Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “is a counseling approach that helps individuals resolve their ambivalence about engaging in treatment and stopping their drug use.”
It is a method offering more to the substance abuser than simply the traditional 12-step programs of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous (AA, NA). “This approach aims to evoke rapid and internally motivated change, rather than guide the patient stepwise through the recovery process.”
MET is based on principles of Motivational Interviewing (an approach developed by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, clinical psychologists treating problem drinkers). It elicits self-motivational statements in early discussion sessions. This is done to “build a plan for change” based on the patient’s observable commitment and verbal expressions of some level of movement toward healing surrounding the problem.
This therapeutic approach specifically engages the patient in the process of putting a plan forward based on person-centered motivations, as opposed to societal. ((As such, it evokes the work of educator John Dewey and psychologist Carl Rogers.)) In uniquely not reiterating the 12-step approach, it can appeal to those having problems following a rote program that does not fully speak to them.
After all, the 12-step approach doesn't work for everyone.
Developing problem-solving and interpersonal skills is a core component of the therapy. Often, this is introduced early on, in order to initially get past the denial of any substance abuse problem. In a sense, the therapist is guiding the patient to see for himself that there is a problem — all based on discovering what motivates the individual to live life as he or she is currently.
Enlightenment can only occur if an individual wants to learn (John Dewey), and MET is centered around this insight. Once initial resistance has been countered — by reflecting back the patient’s own statements about desiring better outcomes — learning can really take off. An introduction of behavioral techniques can be nicely mixed in to support the patient’s ability to better fend for himself when tempted by chemical or old, bad habitual patterns.
Therapists using this approach will often encourage partners and family to attend some sessions as well. This is to support the patient’s thinking and behavioral process changes, as well as to learn techniques for themselves. ((Those techniques could be to draw out the patient’s experience and feelings, or to find coping mechanisms as an addict’s or alcoholic’s family member, based on the MET approach.))
MET often is used in conjunction with other cognitive behavioral approaches to problems; indeed its application can be much further-reaching than simply for substance abuse. It also has points of connectedness with dialectical behavior therapy-based approaches — utilizing principles akin to mindfulness and distress tolerance in session explorations.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy could go a long way toward offering new insights to those affected by the varied symptomatology of many mental illnesses, as well as interpersonal and professional human relations. Its applications are beginning to be far-reaching, as a simple search online will prove, with its healing offered toward everything from anxiety and depression to breathing problems connected to needed lifestyle change.
Author: Lisa A. Miles, PsychCentral
Date: July 12, 2013