Choosing Connection with the Community Reinforcement Approach
Many experts say the human connection is one of the cure methods for addiction. So how do we obtain connection? Having a strong supportive community and Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) are the two ways we address isolation (or lack of connection).
CRA is evidence-based addiction therapy
Why is it effective? Let’s discuss. I love this approach and find it was so essential in my life and still is.
Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) is a psychosocial intervention for individuals with alcohol and other drug use disorders that focuses on helping individuals find healthier, more adaptive ways to meet their social and emotional needs than using substances. (Meyers, 2011).
CRA is based largely on the observation that humans are shaped by their environment
This is known as conditioning. As habitual creatures, we can get stuck in the same routine day after day and not realize we’ve conditioned ourselves to pay focus to our negative thoughts, act out of emotion or isolate ourselves from others feeling alienated.
The goal of CRA is to help people discover and adopt a healthy lifestyle that is more rewarding than a lifestyle filled with using alcohol or drugs (Meyers, 2011). As you begin to reshape your environment, many things will come up that may be difficult to deal with. This is why the Satori community is so amazing! We are all on similar journeys, moving through the same concept playing out in different ways, at different times. Different stories. It is an awesome resource to tap into and ask questions, find inspiration, be vulnerable, share stories, laugh, and more.
How does CRA work?
The primary goal is to reshape a person’s environment and this can be broken out into 5 stages of techniques.
- An assessment that explores the reason or motivators for a change.
- A plan based on the Happiness Scale to determine focus areas.
- Skill strengthening in areas such as problem-solving and communication skills.
- Identifying and focusing on positive aspects of the journey.
- A prevention plan to identify triggers, consequences, and healthy alternative coping skills.
A complete deep dive on each of the techniques in the Clinical Guide to alcohol treatment: the Community Reinforcement Approach by Meyers & Smith.
The Community Reinforcement Approach relies heavily on disrupting this conditioning by using a tool called the Happiness Scale. The key is to then implement this tool into a person’s life. This assessment allows a person to rate their level of satisfaction in an array of life categories. Such as relationships, spirituality, career wellness, etc. Once identified, the ratings are then talked through with an accountability partner or therapist to discuss what goals will be focus areas to be improved upon. This process usually happens in the first individual goal-setting session.
Why is CRA different from other therapy?
There are many reasons CRA is a great way to promote improving one’s happiness but it also creates this quality of life in a natural way. It does not feel unnatural or forced.
CRA prioritizes a person’s quality of life, essentially their happiness
We help you identify these areas and set goals to work toward. When all we have is the present moment, it is important to assess each of life’s categories and establish action. Personally, I like to assess my life through the six dimensions of wellness. This model was developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, the co-founder of the National Wellness Institute. I believe this model has covered each area I deem valuable and an area I want to maintain care in throughout my life. This becomes a great benefit as the action starts to become an organic internal motivation for change. The person now wants to take the correct action because it feels better for them and they now realize that.
The environment and reward system
Dopamine is the key molecule for producing motivation and is the driver of the motivation-reward system. This is where the conditioning of one’s environment comes into play. Motivation is crucial to sustaining life. If we do not have motivation, we slip into unhealthy patterns. These patterns build onto each other and eventually motivation for anything at all is hard to come by. CRA is an amazing solution in the sense that collective group energy is much more powerful and contagious than we think.
When we live in addiction, we are living to survive. Our motivation to live is turned quickly into the motivation to survive on addiction. Addiction hijacks part of our brain and becomes the reward, motivation, and sensation (SAMHSA, 2016). This is why it can be so difficult to get out of addictive cycles because we can get so hyper-focused on the process of it all. As it becomes so stressful and unbearable, everything else is falling to the waste side.
CRA creates a way for people to work toward establishing a new environment
With a new environment comes new experiences and new rewards. The process of CRA pulls a person toward these new rewarding experiences. Through suggestion, repetition, and positive influences, the brain is conditioned overtime to find these new experiences rewarding. Over a number of times, the new experiences eventually become their primary environment. An environment they would rather be part of than engaging in their addictive behavior.
With the willingness and time, CRA can rebuild a person’s life into a more meaningful, rewarding way to live each day.
In turn, a life in recovery does become the motivation and reward. This life in recovery replaces the addiction. The dopamine rewires to work with the recovery reward system.
This is why we love CRA here and hold value in creating a community so much. Come join us for a 5-day course! We would love for you to join our community, check out our courses, and additional resources on our platform!
Meyers, R. J., Roozen, H. G., & Smith, J. E. (2011). The community reinforcement approach: an update of the evidence. Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 33(4), 380–388.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); Office of the Surgeon General (US). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health [Internet]. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016 Nov. CHAPTER 2, THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF SUBSTANCE USE, MISUSE, AND ADDICTION. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424849/