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Updated on September 15, 2023
5 min read

What is Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)? Can it Treat Addiction?

What is Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)?

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is a short-term treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders (SUDs). MET motivates people to change destructive and harmful behaviors.2

For people who aren’t motivated to recover from addiction, MET can inspire change by helping them understand the effects of their behavior. In turn, MET aims to encourage them to feel capable of recovery.


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MET Techniques and Goals

Motivational interviewing is a counseling approach that helps people improve their motivation to change. 

The therapy is short and time-limited. It usually lasts between four to six sessions.1 The first session includes an assessment. The following two to five sessions use motivational interviewing strategies to help the person:

  • Gain greater awareness
  • Develop motivation
  • Create a plan for change

MET therapists help people explore coping strategies and encourage commitment to making change.

Motivational interviewing approaches to therapy center on five key motivational principles. During MET, therapists may:

Express Empathy

Expressing empathy helps people develop and show compassion for others. The aim is to help them understand how their behaviors affect others. 

By gaining understanding, people can feel more encouraged to change.

Acknowledge Discrepancy

Another key part of MET is recognizing inconsistency between a person’s desired place and where they are. 

Acknowledging this disparity between desire and reality can encourage people to take steps to fill the gap.

Avoid Arguments

MET therapists don’t argue with their clients about behaviors or substance use. Arguing often triggers defensiveness and resistance to change. 

Instead, therapists gently and optimistically help people become more aware that the motivation to change comes from within instead of from someone else.

Accept Resistance

MET therapy acknowledges that resistance is common. Therapists look for ways to defuse the struggle instead of fighting it. 

The goal is to reduce resistance and allow the person to remain in treatment and work toward building motivation to change.

Support Self-Efficacy

To make a change, people must believe they can achieve their goals. MET helps people enhance their self-efficacy to recognize their strengths and believe in themselves.

Who Can MET Benefit?

MET can help people struggling with addiction by increasing a person’s readiness to:

  • Stop alcohol and drug use
  • Reduce the severity of substance use
  • Lengthen periods of abstinence

MET may also enhance the treatment of other conditions, such as: 

  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Problem gambling

MET can also help people who are at risk of developing these conditions.

MET can be practiced regardless of a person’s commitment level. However, it’s particularly effective when a person strongly resists or isn’t motivated to change. 

For example, people who abuse alcohol or drugs often find it challenging to stop using due to the reinforcing effects of these habits.

The therapy’s focus on quick change also makes it suitable for cases where the therapist only has limited contact with a client.

The non-confrontational and nonjudgmental style therapists practice also makes MET a promising approach for treating young people. Many young people experience identity or independence issues. 


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MET for Addiction

MET is often combined with other counseling methods for people struggling with addiction. MET works by helping people with addictions learn how to shift their thoughts and behaviors.

After an assessment, sessions are personalized to the needs of the individual. Early sessions include evaluating information from the first assessment and setting goals for the future.

Later sessions provide perspective and positive reinforcement for staying sober.

Other behavioral therapies often combined with MET include 12-step programs and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). These therapies use certain techniques to guide people through behavioral change.

For example, CBT centers on teaching people coping strategies for stress. On the other hand, 12-step programs provide specific steps to help people stay sober.

Co-Occurring Disorders Motivational Enhancement Therapy Can Treat

MET also addresses co-occurring mental disorders and simultaneously treat them to prevent future relapse. Co-occurring mental health problems are common in people with alcohol addiction, as both disorders can be affected by imbalanced brain chemistry.

Some co-occurring conditions MET treats include:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders

MET can also help encourage positive changes in health-risk behaviors among young people living with HIV.


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Benefits of MET

Key benefits of MET include:

  • Quick treatment time: MET is a time-limited counseling approach that takes place over four to six sessions.
  • Reduced resistance and ambivalence: MET emphasizes change rather than confrontation, and the therapist works collaboratively with the client. Therapists help people develop awareness and make their own choices.
  • Supportive: MET is supportive and nonjudgmental. It strongly emphasizes personal choice and empowerment.

The effectiveness of MET typically depends on the nature of the person’s addiction.

MET helps those addicted to alcohol or drugs to begin or participate in treatment. However, it’s less effective at getting people to reduce their substance use.

How to Get Started with MET

There are various ways to find a MET therapist. Online therapist directories are a good place to start. Requesting a referral from your doctor is also an excellent way to find a qualified therapist. 

Any therapist can practice MET. Many gain experience with MET by taking workshops or classes that offer training. Ask your therapist what training and experience they have in MET.

Other questions to ask your therapist before starting MET include:

  • How long will treatment last?
  • How can you determine progress?
  • Can you have another person at your sessions, like a friend, partner, or family member?

Research MET to see if the approach seems right for you. It’s also good to check your insurance coverage to see if it covers MET.


  • MET is a short-term treatment for alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and other conditions. It helps people feel more motivated to change their harmful behaviors.
  • MET therapists express empathy, acknowledge discrepancies, avoid arguments, accept resistance, and support self-efficacy during treatment.
  • Benefits of MET include efficacy, speed, and supportive and nonjudgmental style.
  • MET also addresses co-occurring mental disorders, including OCD, anxiety, and PTSD.
Updated on September 15, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on September 15, 2023
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