Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

Bribes, Incentives, and Positive Reinforcement – Part 2

My previous post on bribes, incentives and reinforcing positive behavior really stirred up discussion! It is great to see Allies members asking questions and working hard to practice CRAFT skills. In this post I want to delve deeper into how family members might use incentives strategically or combine incentives and reinforcing positive behavior to encourage their loved one to a path of a better life.

This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns.

Incentives

I previously posted that both bribes and incentives (I am focusing on incentives for this post) can often fall apart. Part of the reason for this is both strategies “show all of our cards.” We as loving family members start to attach our feelings, wants and expectations to them. 

Using the example from the previous post

The son with SUD comes home talking about Refuge Recovery (RR) meetings he learned about that day. He expresses that a few of his friends have been talking them up and the son thinks he might give them a try. Dad listens and thinks this is great. Knowing the son is struggling to make ends meet and with good intentions, dad holds out an incentive to buy groceries for his son if the son attends a meeting. The son says, “Really? You would do that?” Dad is now elated because he believes he may have hit on something that might work.

A day or two later, Dad asks the son, “Where and when are the Refuge Recovery meetings?” The son tells Dad he is not sure, he has to look them up. A day later Dad asks, “Did you look up the times and locations of the Refuge Recovery meetings?” The son replies, “Nope. I will…” The next day, Dad offers to look up the information on the meetings. Again, a negative response from the son and now he is starting to seem a little irritated.

A couple of days later, as anxiety starts to come to the surface for Dad because it does not seem his son is going to take him up on his offer, he asks, “Hey son. Don’t you want those groceries I promised? All you have to do is attend a meeting?” The son yells, “God dad, can’t you just leave me alone. Stay out of my life, I can figure things out on my own. You have to control everything. I’m not going to a RR meeting. Not now, not ever, because of you!”

Allies in Recovery, AiR, Dominique Simon-Levine, dsl, addiction, addiction recovery, drugs, treatment, bribes, incentives, positive reinforcement, rewards,

What went wrong? 

Everything Dad did and said was well intended. Can’t we all imagine what was going on in Dad’s head? “Great! I am on to something. Something that might help my son with his recovery. I’m on it.” Then a couple of days later: “Why won’t he just go to a meeting? If he would just go, I really think he will like it. He might meet people and have some new friends that are sober. He might find some more support for his recovery. And groceries to boot! Why isn’t he taking me up on my offer? I know, I’ll help by offering to look up information for him.”

Then when none of this works, he brings up the groceries again!!!

Showing all your cards

Dad allowed obsessive thoughts, worry and his expectations of his son to take hold and derail his well-intentioned plan. In fact, it seems that in that moment, he may have pushed his son away from attending RR meetings. Dad is “showing all of his cards” because the son now knows that his incentive goes deeper than just support. It is attached to a particular behavior and expectation of the son. It’s Dad’s attempt to control the situation. Maybe Dad can take this opportunity to really listen and to respect his son’s wishes and let him find his own path.

The son’s response can also spiral Dad into feelings of hurt, frustration, anger and/or fear. I often hear family members express confusion about why their loved one might respond this way in similar situations. Many times, they will internalize and take the comments personally. Our thoughts can turn to, “I’m just trying to help,” “If she would just listen,” and many other negative thoughts and feelings about our loved one and ourselves. Confused and upset, we start to assume and assign beliefs onto our loved one like, “She’s so ungrateful,” “He has no respect for me,” and “She’s so selfish.” 

Instead, maybe we can break the pattern of our negative behavior by taking a pause, reflecting and determining what about our actions and words we can alter for the better. Placing ourselves in our loved one’s shoes might help in future interactions.

Allies in Recovery, AiR, Dominique Simon-Levine, dsl, addiction, recovery, drugs, treatment, bribes, incentives, positive reinforcement, rewards, SUD, addicted loved one,

How can incentives be used more successfully?

I have found that incentives can work with a method I call ‘One and Done’. It’s very simple but can be difficult to implement because it requires that the caring family member not let their obsessive thoughts run away. They also can not show any expectation of a particular behavior from their loved one. 

Let’s take a look at how Dad could have had a better outcome in the previous example:

The son with SUD comes home talking about Refuge Recovery meetings he learned about that day. He expresses that a few of his friends have been talking them up and the son thinks he might give them a try. Dad listens and thinks this is great. With good intentions, Dad holds out an incentive to buy groceries for his son if the son attends a meeting, knowing the son is struggling to make ends meet. The son says, “Really? You would do that?” Dad is now elated because he believes he may have hit on something that might work. 

And that’s it

Dad offers the incentive up once and that’s it. There is no questioning or digging into what the son is doing to make it happen. Dad just waits. Dad also has to understand that the son might not take him up on his offer. But, that’s the son’s choice. Dad’s only responsibility after the offer is to take care of himself: to keep his thoughts, worry and expectations at bay.

If the son takes Dad up on his offer, great. That may lead to the offer of a second incentive or maybe reinforce positive behavior by picking the son up after the next meeting and take him out for a bite.

If the son does not take Dad up on his offer, then he waits for the next opportunity to reinforce positive behavior or offer another incentive.

Successful incentives outside the home

The legal system, including drug courts, probation and the department of motor registry, etc. often uses incentives to encourage individuals to modify their behavior. There are also phone applications being designed to utilize incentives and they show some promise with SUD. Why might incentives work better in these programs than in a family setting? There are no emotions or expectations attached to them. The incentive is offered and it’s up to the person to earn it or not. Basically, it’s “One and Done.” For example:

A loved one has their license suspended because of being an Immediate Threat. After a couple of months of working on sobriety they want to earn the ability to drive again. The incentive is to have the suspension revoked and earn the right to drive again. The motor registry might require them to attend meetings, test negative on a certain number of urine tests and complete an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). In this case, it is all up to the loved one to do what is required to get his/her license back. No one is going to hunt them down, or dangle another incentive, or inquire if they are going to follow through. It’s a take it or leave it situation and the loved one’s motivation level is what drives the action (no pun intended!). Now again, our loved one might not be successful. Maybe they are not motivated at this time or maybe it is just too overwhelming and they will have to make an attempt again later. But no one from the motor registry is following them around reminding them of their lack of accomplishment. 

Family support, step by step

There is a way for families to give support to their loved one with these incentive-based programs by reinforcing positive behavior. With each step that is accomplished, making a comment and giving a reward will make it more likely that our loved one will continue with their efforts. Recognition with statements like, “Wow you had three negative test screenings, you’ve been attending your IOP regularly and making meetings a part of your daily routine. Pretty impressive. How about we go and catch a movie together this weekend? My treat?”

I have found that sometimes earning these privileges back can be a daunting task and can take a long time. Helping my loved one see how much he/she has accomplished can encourage continued efforts instead of feeling defeated by how long and how many steps he has to complete to get to the reward. I give him little rewards along the way, after the positive behavior (reinforcing positive behavior) to help make the steps more manageable.

Allies in Recovery, AiR, Dominique Simon-Levine, dsl, addiction, recovery, drugs, treatment, bribes, incentives, positive reinforcement, rewards, SUD, addicted loved one,

Buyer beware

These incentive programs are not without their weaknesses. What happens after our loved one reaches their goals and the incentive is not there anymore? There is no reason to continue the positive behavior. Just imagine being on a diet for about 6 months and losing a whopping 20 pounds. The incentive to stay with the diet was the weight loss and now you’ve reached your goal. You treat yourself to a dinner out and your favorite dessert is on the menu. Feeling accomplished you think you earned a break and order an oversized piece of cheesecake. You deserve it right? Our loved one may experience similar thoughts, “I’ve been doing really good, I should be able to loosen my tie and reward myself. I can control myself. Just this once.” (What to do if this happens is another post altogether).

Well, these are my thoughts and some of my experiences with incentives. I have used incentives on my journey with my son and have made mistakes, but I’ve also had successes. I hope that sharing this will benefit others on their journey.

Remember, you are never alone in this!

Since 2003, Allies in Recovery has addressed substance abuse in families by providing a method for the family to change the conversation about addiction. We use Community Reinforcement & Family Training (CRAFT), a proven approach that helps the family unblock and advance the relationship towards sobriety and recovery and to engage a loved one into treatment. Learn about member benefits by following this link.

 Some of Our Collaborators

SUPPLEMENT- HBO film
RICARES
RICARES
REST
REST
Rushford Health Care
Palm Beach county logo
Seal-of-Rhode-Island
Loading

Related Posts from "CRAFT"

Trusting A Loved One in Early Recovery

Her husband is in early recovery, but he doesn’t want to share details with her. She’s nervous and struggling with trust due to his history of SUD and lying. She’s reluctant to let him come home, and unsure how to talk to him about it. Dominique weighs in with an idea of what to say based on the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach that we use at AlliesinRecovery.net.

How CRAFT Can Help: Supporting Your Partner to Successfully Moderate Opiate Use

His partner is trying to moderate her use of heroin and methamphetamine with no formal support. Her use consumes so much of his partner’s life that it’s hard to see her “moderation” as progress. But his loved one wants him to acknowledge how “well” she’s doing, and there hasn’t been room for more discussion. Read on for suggested strategies from AlliesinRecovery.net to engage his partner into treatment, using the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach.

How to Use the CRAFT Approach to Communicate with a Loved One Living with Substance Use Disorder

Substance Use Disorder can often involve volatile emotions on all sides. When family members use the CRAFT approach that we teach at AlliesinRecovery.net, it can help disentangle emotions from practicalities, leading to greater calm and more effective outcomes. This mom recently had an exchange with her son who is struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), but held back from responding in fear it would end in a heated argument. So, she to turned to Allies for guidance. Read on for some pointers on how best to communicate with a loved one in active addiction using the CRAFT approach.

He’s on Suboxone and Hiding Away for Most of the Day. We are Worried.

Her son was using heroin, and he just got out of jail. He reached out for mom’s help and asked to live at home as he starts recovery, and he is getting MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), specifically Suboxone. But he’s secluding himself so much at home she can’t tell what he’s up to. He’s accessing counseling and groups remotely, but he stays holed up in his room all the time and rarely emerges. Mom worries about his isolating so much and whether he might be using. We weigh in with some thoughts about the varied aspects of early recovery, and with some reminders about practicing CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training.)

Real Allies in Recovery Success Stories: Families Share How CRAFT Helped Their Loved Ones with SUD

Read real success stories from families who used the CRAFT approach to help their loved ones with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Learn how CRAFT helped them engage their loved ones into treatment, and how it improved their relationships and reduced stress levels. Discover how you can use the CRAFT method to help your loved ones find recovery, and visit AlliesinRecovery.net for more stories and resources.

How Do I Prepare for My Daughter with SUD to Come Home? And What About Her Boyfriend?

Her daughter is involved with a man who may be sabotaging her efforts to stop using substances. But she’s expressed some readiness to get help, and mom wants to support her in any way that she can. Mom’s working on ignoring the bad-news boyfriend while setting up guidelines for her return home. She needs guidance on the details…Allies in Recovery weighs in with some CRAFT-based tips.

Her Partner is Not Improving from Substance Use Disorder. Is There an Underlying Mental Health Condition?

One of our AlliesinRecovery.net members as been artfully following the CRAFT principles and yet her loved one is not showing signs of improvement. Engaging in extreme behavior, barely ever sleeping, misusing his ADHD medication, lying, and now, stealing… Is it all on the addiction or could her partner suffer from an underlying, undiagnosed and untreated mental health condition?

Shall We Dance?

CRAFT as choreography? Our hosts step into the metaphor of a dance with your loved one. This isn’t a traditional dance – it’s a look at the steps to see what works and what doesn’t, to CRAFT a new dance and change your role. The idea is to learn new tools, practice them, and see where they fit in. Be patient. It’s a process.

The Important Difference Between Bribes, Incentives, and Positive Reinforcement

A mom wrote in asking for guidance on whether she should offer to reward her son for attending addiction recovery group meetings. However, she is unsure if she’s implementing the CRAFT concept of “rewards” correctly. Laurie MacDougall, an Allies in Recovery virtual program trainer – who herself has a loved one with SUD – explains the important differences between bribes, incentives, and positive reinforcement. Laurie advises steering away from the first two and sticking with positive reinforcement instead.

“He Wants Us to Live Together, but He’s Drinking” – What to Say, and When?

Her boyfriend texted her about his desire to move in together; she suspects he did so under the influence. She is growing frustrated with his substance use and feels the need to step back. In retrospect, she fears she missed the opportunity to respond to what we, at Allies in Recovery, call a “wish” – an important moment of “change talk,” an opening for you to step in and suggest recovery options. It can be a key part of implementing the CRAFT skills we teach at Allies. So, what can she do now?

Now He’s Abusing His ADHD Medication. What to do?

Her long-time partner added a new drug to the usual mix of cannabis and alcohol: now he’s got a prescription for ADHD meds and is blowing through a month’s supply in 5 days. He blames all his negative behaviors on his underlying depression. How can she be helpful to her partner, without playing into his victim mentality? She feels like she might want to give up on his recovery and ask him to move out…but we have some great CRAFT-informed tips for strategies she can try first.

His Early Recovery Is Triggering Me

Her loved one has been abstinent from substance use for weeks. With steady recovery inputs, including a medication, he is doing better. However, he recently adopted a deeply confrontational stance and has shifted to some alternative addictive behaviors. Our AlliesinRecovery.net member, feeling hurt and lost, wonders how to address these new challenges. Laurie MacDougall uses some examples from her son’s recovery journey to help paint a picture of more successful interactions that can let some of the tension out of the situation. Read this blog post for some CRAFT-informed ways to handle triggers, boundaries, and power struggles.

She’s Using Again and Gone Missing.

A worried mom wrote in to share news of her daughter’s recurrence after 6 months of recovery from AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder). To complicate matters, the daughter had been off on a binge and out of touch for a week. Obviously, this kind of situation is never easy for a worried parent, family member, or significant other. The mom is using our eLearning Modules to remind herself of important CRAFT principles. We weigh in with some supportive reminders about resilience – hers and her daughter’s – and the reminder that recovery is never a straight line or an on-off switch; we call it the “spiral of recovery.”  

My Son is Using Again. Should I Confront Him?

When you are trying your best to work with a family member in recovery from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), it can be frightening and disappointing to discover they are using again. What to do? One of our AlliesinRecovery.net members wrote in about her son having a recurrence of use, and she wonders whether she should confront him or not. She feels she can’t bear the emotional rollercoaster of her son’s recovery journey. We weigh in with some reminders from the CRAFT approach about how to manage her own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. We suggest she stay the course and not confront him – at least not yet.