Ask an Expert: What is Motivational Enhancement?

Ask an Expert: What is Motivational Enhancement?

By Stanton Peele 01/05/15
Today's question is on what exactly Motivational Enhancement is and how it can help addicts.
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Can you please explain what Motivational Enhancement therapy consists of and is it any good for addiction?

Stanton Peele: Motivational enhancement (or interviewing, MI) is my go-to therapy for addiction.  It also expresses my philosophy of what causes addiction and how it is overcome.

Motivational interviewing sees addiction as an expression of self-directed will. The solution is not to deny or denigrate this will, but to assist the person to find healthier outlets for it.  The therapist works collaboratively with clients to express their own motivation to pursue new goals—ones that rule out and replace the addiction. 

MI rejects the disease approach’s view that the person is powerless over their addiction. Instead, it invests in their self-efficacy - their belief in their own inner power.  It is a nondirective, client-centered therapy.  The helper doesn't dictate or decide anything for the client.  From the start, MI doesn’t define people’s problems for them (“you are an alcoholic”).  It has no sequence of steps for them to follow.  MI believes that people have the ability to direct themselves out of addiction.

MI uses questions to explore people's values (like family, health, religion, community, self-respect, achievement, etc.) and their discontent with their failure to honor these.  It is by finding these inconsistencies themselves, not by being confronted by others, that clients develop their motivation to change. All of this is based on straightforward, well-known psychological principles that the disease model ignores or violates.   You can learn more about MI in my book, Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict.

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Stanton Peele, PhD and attorney, is an innovator in the field of addiction, beginning with his breakthrough 1975 book, Love and Addiction (written with Archie Brodsky) and followed by 11 others, most recentlyRecover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict. He has created his own rehab program (The Life Process Program) for individual substance abusers.  Full Bio.

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