What is Community Reinforcement?

What is Community Reinforcement?Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) is a therapy method based on helping alcoholics and substance abusers achieve sobriety through positive reinforcement. CRA rewards sobriety and eliminates rewards for drinking and using, thus motivating the client to remain sober. It also helps the alcoholic or user learn to cope with his daily life. CRA is based on the idea that if sobriety is more rewarding than drinking or using and if the individual is comfortable facing his daily challenges, then drinking and using can be prevented.

Community Reinforcement and Family Training Approach (CRAFT) is an offshoot of CRA that helps Concerned Significant Others (CSO’s) inspire their loved ones to begin addiction treatment. CRAFT is helpful to friends, family members, and anyone else who cares for the user. CSO’s attend therapy and learn how to use behavioral principles to help their loved ones in California use drugs or alcohol less often. CRAFT also teaches various types of interventions. The involvement of loved ones is an important aspect of CRA, as well.

How Community Reinforcement Approach Works

CRA aims to restructure a person’s life so that the benefits of sobriety outweigh the benefits of drinking and using. Listed below are some of the stages and guiding principles of CRA that may interest Californians with substance abuse in their lives.

  • Motivation. Therapists identify what factors might motivate the client to change. These factors later serve as effective positive reinforcement. Therapists may also have a list of the negative consequences of alcoholism or substance abuse. Clients examine the list and identify which consequences they have experienced, which helps them to realize the value of change. The therapist is empathetic rather than confrontational during this process.
  • Introducing sobriety. The therapist and client set reasonable goals for achieving sobriety. For example, the therapist may suggest a trial period of no drinking. This way, the client can fully realize how alcohol changes his daily life without feeling overwhelmed by the idea of giving up alcohol completely. After experiencing the positive changes of sobriety, the client hopefully chooses long term abstinence.
  • Identifying drinking and using patterns. Analyzing the client’s drinking or using patterns helps uncover the client’s motivation for substance abuse and in what type of situations he is most likely to relapse. This helps the therapist individualize the treatment process and determine what other kinds of therapies will be most beneficial for the client.
  • Positive reinforcement. As substance abuse problems develop, other activities fall to the wayside, isolating the user. Soon, the user experiences little positive reinforcement unrelated to drinking or using. Certain types of therapies may be used to introduce new types of positive reinforcement. For example, social and recreational counseling helps clients learn to choose new activities unrelated to drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  • Behavior reversal. The client practices new coping skills, such as refusing a drink, with their therapist. The therapist may demonstrate how to assertively communicate, and then the client reenacts this skill. Therapists offer praise and encouragement for each positive development.
  • Family involvement. Concerned loved ones are offered skill training that teaches them how to avoid giving positive reinforcement for drinking or using. Loved ones may even learn how to give negative reinforcement, such as withdrawing from their loved one when he relapses.  

CRA can play a meaningful role for Californians within a treatment program at a rehab center. Behavioral therapies such as CRA help ensure that patients overcome psychological addiction and learn how to live without drugs and alcohol.

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