Alcohol abuse is a significant problem for many people, especially adolescents. The inability to resist strong desires is the result of a lack of self-control and self-regulation skills. The tendency to satisfy emotional impulses and the rejection of delayed rewards in favor of immediate ones is the main reason for the development of unhealthy behavior patterns. The main self-management program for a high school student with alcohol addiction is to set long-term and intermediate goals, as well as the development of a reward system for their achievement.
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Important Concepts for Program Development
For effective self-management in relation to alcohol dependence, goal setting and the development of an adequate reward program are necessary. The motivation for abstaining from alcohol is built on “the ability to voluntarily delay an immediate reward or gratification in order to obtain some future reward greater, goal, or ambition” (Griffin et al., 2021, p. 25). Griffin et al. (2021) also note that children and adolescents with improved self-management skills, on average, perform better academically, cope better with stress, and have more successful social relationships. At later stages of life, such as young adulthood, behavioral self-management is associated with better health status psychological adjustment and also prevents the development of numerous psychological disorders (Griffin et al., 2021). Thus, in order to develop an effective self-management program, the articulation of a clear long-term goal is essential. This goal can help create a value that is superior to the Immediate alcohol reward.
Self-Control and Self-Regulation Skills
Within the framework of self-management, it is important to single out the concepts of self-control and self-regulation, which constitute a full-fledged behavior strategy. In particular, self-control implies direct behavioral management, building habits, and action patterns. At the same time, self-regulation includes a wider range of identification and control of emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Self-regulation, first of all, allows assessing the readiness of an individual to implement self-management strategies. Griffin et al. (2021) underline that thus concept “during adolescence can play a central role guiding achievements in academics, sports, music, and other lifestyle pursuits, and can contribute to effective planning and goal-setting” (p. 26). Thus, the combination of self-control and self-regulation is the basis for the formation of awareness of the need to abstain from alcohol and follow the self-management program.
Self-Management and Substance Abuse
Alcohol misuse as part of a lack of self-management is particularly relevant for adolescents and young youth. In particular, the problem with substance abuse can arise directly from insufficiently developed skills of self-regulation and self-control. The inability of young people to control internal emotional impulses leads to a propensity for immediate gratification. Thus, adolescents and young adults prefer to satisfy their needs with immediate rather than delayed rewards.
Reward plays a special role in the development of self-control and self-regulation skills. This concept acts as an incentive for the individual to suppress strong desires that are the cause of a negative emotional state (Kelley et al., 2019). Kelley et al. (2019) argue that prolonged exercising of self-control increases the responsiveness of individuals to reward. The researchers note that at the beginning of the development of the habit of self-control and self-regulation in individuals, a negative social response is observed. However, over time, attention to reward increases, motivation to pursue it increases, and decision making becomes easier (Kelley et al., 2019). The reward in individuals is associated directly with the efforts expended to receive it.
Self-control and self-regulation are the most difficult for the patient at the initial stages of their development and are the cause for negative emotions. Thus, it is also necessary to regulate reward stimuli to preserve their motivational characteristics and prevent them from becoming strong desires that can later become the basis for addiction. Therefore, as part of a self-management program, it makes sense to vary the reward depending on the emotional state and perceived efforts of the patient.
First of all, a high school student with alcohol addiction needs to set long-term and short-term goals, which can become the basis for a scheduling program and the development of a self-reward system. Depending on the importance and duration of achieving a particular goal, it is necessary to determine the size of the reward for it. The main long-term goal is abstinence from alcohol. The main long-term goal is to abstain from alcohol; intermediate goals may include improving academic performance, spending more time with family and friends, and sports activities. Intermediate goals will help shift the focus away from abstinence by acting as additional motivators.
as little as 3 hours
In order to achieve the goals, it is necessary to establish measurable indicators that can serve to track progress. These goals and actions can become the basis for the formation of self-control skills and the development of behavioral patterns. Additionally, this plan will form the basis for the development of a reward system based on weekly achievements. In particular, for self-management, it is possible to set the following activity indicators:
- Alcohol abstinence (primary goal): total abstinence from alcohol during the week;
- Academic performance: improved attendance and completion of all homework assignments during the week;
- Relationships with family and friends: spending at least an hour each day with family and friends during the week;
- Sports activities: At least 30 minutes of sports every day for a week.
When a positive result is achieved for each of the activity items, the client needs a reward every week, which will act as a motivator for the further development of self-control. It is also important to be rewarded for self-regulation efforts, that is, suppressing the impulses to drink alcohol or failing to achieve any of the set weekly goals. There are several possible alternative rewards for reaching set weekly goals:
- Money as a reward: this type of reward is the most preferred but is associated with additional costs. Each time a patient reaches a goal, she can set aside a fixed amount of money into a saving account. For reliability, relatives or friends of the patient can keep the money for her. With the growth of savings, the opportunities for spending this money increase, which is a lasting motivator.
- Entertainment as a reward: upon reaching the goals, the patient can choose various recreational activities as a reward. For example, at the end of each week, she might choose to go to the movies or sleep over with friends. In this case, it is important that the activity implies collectivity and involve other people since social reinforcement acts as an additional motivator (Kelley et al., 2019).
- Food as a reward: food is also one of the strongest rewards for effort. In particular, upon reaching the weekly goal, the patient can choose a favorite dish or go to the restaurant. This reward, however, is less desirable as it can lead to the development of a strong desire for food, which will replace alcohol addiction with a new unhealthy habit.
A reward system based on the achievement of long-term and short-term goals allows you to provide motivation. In this case, each of the weekly goals for a female high school student contributes to the development of a healthy behavior pattern. This is necessary to stabilize the patient’s emotional state and replace the immediate reward with the delayed one. In the long term, this approach will allow you to develop good habits as self-control and self-regulation skills.
Griffin, K. W., Sheier, L. M., komarc, M., & Botvin, G. J. (2021). Adolescent transitions in self-management strategies and young adult alcohol use. Evaluation & the Health Professions, 44(1), 2-41.
Kelley, N. J., Finley, A. J., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2019). After-effects of self-control: The reward responsivity hypothesis. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 19, 600-618.