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Contingency Management for Addiction Treatment

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When a person is in the midst of an addiction, it can difficult to see a way out. Many people struggle with job issues, financial problems, and strained relationships. In these situations, it can be beneficial for rehab programs to offer concrete incentives to patients during treatment.

Contingency management (CM) is a form of therapy that offers incentives to patients as part of a rehab program. If a person is court-ordered to complete a rehab program or family intervention, they may associate treatment with punishment. By participating in CM, patients begin to link recovery with a desirable reward.

Whether we realize it or not, we all require affirmation throughout our lives. It feels good to receive encouragement and appreciation. Contingency management is a solid way to begin introducing positive recognition back into a person’s life. The rewards of CM also pave the way for people to achieve far-reaching success, including building a satisfying life without drugs.

What Is Contingency Management?

This form of therapy aims to promote healthy behaviors around abstinence and recovery. CM uses rewards and incentives that include vouchers, cash, movie passes, and clothing to increase patient participation in specific elements of a recovery program.

CM can be used among those who struggle with alcohol, opioids, stimulants, nicotine, and other drugs. Studies have shown this form of therapy can be especially effective among those who suffer from a stimulant or opioid addiction. CM uses prizes to award behaviors such as:

  • passing a urine or breathalyzer drug screen
  • being prompt and engaged in individual or family counseling sessions
  • following a medication-assisted treatment regimen
  • taking an active role in group therapy sessions
  • committing to an exercise or wellness plan
  • achieving a personal treatment goal, such as working on emotional regulation
  • demonstrating responsibility, including practicing a relational skill or taking a course in job readiness

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What Are The Goals Of Contingency Management?

Contingency management has several goals, including helping patients to form a positive connection between recovery and rewards. When you are not in active addiction, the many benefits of recovery may seem obvious. But for those who are currently stuck in the cycle of substance use, the benefits need to be tangible and immediate.

Many people end up in rehab after a severe consequence, such as an arrest or the looming possibility of jail time. With CM, patients are encouraged to reframe their idea of sobriety into something that could benefit them personally (instead of just keeping them out of trouble).

Generally speaking, it can be challenging to get patients to complete their recommended course of treatment. One study found that up to 80 percent of participants did not complete their rehab center program. Using contingency management is a proven way to retain patients in addiction treatment programs, and this method also offers additional benefits.

Types Of Contingency Management Rewards

By introducing prizes, drawings, and voucher contests, a sense of community is built in the program. Friendly competition may provide a chance for people to form positive peer relationships.

Additionally, the element of excitement associated with winning a prize causes the brain to release dopamine and serotonin. These hormones cause feelings of pleasure and accomplishment. The resulting sense of self-worth can increase a person’s confidence in their own ability to set and achieve goals. Rehab programs that use CM therapy may offer rewards that include:

Prize Incentives

With this type of incentive, patients who pass a drug test or achieve a goal are eligible for a cash reward. They may win a prize for each drug test or individual goal completed. Cash prizes may range anywhere from one dollar to $100.

Prize incentives can also be an opportunity to learn about financial wellness. People who stop using drugs are sometimes overwhelmed by the time and money they have on their hands when they are not buying substances. By earning cash rewards in CM therapy, patients have an opportunity to discuss enjoyable ways to manage money with their counselor.

Voucher-Based Reinforcement (VBR)

In this form of CM, patients earn vouchers based on clean urine screenings or drug tests. Vouchers may be redeemable for items such as movie passes, restaurant gift cards, apparel, or electronics.

Vouchers may be on a progressive system. This means that the first clean urine screening may yield a voucher for a smaller, less valuable item. The more consecutive clean drug screenings a person achieves over time, the more valuable the vouchers become.

Direct Rewards

Some rehab centers that utilize this highly effective therapy may provide direct prizes, instead of using the voucher method. These items may be similar to prizes offered in VBR programs, such as retail goods and gift certificates.

How To Find A Rehab Center That Uses Contingency Management

Change is often difficult, and there is no easy way to get and stay sober. While recovery can be a process, finding a rehab center that is a good fit for you or your loved one can ease the transition into sobriety.

At our treatment centers across the country, Vertava Health provide alternative therapies like CM. Our facilities also offer more traditional approaches like dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), trauma grounding, and medication-assisted treatment.

Contingency management is a way to hold patients accountable in a fun, non-threatening manner. This sense of excitement can help build a commitment to treatment among those who are newly sober. CM helps people build skills like responsibility and self-awareness that can be transferred to work and family life, once treatment is complete.

For more information on contingency management, or to learn more about Vertava Health’ rehab programs, contact one of our treatment specialists today.