If you have a history of abusing drugs or alcohol, you enjoyed some type of benefit or reward from their use. There might have been a sense of euphoria or relief that came from substance use, prompting you to continue the behavior.

What Is Contingency Management? 

Contingency management is a type of behavioral strategy that is used in many addiction recovery centers. The strategy focuses on promoting positive changes in behavior, such as total abstinence.

This therapy approach also introduces reinforcement, or rewards, when you meet your goals. The program might withhold rewards or even introduce punishments if patients exhibit undesired behavior.

The concept is simple enough: If a reinforced idea is rewarded, it is more likely to be repeated in the future. This is not a new idea. Similar practices occur in homes, schools and workplaces daily with varying degrees of success.

Contingency management in rehab is also a common practice and is used in a variety of ways.

Different Types of Contingency Management in Rehab

Contingency management can be used in different rehab settings, with the goal of influencing different types of behaviors. For example, there might be incentives for clients to attend outpatient rehab sessions, pass drug and alcohol tests, and meet certain milestones during a treatment program.

There are also different ways to reinforce a behavior. One option is to provide clients with vouchers that they can exchange for food or other appropriate goods and services. Rehab can also provide cash incentives or gift cards to local stores as rewards.

children giving the peace sign

A comprehensive addiction recovery program might include contingency management. 

Is Contingency Management Effective? 

Studies show that contingency management in addiction recovery is effective in a variety of situations. A 2005 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry examined the effectiveness of contingency management when treating people who experience problems with methamphetamines and cocaine through outpatient care.

The study concluded that contingency management helped boost attendance levels, improve treatment retention and achieve higher compliance with drug tests.

A 2006 study published in the journal Addiction also analyzed the effectiveness of contingency management in treating clients with an addiction to alcohol, cocaine or tobacco. Researchers concluded that this type of therapy was one of the more effective approaches in promoting abstinence during treatment.

Some addiction treatment programs and clinicians have objected to using contingency management, likening it to “a game of chance” and stating that it encourages gambling. So far, however, there have been no studies or other evidence suggesting that this type of treatment increases gambling behavior.

Contingency Management as Part of a Comprehensive Treatment Program

Contingency management alone does not cure addiction or keep a person in recovery. Addiction is a subtle and powerful disease, which is why The Recovery Village offers a comprehensive addiction treatment program that combines traditional and holistic therapies.

If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village today to learn more about how one of our customized rehab programs can help you find a new way to live.

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