What Is Contingency Management? November 19th, 2018 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News What Is Contingency Management?

What Is Contingency Management?

A hand holding a bag of money

Contingency management (CM) is a method used in drug rehab to encourage abstinence and compliance with other parts of a treatment program. The basic idea behind contingency management is to offer small, sometimes progressively larger rewards for negative drug tests or breathalyzer tests. Treatment professionals hope that these rewards, usually in the form of vouchers for items like food, movies or cash, will motivate those in treatment to stick to their program and not misuse drugs or alcohol.

Overcoming Internal Programming

The theory behind contingency management programs is to counteract the internal rewards of substance use with external rewards for abstaining or meeting other treatment goals such as attendance. Scientists reason that substance use rewards the body with good feelings, escape from stress or some other internal reward. Substituting an external reward for desired behaviors in treatment may help overcome that internal programming better than willpower and therapy alone can.

In most CM programs, the rewards start small and get progressively larger as more tests are passed successfully. In the event of a negative test result, the rewards start over again at the lowest level. CM can be a successful way of overcoming temptations. It typically works well during an outpatient or partial hospitalization program, when the environment is less controlled than in inpatient treatment, where people live at the facility 24 hours a day.

What Is Contingency Management?

Some CM programs involve drawings for a chance to win cash or prizes.

Contingency management is often implemented by the treatment professional, but in cases of adolescents, it could also be implemented by parents. CM can be a way for parents to help their teens regain control over their lives and remain interested in sobriety even when they may see their friends or others around them misusing drugs or alcohol.

Do Some CM Programs Encourage Gambling?

Some CM programs may also involve drawings for prizes. The person in treatment may get one drawing slip for attending and another for a clean urine screen. Other behaviors can also be rewarded, including participating in a group session or following other treatment protocols. One negative aspect of a drawing model for rewards is that it might unintentionally encourage gambling, which can be another source of addiction, but studies have not shown this to be happening so far.

Practitioners of CM are still working to figure out the ideal timeframe for CM programs to continue before participants can sustain abstinence on their own without a reward. It is possible that this timeframe could vary depending on the person’s individual personality and characteristics.

External rewards like those in CM will not be sufficient to maintain sobriety without other aspects of treatment like therapy and sometimes medications. The physical and emotional pull of substance use is strong and must be dealt with in multiple ways for recovery to take place. But CM can influence the decision to misuse substances by giving a compelling reason not to do it. It is one tool in the treatment arsenal that has been shown to be effective in many cases.

Colorado drug rehab is available to help those who need it. Addiction treatment programs can offer hope for many people who find themselves dependent on substances like opioids and other drugs or alcohol.  Contact The Recovery Village Palmer Lake to learn more about admissions today.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.