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The Benefits of Positive Reinforcement

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), positive reinforcement is a behavior modification technique stimulated by rewards and positivity. Psychologist B.F studied this form of behavior therapy and showed that behavior could change with positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement adds rewards to goals and creates a desire to complete the goal altruistically. Because of the positive connotation of positive reinforcement, it has been proven that a healthy balance of positive reinforcement in a child’s routine can lead to higher self-esteem. This technique can also work for adults in recovery.

For your own recovery, positive reinforcement and goal setting can mean a lot of things. Positive reinforcement could be a great addition to your recovery plan, as your sobriety is worth rewarding yourself. You also may have a loved one suffering from substance abuse. Positive reinforcement is an excellent way to help create a routine and a positive attitude with a loved one.

Methods of Positive Reinforcement

When creating a plan for your own positive reinforcement strategies, think first about what your routine is. What would positive reinforcement mean for you?

There are several ways to set up a positive reinforcement plan for yourself. Here are some strategies to help you get started:

  • Fixed Interval: A person is reinforced by a set number of responses. For example, this can mean that the person receives a reward at the end of a good day.
  • Variable Interval: A person is reinforced by a variable number of responses. For example, this can mean the reward is sometimes at the end of the day, sometimes at the end of the week, sometimes at the end of the month, etc.
  • Fixed Ratio: A person is reinforced after completing the action a set number of times. For example, the person receives a reward after completing the action five times.
  • Variable Ratio: A person is reinforced after a variable number of responses. According to NLM, variable ratio intermittent reinforcement is the most effective schedule for reinforcing positive behavior. For example, the person receives a reward after completing the action three times, then five times, then two times. The variable changes, but the person still desires the reward.

Goal Setting 

For your own rewards system using positive reinforcement, you need to set goals with rewards after accomplishing your goals. The same goes for setting goals for any loved one who is struggling with addiction. Learning methods of goal-setting can help those in recovery see that they are reaching milestones all the time, every day, one day at a time. Those milestones are worth celebrating with a healthy reward.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, consideration of key goal characteristics and putting goals into action are two primary ingredients for setting and achieving goals. 

When identifying goal characteristics, there are many different types of goals to consider:

  • Approach vs. Avoidance Goals: Approach goals lead a person toward an outcome, while avoidance goals lead away from undesired outcomes. With positive reinforcement in mind, both of these types of goals can be beneficial, as approach will guide you toward a reward, and avoidance will steer you away from harmful patterns or substances.
  • Performance vs. Mastery Goals: Performance goals are made to judge or evaluate someone’s ability, while mastery goals are made to improve or learn to strengthen existing skills. With positive reinforcement in mind, mastery goals have the learning and the opportunity for growth with a reward.
  • Difficult vs. Easy Goals: Difficult goals are goals that take a lot of mastery, skill, and knowledge to overcome. Easy goals are simple, easily reached, and require less effort. One’s self-efficacy, or confidence in themselves, might influence setting an easy goal over a difficult goal. Challenging goals feel better to celebrate. But the more you use easy goals to complete a difficult goal, the better completing the difficult goal will feel.
  • SMART Goals: SMART goals are well-defined goals, meaning they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed.
  • Action Plans: An action plan is the how, where, when, and why you want to complete the goal. Creating an action plan is the point where a person can begin to implement their goal into their timeline and specifically lay out how they’ll complete the goal.

When paired with good goal setting, positive reinforcement is a welcome and happy way to continue your recovery. If you’re trying to help a loved one, talk them through a plan for behavior modification, and ask them if you can help create their goals.

You and your sobriety are worth celebrating. If you’re struggling to find methods of motivation through your recovery, positive reinforcement and goal setting can work for you. Create healthy “SMART” goals for better future success, and celebrate them with a reward for yourself. If you have a loved one suffering from addiction, try positive reinforcement as a tool for behavior modification and goal setting to help them think about their happier future ahead. If you’re still struggling and need help with your addiction, that’s okay. At RECO Intensive, we understand that support is needed to help achieve goals and that goal achievement can take a long time. RECO Intensive offers individualized care, with both inpatient and outpatient options. RECO Intensive also offers a myriad of therapies and programs for you to find your path to recovery. At RECO Intensive, we want to help you set your goals and get to a healthier you. Call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future.

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