the average cost of individual therapy in the region. According to Northwestern Mutual, costs for therapy can range from around $75 to $200 per hour. However, most health insurance plans do cover therapy sessions, so your out-of-pocket cost for individual therapy sessions may be lower.

Motivational enhancement therapy doesn’t have any side effects and is typically considered safe for most people. In fact, research has shown that it’s a possible way to increase positive outcomes for people who are struggling with substance abuse or addiction while pregnant.

One of the most important points to consider before embarking on treatment that includes MET is that this therapy is highly dependent on your own motivations. Like other addiction treatments, MET is also not a final solution. Addiction is a chronic disorder that must be managed over the course of a lifetime, which means seeking follow-up care and a long-term support system. MET may simply be the treatment option that begins your personal recovery path.

How to Get Help & Additional Resources

This guide on MET is for informational purposes. It is designed to provide education to the public about what motivational enhancement therapy is and how it’s being used. It is not meant to recommend a certain type of treatment or provide treatment or diagnostic advice. If you are dealing with substance abuse or a mental health issue, always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical providers to understand your treatment options.