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The Role of Incentives in Addiction Recovery


It is well known that there is not one single solution for addiction. Everyone responds to treatment in their own way. What works well for one person may not work as well for someone else. Part of treatment is finding what motivates someone to change; their incentive to stop using drugs or alcohol. Without any motivation, it is unlikely that long-term recovery will stick. There is greater risk that the person will relapse and go back to their old ways. But when they have reason to change – something that drives them forward – it can make it easier to stick with their recovery plans and achieve long-term sobriety.

Extrinsic Motivation

One of the major factors that push people toward addiction recovery is extrinsic motivation. They feel pressure from family and friends to change their ways. Loved ones may stage an intervention to help the person struggling with addiction see how their actions and behaviors have affected others. They see that they are not the only one being harmed – their family and friends are too. Addiction has a far-reaching impact which oftentimes those in active addiction try to ignore or deny. It can be challenging to admit or even see that they are hurting others through their addiction and not just themselves.

Relationships can have both a positive and a negative role as an incentive for change. For some, the risk (or reality) of divorce or losing custody of their children is a major driver in their desire to turn their life around through drug and alcohol rehab. They want to fight for what they love and the thought of losing it all keeps them striving toward recovery. Their spouse moving out or filing for separation can be a wakeup call.

For others, the destruction of relationships works in a negative way. They may feel hopeless and as though they don’t have much to work for anymore. Their spouse is divorcing them so why bother to enter recovery? It can create a dismal mindset and leave them with little incentive to change. It is essential to get them into a better frame of mind and recognizing the benefits of overcoming addiction.

Their career can also be a motivator. When performance and productivity are not up to par, it can result in disciplinary actions and risk of losing their job. Wanting to achieve a promotion, gain more positive recognition, or get selected for a project can be an incentive. When people are thinking clearly, have more energy, and are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they have more career opportunities and opportunities for advancement. Many people have put a lot of time and energy into their education and rising in the ranks of their career to throw it all away.

Other extrinsic motivations can be legal or financial trouble, peer pressure, and expectations from society. These can all have an influence on the person’s desire to change and ability to continue with long-term recovery.

Intrinsic Motivation

In addition to extrinsic motivation, there is also intrinsic motivation. This is the drive that comes from within. The good feeling they get when they’ve achieved a goal or made positive choices that pay off. It could also be the guilt or shame they feel about letting someone down, embarrassing them, or not holding up their responsibilities. These are emotions that they battle internally.

Part of treatment often involves setting goals. It is important to ensure that these goals are realistic and attainable. It is okay for people to push themselves a bit, but they don’t want to make their goals so lofty that they will only be disappointed when they fall short. Goals should be a combination of short- and long-term. As the person achieves different benchmarks, it can build their confidence and self-esteem. This can help with recovery because they see that they can do it and they are capable of changing. While there are some extrinsic factors, there is also an internal drive and change.

Connecting with others can also provide motivation and incentive. In support groups, those in recovery share their stories and insights with others. By staying drug-free, they are able to help others stay drug-free. It can make them feel good to know that they are helping someone else to turn their life around and make positive choices. They know they are making a difference, and at the same time, they are also reinforcing their own sobriety and recovery.

Contingency Management

Contingency management therapy is one that has mixed reviews. This type of therapy provides incentives for positive results. For instance, passing a drug test could earn someone a voucher or free movie ticket. Maintaining sobriety for a certain amount of time could earn them something. The key is that it must hold meaning for the person in recovery. It must be something that they find valuable or useful. This positive reinforcement helps them to keep pushing forward and staying on the path to long-term recovery. The potential drawback occurs when these incentives stop. There is less extrinsic reinforcement to continue their change.

However, incentives and motivation can support those in recovery to keep making positive choices. They have reason to want to stop using drugs or alcohol and see the difference that it makes in their life. Chapters Capistrano can help you turn your life around and overcome addiction. With flexible approaches to treatment and customized treatment plans, you can discover what works best for your needs. Contact Chapters Capistrano at 949-371-4198 to get started.