The Role of Punishment vs. Positive Reinforcement in Addiction Treatment

There are two popular methods known as positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, or punishment for maintaining discipline in society. Law enforcement agencies and caretakers shuffle between the two to find the most suitable method to help someone. These two methods are also vastly used across the board in different sectors.

However, a person struggling with addiction needs more care and attention than subjecting them to punishments, as the mind of someone with an addiction is already fragile. It doesn’t take much to push them over the edge and back on old habits. Therefore, before you can start administering help, you must understand the distinction between the two methods. Here’s what you need to know:

The Role of Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement works around the idea of a reward system or motivation factor. It withholds judgments or any harsh comments that may hurt the person. The underlying idea behind positive reinforcement is to help a person get better even if they make mistakes. It also involves explaining the situation better instead of punishing someone for having questions. Here’s how it works:

1. It Encourages The Person More

People who are addicts are used to feeling rejected. So for someone to come along and praise them for doing well encourages them more. You need to become a part of their support system on which they will lean on you to hear positive words about themselves. And no matter how tired they feel, they’ll continue to persevere. Hence, encouragement is essential in addiction treatment since it acknowledges the hard work they’re putting in. It tells a person struggling with addiction that you see them.

2. It Clarifies Doubt

Not everyone readily accepts rehab in society, but you can adequately talk to people at risk and introduce them to rehab centers such as the Serenity at Summit, which have a reputation for helping people. Hence, part of positive reinforcement is to help the person understand the purpose of rehab facilities. You don’t want to force them to go. Instead, you want them to check into rehab willingly. When you let someone struggling with addiction check in willingly, it helps with recovery.

3. It Prevents Shame

Addicts are already looked down upon by society. They’re used to getting told off or judged for getting addicted. The reality is otherwise. Addiction can happen to anyone at any time. For some people, substance abuse goes beyond reckless usage. Positive reinforcement involves talking to these people and understanding their mindset. It also consists in withholding any comments you have about their situation. You don’t allow shame or guilt from taking over and causing a relapse or aggravating their condition. Instead, you reassure them that what they’re going through can happen to anyone.

4. They Begin To Trust You

For a recovering addict, trust is an essential element. Substances are already wreaking havoc over their mental and emotional wellbeing. So for them to trust you is a big deal. They may listen to your advice and even attend all their appointments. For someone who is recovering, that is a big deal.

The Role of Punishment

Punishments are an archaic concept. There was a time where discipline was all about punishing a person. The fundamentals of punishment are to instill fear and shame. None of these factors work. Instead, when you choose to rebuke someone, here’s what happens:

1. You Aggravate A Person’s Condition

When you push and force someone, you worsen their condition no matter how well-intended you may be. They may rebel against you and even refuse to check into rehab. The worst-case scenario is you may push them into taking more substances. They may also start avoiding you more and refuse to listen to anything you have to say.

2. They May Refuse Talking To You

Punishment comes from a place of judgment. You’re exerting your authority over the other person and not giving them a chance to inform you about their condition. So instead, you need to understand what they’re thinking of or how they feel; they may refuse to tell you anything. Lack of communication doesn’t help with recovery. You don’t know when a relapse may occur, and you may also not know if they’re struggling or doing well. None of these are helping them in any way.

3. You Make Them Upset

Punishments can make someone upset. A struggling addict is already in a fragile mindset. So anything you say may make them upset. People who are struggling with addiction also have a delicate emotional state. They can get depressed, feel angry and even have massive mood swings. You may make them go back to doing substances or even consider self-harm. When a person’s upset, they’ll refuse to cooperate and even listen to you.

Why There Is A Need For Compassion?

Addiction is problematic as it messes with a person in more than one way. The road to recovery is full of turbulence. A person can struggle with addiction at any age. If they’re incredibly young, then you should expect more confusion and anger. It would help if you also understood that once they go into rehab, they’re equally terrified. Nothing about the situation is enjoyable for them. Going through withdrawal is also painful. Substances, whether alcohol or drugs have a lasting effect on your body. Therefore a little compassion goes a long way. It will also help your cause if you educate yourself about addiction. Don’t roll with society’s stereotypical views of what addiction is. When you’re better informed about the mindset that goes into addiction, you may know how to help a person better.

Wrap Up

Addiction treatment is a long and tedious process. Anyone who is struggling with addiction is probably going through a hard time. If you choose to be approachable and kind, you can help them get better. Positive reinforcement coupled with compassion is the way to go. You can help encourage the person to try harder and get better. You also develop an element of trust which can help an addict change their life around. If you choose the punishment route, all you’re doing is pushing a person away. Punishments never work. They can only make a person hate and distrust you more. So if you want a person to get better, always have a gentle hand with them.