Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Rewarding attendance: Does it lead to success in treatment?

What if addiction treatment programs gave out prizes to patients just for showing up to treatment? Some might call this a waste of money, or bribery, or counter-productive to addressing the underlying issues of addiction. Others say it actually helps patients succeed. Brandywine Counseling is studying this very question as part of the Advancing Recovery project.

Since February 15, the Alpha Program has offered motivational incentives to encourage participation early in treatment. Beginning when the patient first returns after admission, they get a chance to win a prize. They could win anything from a “Good Job” certificate up to a $75 gift certificate. Our “prize closet” also includes scented candles, backscratchers, Dunkin’ Donuts cards, and recovery-themed coins.

It’s a simple premise: Show up to your first session with your counselor and you get one draw from the fishbowl. Show up to your second and third sessions and get five draws each time. Sounds easy enough, right? In fact, attendance in treatment is a challenge, particularly early. Before we started this program, 2 out of every 10 patients dropped out before their first session, another 2 by the second, and another 2 by the third. The incentives are our attempt to help them through the most difficult part.

So is it working? Results are just starting to come in, but it appears our retention is improving. As the graph below shows, 5% more patients are completing their first session (89%) and staying at least 45 days in treatment (76%). We are especially keeping our eye on the second and third sessions once the numbers come in. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks.