Is Incentivizing Treatment Recovery Goals a Good Idea?

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James doesn’t feel like going to therapy today. But if he does, he knows he’ll get a voucher he can spend on a recreational activity of his choice. There’s a movie coming out he really wants to see. So James decides it’ll be worth the therapy session if he gets to see the new flick. He attends therapy and ends up gaining some great insight from the group.

James is one of the many people benefiting from Contingency Management. It’s a method of therapy that provides incentives for patients to achieve recovery goals. They receive tangible rewards when they reach milestones, such as a certain number of therapy sessions or consecutive negative urine tests.

But Does This Reward System Really Work?

CM typically uses either prize- or voucher-based systems. Under the voucher system, patients get a set amount of money when they reach goals. The amount increases after each achievement. Patients can then use this money for services of their choosing. The prize method allows patients to draw a slip of paper from a prize bowl after they achieve a goal. They can exchange the strip of paper for prizes like food or recreational activities.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut Health Center decided to find out. They compiled the most recent research regarding CM’s effectiveness. In the end, they concluded the method does indeed work.

They found that CM programs work for a wide range of people struggling with chemical dependency. It’s been shown to be beneficial for those seeking treatment for problems with alcohol, smoking, cocaine, and opioids, as well as helping to improve adherence to exercise or medication schedules. Even better, CM has proven effective across income, race, gender, and prior substance abuse differences. Integrated into addiction treatment programs, it’s a helpful technique to assist a variety of people in reaching their recovery goals.

Advances in technology provide additional options for CM. With modern tools, people don’t have to be in a facility to monitor their success or receive their rewards. Many smartphone-based interventions use apps to monitor people. Breath-monitoring is a common example. Using these remote CM therapy tools makes the method convenient and cost-effective for both people and organizations.

The Future of Contingency Management

This new form of addiction treatment is being adopted by many treatment providers. The U.S. Veterans Affairs Health Care System and the U.K. National Health Service are among those facilities implementing CM programs. The hope is to provide an additional source of effective treatment for the millions struggling with substance abuse.

So what do you think? Is it a good idea to incentivize recovery goals? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Learn more about common substance abuse treatment therapies.

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