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How Does Motivational Enhancement Therapy Work?

Motivation enhancement therapy is a specialized technique that aims to help people successfully engage with treatment and build on their own internal motivations for change. With motivational group therapy activities and different types of motivational interviewing, psychology experts have discovered that this technique is highly effective for people who are resistant to traditional treatment. This technique can help boost motivation for treatment and spark real change.

Motivational therapy works by building upon people's internal motivations to change. Rather than forcing people into a treatment structure that they may resist or not want to partake in, motivational enhancement techniques delve into an individual's personal reasons for wanting to change. Essentially, this is a therapy to organically increase motivation rather than produce it.

Techniques of Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivation enhancement therapy is all about an individual's choice to change. This type of therapy aims to increase motivation and strengthen the role of personal choice. To this end, motivational enhancement techniques employ a few key principles:

  • Empathetic listening on the part of the motivational therapist
  • Directing attention toward discrepancies in the client’s desires
  • Avoiding arguing with the client
  • Defusing resistance
  • Supporting self-motivation and efficacy
  • Motivational support groups and group therapy activities

Client Led Approach

In motivational interviewing therapy, a session appears quite different from what one might expect a typical therapy session to look like. Using an example of motivational enhancement therapy for a co-occurring disorder, a typical session might include the therapist asking whether the client wants to stop drinking or using drugs, how they might accomplish that, and helping the client to set goals themselves that they could stick to.

In this way, the client leads the session rather than the therapist. The therapist’s role is to guide the client toward setting their own goals and treatment plans, enhance motivation for recovery, and help the client to understand what steps need to be taken to achieve them.

What Motivational Enhancement Therapy Can Help With

Motivational interviewing psychology was developed primarily for people with co-occurring disorders, but it has been adapted to help with several other mental health struggles as well. These include:1 

Eating Disorders and Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Eating disorders have primarily used cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) practices in the past. However, when more and more people were getting diagnosed with eating disorders, many couldn’t shoulder the cost of CBT, leading to the usage of motivational enhancement therapy, as it was seen as not only more affordable, but more approachable for patients as well.2

Anxiety Disorders and Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Anxiety disorders have also seen an uptick in motivational enhancement therapy usage for patients, as it allows them to set their own goals and motivations while still under the guidance of a licensed therapist. This can help with some of the anxiety that patients have in general just by attending therapy, and can drastically help with setting long-term goals.3

Different types of motivational interviewing cater to treating specific ailments, and each patient’s therapist will work with them to determine what is best for their needs.

What Happens in a Motivational Enhancement Therapy Session?

The first step in most motivational enhancement counseling is to assess the client's needs and address any concerns about the treatment itself.

The First Session

The first session is the time to ask any questions about therapy and get to know your therapist. Feeling that you have a therapist you can trust and be open with is one of the most important elements of treatment success, as it allows people to speak frankly about their issues and trust that their therapist has their best interests in mind.

The Following Sessions

During the next motivational enhancement therapy stages, you and your therapist will create an action plan for your recovery. This is a collaborative effort – you only need to commit to things you think would be beneficial, though your therapist may offer insight and guidance.

Your therapist will work to support your personal choice and sense of control throughout your sessions. After all, this is your life, and a motivational therapist isn’t there to dictate what you should do but rather to support you in making healthy decisions and plans.

Benefits of Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This treatment is an exceptional tool for enhancing motivation for change in co-occurring disorder treatment, helping people change destructive patterns, and helping them achieve their goals and ambitions. The benefits of motivational interviewing have three key elements outlined below.

It Works Quickly

One of the greatest benefits of motivational enhancement therapy is that it works quickly for a majority of patients. Even a single session is often enough to spark real change, though repeated sessions can help maintain positive progress and enhance well-being.

It Reduces Resistance and Ambivalence

Motivational therapy is an exceptional tool to create motivation for treatment. More than anything else, motivational therapy is highly effective at increasing treatment utilization in people who generally dislike the idea of therapy.

This is because motivational therapy is inherently person-centered; the client leads discussions, outlines the treatment plan, and has a great deal of choice in treatment options.4

It Emphasizes Choice

Client choice is the best medication for motivation. Since motivational therapy is client-led, the client dictates the course of treatment.

Your therapist will make insights, observations, and suggestions, but ultimately what you do is up to you. You only need to take the steps that you deem necessary rather than doing everything your therapist prescribes.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

How Does Motivational Enhancement Therapy Differ from Other Methods?

Motivational therapy is a unique treatment method that greatly varies from other therapy styles. Primarily, the difference comes down to client choice.

12-Step Facilitation (TSF)

During TSF, your therapist helps you understand and work through a treatment process that includes many different steps.

In TSF, there are strict guidelines for what the client is expected to do. Success in this type of facilitation depends on whether you have successfully worked the steps, along with a little room for adjusting treatment as you see fit.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing maladaptive thoughts and patterns. Compared to motivational therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy can seem more confrontational and is primarily led by your therapist.

Where a motivational therapist might take resistance at face value and roll with it, a cognitive-behavioral therapist might challenge these thoughts, ask you to reframe them differently, and generally guide the treatment process in a more detailed fashion.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy at Anew Treatment Center

If you or a loved one struggle with mental health, motivational enhancement therapy might be just the treatment you need.

Anew Treatment Center prides itself on offering all of our clients the choice to control their treatment as they see fit and having the best therapists available to help. When you’re ready to start working through your mental health struggles, contact our team to get set up with an initial consultation and start your journey toward recovery.

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