Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

Previous Page


Invited Paper Session #594
Operant Conditioning to Address Poverty and Substance Use Disorders
Monday, May 25, 2020
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Level M2, Marquis Ballroom 6
Area: BPN; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Sally L. Huskinson (University of Mississippi Medical Center)
CE Instructor: August Holtyn, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: AUGUST HOLTYN (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)

Substance use disorders, like many health problems, are concentrated in people who live in poverty. This presentation will review research on the application of operant conditioning to address the interrelated problems of poverty and substance use disorders. Our research has clearly shown that operant reinforcement using financial incentives can promote abstinence from heroin and cocaine in low-income adults with substance use disorders. The use of operant conditioning to reduce poverty is less well-established. However, our research on an employment-based intervention called the therapeutic workplace suggests that operant conditioning could promote behaviors that may facilitate the transition out of poverty. In the therapeutic workplace, unemployed adults with substance use disorders are paid to work but must provide drug-negative urine samples or take prescribed medication to maximize pay. The therapeutic workplace offers a job-skills training phase and an employment phase through which participants progress sequentially. Our research has shown that employment-based reinforcement within the therapeutic workplace can promote drug abstinence, medication adherence, job seeking, and employment. The therapeutic workplace could provide an effective framework for broader anti-poverty programs, but more research is needed to determine whether such interventions consistently reduce poverty, and how best to implement these at scale.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe how operant conditioning can be used to promote drug abstinence and adherence to medications; (2) describe the main features of the therapeutic workplace; (3) describe how the therapeutic workplace uses contingent access to employment (i.e., employment-based reinforcement) to promote drug abstinence, medication adherence, job seeking, and work.
AUGUST HOLTYN (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
August Holtyn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Associate Director of the Center for Learning and Health at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Holtyn earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology at West Virginia University under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Perone. In 2015, she joined the faculty in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine after completing a post-doctoral fellowship there in behavioral pharmacology under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Silverman. Dr. Holtyn’s work is focused on the development of contingency management interventions for the treatment of opioid, cocaine, and alcohol use disorders. Her primary lines of research have focused on development and evaluation of remotely-delivered financial incentive interventions to promote drug abstinence and medication adherence in substance use disorder treatment, and the therapeutic workplace intervention to promote drug abstinence and employment in adults living in poverty. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh