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Motivational Enhancement Treatment (MET) for addiction

Motivational Enhancement Treatment (MET) for addiction

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Motivational Enhancement Treatment (MET) for substance abuse

As the treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) becomes increasingly intuitive and tailored to each patient’s unique care needs, researchers are developing more and more effective therapies to both solidify and expedite the treatment and recovery processes. Clinicians are deploying a wider-than-ever range of behavioral interventions to help their patients achieve the best possible long-term treatment outcomes. These therapies range from specialized clinical techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and motivational interviewing to holistic occupational techniques such as music, art, creative writing, and more. One of the standout therapies to emerge in recent years has proven to be motivational enhancement therapy (MET).

What Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy?

MET is a relatively new yet remarkably promising therapeutic intervention that helps patients definitively and supportively overcome their uncertainty about ceasing their drug or alcohol use. Unlike more protracted types of therapies, motivational enhancement therapy relies on a more abbreviated form of therapy that takes place over a maximum of four sessions. According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), MET aims to evoke rapid and internally motivated change rather than guide the patient stepwise through the recovery process. The agency also reports that the therapy seems to be more effective for engaging drug abusers in treatment than for producing changes in drug use. The technique is being used by more and more addiction rehab facilities and psychologists.

How Does Motivational Enhancement Therapy Work?

Motivational enhancement therapy consists of an initial assessment battery session, followed by two to four individual treatment sessions with a therapist.

  • Session 1 – Therapist or MET practitioner provides feedback regarding the initial assessment and engages the client in conversation about what behaviors need to change. Therapists utilize motivational interviewing principles and work with patients to develop a customized behavioral plan to avoid relapse. These plans include coping strategies for high-stress situations and factors that are found to be common triggers. Patients leave the first sessions with a plan for behavioral success that they can then practice in their everyday life.
  • Session 2 – Patients discuss the applicability of the pre-established care plans, how they’ve worked in everyday life, and make necessary adjustments. Motivational and highly targeted interviewing techniques are still employed to give patients the most intense and immediate behavioral roadmap for change. The therapist monitors change, reviews cessation strategies being used, and continues to encourage commitment to change or sustained abstinence. Patients sometimes are encouraged to bring a significant other to sessions.
  • Subsequent Sessions – Patients continue to evaluate their progress and make the necessary changes to their plans and coping strategies they’ve developed for maximum success. They also develop long-term plans for continued success. Motivational enhancement therapy can either occur in a pre-established alcohol and drug addiction treatment program or as an independent practice meant to guide patients into a more comprehensive rehab paradigm, such as an inpatient or outpatient program.

The therapy is meant to motivate and empower SUD sufferers so they can readily take control of their own lives.

According to data from George Washington University, the five stages of motivational enhancement therapy include:

  • Precontemplation (people not considering changing their problem behavior)
  • Contemplation (individuals beginning to consider both that they have a problem and the feasibility and costs of changing that behavior)
  • Determination (decision made to take action and change)
  • Action (individuals begin to modify the problem behavior, this stage normally continuing for three to six months)
  • Maintenance (sustained change)

Individuals may have to start another cycle if desired results aren’t achieved during the first round of therapy.

Does Motivational Enhancement Therapy Work?

The treatment outcomes for MET have been largely favorable; however, success has been found to be contingent largely on the type of drugs patients are taking. The technique is generally meant for less severe drug abuse situations such as burgeoning marijuana dependency or mild alcohol abuse. Individuals who are deeply dependent on marijuana, meth, cocaine, or prescription drugs have had their brain chemistry completely hijacked by these drugs and may benefit from a more protracted type of behavioral intervention that allows them to incrementally heal. One recent study from Yale University indicates that patients’ initial expectations may play a more significant role in long-term treatment outcomes for MET.

Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy Right for Me?

If you or someone you care about is struggling with early-stage SUD, MET may be an ideal therapy to explore. The worst-case scenario is that it won’t be as effective as you initially thought. It’s important to remember, however, that this therapy is not meant to replace any other element of treatment. In fact, some research indicates that it’s most effective when combined with other types of therapy, such as CBT. Start exploring MET with an experienced and qualified mental health professional now.


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