kathy ireland® Recovery Centers

Contingency Management

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “opioids were involved in 46,802 (a rate of 14.6) overdose deaths in 2018—nearly 70% of all overdose deaths.” Thousands of local families continue to suffer every year from the damaging effects of substance use disorders (SUDs). The dedicated staff at our Williamson, West Virginia location are here to help you find relief and hope through evidence-based treatment and therapy.

What Is Contingency Management?

Contingency management is a method for modifying unhealthy behaviors using incentives. Information shared by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that “research has demonstrated the effectiveness of treatment approaches using contingency management (CM) principles, which involve giving patients tangible rewards to reinforce positive behaviors such as abstinence.” At kathy ireland® Recovery Centers, we offer various incentives for individuals who respond better to that form of treatment. The most common CM methods we use are voucher-based reinforcement and prize incentives.

Voucher-Based Reinforcement (VBR)

Addiction and dependency changes the way your brain processes reward and pleasure. Some substances can cause permanent cognitive changes, while others only cause short-term issues. In those cases, “winning” vouchers by meeting specific goals causes a greater sense of accomplishment and pleasure than the typical motivations people focus on during SUD recovery. 

Contingency management is one way to help you cope with triggers and cravings. You will undergo individual or group therapy and learn healthy coping skills while also being guided through the process of establishing healthier patterns. Simultaneously, you will receive vouchers as a reward for meeting specific goals. For example, passing a drug screen may result in you being given a voucher for items with monetary value. The more goals you meet, the higher the monetary value of the voucher.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Intensive Outpatient Program

Incorporating Prize Incentives Into Recovery

Another way we motivate clients to change established habits is through prize incentives, which are very similar to voucher-based reinforcement. While undergoing this form of treatment, you win a prize for reaching specific goals. For example, if you remain sober for a month, you may receive a prize worth $100. Prize incentives are different from vouchers because they allow you to potentially get a valuable prize immediately. Multiple tiers of rewards exist, from $5 items to ones that cost $100 or more, depending on the facility’s resources. Below are a few examples of what rewards you may encounter during typical CM treatment:

  • Tickets to sporting or other events
  • Gift cards for retail stores
  • Appliances or electronics
  • Clothing or accessories like watches and jewelry
  • Food items
  • Everyday items like makeup or laundry detergent

Research indicates that, for some people, contingency management works better than standard psychotherapy. The clinical team at our Williamson, WV location will work with you to determine the best approach for you. If you respond favorably to incentive-based treatment, then we may use CM.

Contingency Management as Motivation for Change

Researchers have proven through numerous clinical studies that contingency management is a valuable tool for treating substance use disorders. According to the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, “the target population is adult patients who primarily abuse stimulants (such as cocaine) or opioids (such as heroin) or who may have multiple substance abuse problems.” Contingency management works well for individuals with comorbid alcohol use disorder (AUD) and SUD involving cocaine to help them remain motivated through the withdrawal period until new behavioral habits can become established.

Certain substances cause significant brain and nervous system changes, making relapse harder to avoid. CM uses the theory of operant conditioning to motivate you to remain sober by reinforcing positive behaviors. The valuable items you receive for achieving predetermined goals retrain your brain and make it easier to override unwanted behaviors.

Intensive Outpatient Program

Positive Reinforcement and the Brain

Substances like cocaine overstimulate the brain’s reward centers, which makes it less sensitive to the pleasure that comes with positive behaviors. Unfortunately, this complicates recovery because happiness and other positive emotions can be muted, making it challenging to find meaningful motivation for behavioral changes. Some areas of the brain, like the basal ganglia, are significantly affected by prolonged substance use disorder. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “The basal ganglia, which play an important role in positive forms of motivation, including the pleasurable effects of healthy activities like eating, socializing, and sex, and are also involved in the formation of habits and routines.” As such, incentives can stimulate the brain and work to rewrite behaviors during treatment.

Deciding If CM is Right For You

Part of the admissions process at kathy ireland® Recovery Centers includes creating a treatment and aftercare plan. Our clinical team will work with you to figure out how to get the best outcome. Part of that is determining what motivates you and incorporating that into your care. CM is ideal for individuals who have difficulty connecting emotionally with traditional motivations.

Incorporating Contingency Management Into Aftercare

Transitioning from the residential treatment we offer at Williamson, WV will be easier when receiving incentives for successfully acclimating to your new schedule and environment. The greater freedom you experience with a move to outpatient treatment may cause an increase in triggered cravings. To combat these cravings, CM can help you stay on track by providing you with incentives to abstain. 

Your case manager can facilitate the change from residential care to outpatient or community services and ensure your new program includes CM if that works well for you. We want you to succeed at long-term sobriety, and we will take the necessary steps to provide you with all the resources you need.

Contingency management is one form of treatment proven to help individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) develop healthier behaviors. You can learn more about our facility and the treatments we offer by calling kathy ireland® Recovery Centers today: (603) 619-1132.

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