Shaping Behaviors in Recovery
Shaping behaviors is the gentle nudging of one into a specific behavior or pattern of behaviors. It’s ironic that the textbook titled Behavior Modification: Principles and Procedures, speaks about this process in children because those in recovery are often like children in the mind. It is my theory that heavy drug use and trauma can leave a person trapped at the mental age they were when they began the use of drugs. Because of this we use a behavior shaping approach when dealing with our residents in order to promote growth and healing.
This process will usually take a considerable amount of time in order to show long term effect. We believe this to be the cause of why thirty-day treatment programs often do not work on their own. They can be a good starting point, but long-term treatment is necessary in order to produce long term change.
When people start the treatment process they are praised and applauded for staying ‘clean’ day by day. Eventually after staying clean and progressing through educational and therapeutic groups, they would ideally move onto long-term treatment. Towards the end of the long-term treatment they are usually allowed to find employment and then sent to live in a ‘recovery’ house or transition home. This is where me and my organization come in, once they get to one of our transition homes we begin with an initial evaluation. This will help us determine where they are in their recovery so we can take an individualized approach to assisting them.
At first the residents are praised and applauded for just going to work, staying clean, and living life on life’s terms. Handling day to day responsibilities receives a lot of praise and attention in the beginning of their stay. However, our main objective is to see them make advancements in their lives. We begin to follow the idea of not being able to survive on the last breath we take (Eric Thomas). This means that we must always be looking to make the next right decision. For example, it is no longer praise worthy to just have a job but we also look for ways to advance within that job, like a pay raise or promotion.
We begin to only praise efforts in advancements and growth within all areas. We have one on one sessions with the guys to find out what areas need growth in their lives and what areas need decreased. This shaping begins to create an incredible impact for the better that will last beyond our walls of recovery.