5 Motivational Principles of Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Adjusting the way we think and act is one of the most difficult aspects of recovery, whether it’s from past trauma, depression, substance abuse or any number of life’s challenges.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a therapeutic approach that helps individuals overcome uncertainty or ambivalence related to a change in their self-destructive behavior.


5 Motivational Principles of Motivational Enhancement Therapy


Developed by two clinical psychologists, Stephen Rollnick and William R. Miller, MET is an alternative to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. This motivational style of counseling is an effective method for building a plan for change.

Here are the 5 Principles of Motivational Enhancement Therapy:

1. Applied Empathy – there is more to each and every individual than any self-destructive behavior in their past or present. With MET, therapists create an environment of trust by expressing empathy, listening, understanding and asking an individual to elaborate on their experiences and feelings.

2. Establish Discrepancy – This principle acknowledges the gap between a person’s desire for change and their current lifestyle or behavior. Here, too, therapists will stress that MET is not necessarily a route to immediate gratification but that the benefits of this approach come after time, commitment and work.

3. Argument Free Zone – MET certified therapists avoid judging or attacking a person, even if the person is spoiling for a fight. Arguments are not productive. Positive responses to negativity are more effective in raising awareness of a problem or problematic behavior than other efforts.

4. Understanding Resistance – though it might seem unproductive, MET therapists are trained not to confront resistance to change. This is rooted in the fact that change is not easy. Instead, counselors listen to the individual without judgment or defensiveness, which can lessen a person’s resistance to change and give them fewer reasons to stop coming to therapy sessions.

5. Encouraging Self-efficacy – an important aspect of any transformation is a person’s belief that the power to change is within their control. Counselors help individuals understand they possess the necessary skills to achieve their goals.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy Help With Recovery

Though variations exist based on individual needs, Motivational Enhancement Therapy generally takes just a few weeks to complete.

For the first two sessions, clients are encouraged to bring a trusted family member or friend to the sessions. The presence of a confidant very often helps a client be more honest with both the therapist and themselves.

Data about the effectiveness of MET’s ability to increase a person’s desire for positive change continues to pile up. The first clinical research came in 1993 with Project Match, a National Institutes of Health study that compared MET to 12-Step Facilitation Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Coping Skills.

It’s no secret that everyone faces unique challenges at home, work, school and within their various communities. For some, recovery from drug and alcohol addiction abuse won’t come until relationships or personal health is severely damaged.

Others, however, have found it within themselves or listened to the suggestions of their loved ones and used Motivational Enhancement Therapy to break the cycle of substance abuse and motivate themselves to change.


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