What Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy?

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is a counseling approach to help individuals address and work through the ambivalence they may have toward changing their behavior. It is often used with people struggling with substance use.

This approach is meant to spark rapid motivation to change your behavior instead of being walked through each step of recovery by a therapist. Individuals work collaboratively with their therapist to develop a plan of action and maintain motivation.

This article provides an overview of motivational enhancement therapy, its techniques, and its benefits and effectiveness. Keep reading to learn more about this treatment approach. 

Man stressed out in therapy

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Techniques of Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Conversations about change can be challenging. In motivational enhancement therapy, an individual examines their ambivalence surrounding change. By evoking a person’s own thoughts, feelings, and language for change, a client and therapist can work to develop a plan that can help the individual succeed. 

There are five main components to MET:

  • Express empathy: Empathy is an ability to recognize and understand another person's feelings. When you struggle with substance use or other problematic behaviors, expressing empathy for those affected by your behavior can make you aware of the action and its potential consequences. Empathy for others and yourself can help you gain momentum and stay consistent with your plans. 
  • Acknowledge discrepancy: Sometimes your behavior is not in alignment with your goals. Bringing awareness to the discrepancy can allow you to examine your actions and identify specific steps you can take to move closer to your goal. 
  • Avoid arguments: Confrontation or arguing can cause you to become defensive, shut down, or even rationalize the behavior you are trying to change. When a therapist develops rapport, asks to share information or provide feedback, and responds with compassion, they can more effectively address your concerns. 
  • Accept resistance: There may be a mix of emotions when making a change. Some days you may not have the desire or need to change your behavior. Other days, you might feel capable and be focused on why you are making a change. For MET to be effective, the therapist must be skilled at helping you recognize and explore the struggle and in building motivation to help you continue moving in a healthy direction. 
  • Support self-efficacy: Change doesn’t happen unless you truly believe you can meet your goals. MET highlights your strengths, abilities, and previous successes while boosting your self-efficacy (a belief in your ability to change your behaviors).

Motivational Enhancement Therapy vs. Motivational Interviewing

Motivational enhancement therapy differs from motivational interviewing (MI), another client-centered therapy aimed at changing behavior. MI takes a broader approach to behavior change, while MET focuses on the evaluation, feedback, and action steps.

What Is MET Used For?

Healthcare professionals use MET to identify reasons for and against change and build motivation for taking steps in a positive direction. This time-limited intervention is client-centered and emphasizes a person’s strengths and autonomy.

While MET is commonly used to treat substance use disorder, it can also be applied to support individuals exploring behavior change.

MET can also treat:

Who Should Consider Motivational Enhancement Therapy?

Anyone engaging in a behavior that may be having a negative impact on their life may consider MET. Specifically, individuals struggling with substance use or gambling issues may benefit. Motivational enhancement therapy can be an effective way of helping them identify the benefits of making a change.


Researchers have identified benefits of MET, including

  • It’s helpful to both adolescents and adults.
  • It identifies and resolves ambivalence about change.
  • It increases your intrinsic motivation.
  • It provides personalized feedback. 
  • It develops perspective about your behavior.
  • It gets you engaged in treatment quickly. 
  • It emphasizes empathy, personal strengths, and autonomy.
  • It allows collaboration between the healthcare provider and the client. 
  • It is a brief and cost-effective intervention.

Things to Consider About MET

It's important to keep in mind that MET is not a standalone treatment but a short intervention that can be applied to and integrated with other therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy. Additionally, success with MET varies based on the substances someone is using and the extent of their addiction.


MET is effective at engaging individuals in treatment and helping them reduce substance use.

Specifically, MET is effective with people using alcohol and cannabis. One study showed that MET was useful in motivating individuals who struggled with heavy drinking and aggressive behavior toward partners to change their behavior.

Similarly, a different study showed that MET could positively impact motivation and feelings of self-efficacy. Essentially, MET can be productive in helping individuals begin a journey of change.

What to Expect

Understanding MET and what to expect can aid you in having a productive conversation with your healthcare provider.

It’s important to know that MET is an intervention that uses individual sessions. You can expect to complete various substance use assessments that will provide insight for you and the healthcare provider. This information can be used to explore the impact of your behavior and to start a conversation about what change could look like and how to achieve goals. 

Talking about assessment results and future plans is integral to the process.

You can also expect to identify an actionable plan you will follow. Change isn’t linear. So, individuals can anticipate discussing challenges and maintaining motivation. To aid in a client’s journey, a healthcare provider may engage them in exercises, share information, or recommend handouts.

Some questions you might ask can include:

  • How might MET be used to address my concerns?
  • What would treatment look like?
  • How many sessions should I attend?

Getting Started

If MET seems like it may be a good fit for your needs, getting connected with a provider is the next step. To locate a provider, you can try:

  • Asking your primary care provider for a referral for a trained therapist
  • Talking to a therapist you may already be connected with about MET, their experience with it, and what it would look like as part of your treatment plan
  • Calling your insurance provider and asking about healthcare professionals in your network
  • Contacting your employee assistance program (EAP) to find out about using benefits with a trained professional
  • Reaching out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area
  • Using a database or directory for mental health services like the National Helpline Database

When beginning therapy, take some time to ask about the therapist's education, training, and experience. Inquiring about how they integrate MET into their practice and what that might look like based on your concerns can help you decide whether a provider and their approach are a good fit for you.


Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is an effective intervention to help people stay motivated while changing their behavior. MET offers personalized evaluation, feedback, and plans of action.

Often applied to substance use issues, MET can be applied to other problems such as gambling disorders, eating disorders, and PTSD. Finding a provider and talking about how MET can help you reach your goals is the first step.

A Word From Verywell

Making changes in your life can be difficult and can cause insecurity. You may not know where to start or feel confident in your ability to maintain the steps you take. Working with a healthcare provider or trained therapist who uses motivational enhancement therapy can help you take action toward identifying and achieving your goals. Ultimately, you inherently possess everything you need to take steps to improve your health. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is motivational enhancement therapy (MET) effective?

    Motivational enhancement therapy can be influential in empowering people to change their lives. Research shows that MET can help people decrease substance use issues, reduce drinking and smoking, strengthen medication adherence, and implement healthy lifestyle changes.

  • How does motivational enhancement therapy work?

    Motivational enhancement therapy begins with a thorough assessment of a person’s substance use behaviors. Next, the client and therapist discuss the evaluation, talk about ambivalence and motivation for change, and start developing a plan. Therapists who use MET recognize that a person goes through various stages when trying to make a change. Over the following sessions, the client and therapist work to keep the client engaged and motivated. 

  • What is the difference between motivational enhancement therapy and motivational interviewing?

    Motivational enhancement therapy is an intervention focusing on assessment, feedback, and plans for making change. It can be applied in just a few sessions to engage individuals, resolve ambivalence, and draw out their intrinsic motivation. Motivational interviewing is a communication style that strengthens a person's language around change. A healthcare provider may use MI techniques to enhance their MET interventions. 

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Geralyn Dexter, LMHC
Geralyn is passionate about empathetic and evidence-based counseling and developing wellness-related content that empowers and equips others to live authentically and healthily.