How Motivational Enhancement Therapy Can Help Individuals With Alcohol Abuse and Dependence

motivation enhancement therapy - climbing mountain step by step

About Motivational Enhancement Therapy

The saying that people will not change unless they desire to change, may hold some merit when helping those in therapy for alcohol addiction. Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) aims to evoke the motivation to change from within the client themselves rather than inciting feelings of powerlessness over alcohol. Its goal is to allow the person to come to their own enlightenment, realizing their need for a change and their capability to make it happen. Through this type of therapy, an individual may become more empowered to begin the process of recovery.

The MET approach is based on the principles of motivational psychology and grounded in research on natural discovery and change processes. It was one of three intervention approaches tested in Project MATCH—a 1993 clinical trial for treatment options for those experiencing alcohol addiction—and was initiated by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 

Stages of Change of Addictive Behavior

Research conducted by J. O. Prochaska and C.C. DiClemente, who studied how people change and how that relates to addictive behaviors, describes a specific model of how people change addictive behaviors. They illustrate how individuals move through various stages as they begin modifying their problematic behaviors and progress toward change. Each stage requires certain tasks and processes to be accomplished in order to move on to the next. The MET approach addresses where the client is within this cycle of stages and aims to assist the individual through the rest of the stages towards sustained change and recovery. The six stages that are identified in this model are:

  1. Precontemplation – This stage is when a person is not considering a need for change and continues their problematic behavior. 
  2. Contemplation – The contemplation stage entails an individual beginning to consider that they have a problem and how feasible and costly the changing of that behavior will be. 
  3. Determination – As the individual progresses, this is the stage when they make a  decision to take action for change. 
  4. Action – Once an individual begins to modify their problem behavior, they enter the action stage. This stage can take three to six months.
  5. Maintenance – After successfully completing the action stage, the individual moves to this stage that requires sustained action to maintain their change.
  6. Possible Relapse – If at any point these efforts fail, the individual begins again from the beginning of the cycle, making their way through the stages.  

How Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) works

MET also implements six practical strategies during the therapy sessions. According to the clinical research guide for Motivational Enhancement Therapy, six elements have been shown by research to inspire change in those in therapy for alcohol addiction. They are summarized by the acronym FRAMES.

  • Feedback – Provide feedback on the individual’s personal risk or impairment
  • Responsibility – Emphasize the individual’s responsibility for change
  • Advice – Provide clear advice on how an individual can change
  • Menu – Supply a menu of alternative change options
  • Empathy – Express empathy to the individual
  • Self-efficacy – Help facilitate the individual’s optimism and self-efficacy

What To Expect during Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET considers the previously mentioned stages of change and practical elements and applies them to carefully planned and individualized treatment sessions. The first treatment session in the first week focuses on providing structured feedback from the therapist’s initial assessment regarding problems associated with the individual’s drinking, level of consumption, and related symptoms. It also includes decisional considerations and plans while building the client’s motivation to initiate or continue to change. The therapist may also ask the individual about their goals and evaluate ways a problematic behavior may interfere with these goals. The therapist then works with the individual to create a change plan outlining desired changes, reasons, and steps they can take to achieve this.

The second session during the second week continues the motivation enhancement process and works toward strengthening a commitment to change. Its goal is to build on the initial progress the individual has made. Whenever possible, the client’s spouse or significant other is unusually encouraged to participate in the first two sessions.

In the following sessions, usually at week six and week twelve, the therapist continues to monitor the individual, reinforce progress, and encourage the individual’s efforts. These sessions are intended to empower the individual in feeling confident enough to keep up with their sustained change. 

Motivational Enhancement Therapy focuses on helping individuals mobilize their resources and their self-efficacy to provide lasting change. It emphasizes people’s personal choices and self-control instead of inciting a sense of powerlessness over alcohol. When a person decides to change, it can be more impactful and enlightening than when they feel like they are being forced to change.  


Finding the right path toward lasting change and recovery can be difficult when it doesn’t start from a place within. Sometimes, the changes that truly last end up being the ones we decide to make ourselves. That’s why MET works with the individual to help them develop a realization of their own capability. It aims to help the individual build confidence in enacting their plans while providing the right tools and resources to reach their desired outcomes. At Alta Centers, we provide the highest level of treatment and care with a commitment to each human being. We offer various treatment options, including Motivational Enhancement Therapy, to help individuals get back to following their dreams, goals, and aspirations. We understand how hard it can be to change, but there is hope for those who have the courage to take the first step. Reach out to us for further information on how we can help at (888) 202-2583.

About Alta Centers Detox

Alta Centers Detox is  Addiction Treatment Centers with Alcohol Rehab and Drug Rehab in Los Angeles California