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Social Learning Model

Understanding the different models for addiction is integral to the choice you make regarding a alcohol rehab facility. Different centres employ different models, and the specific program you or your loved one would respond to best could vary. The social learning model is amongst the most popular theories for addiction, and is removed from the “disease” concept employed by the 12 step program. It identifies expectations, social cues and learned behaviours as the most important factors, rather than an inherent predisposition.

The idea of reinforcement is central to social learning model. If any behaviour is rewarded in some way, it is likely to be repeated. Rewards are positive reinforcements; things like pleasurable sensations and social acceptance. There are also negative reinforcements, which allow the person to avoid negative feelings or events. This means that if somebody drinks alcohol and experiences an increased sociability and reduction of stress, the behaviour is likely to be repeated because it has been reinforced both positively and negatively.

This reinforcement then causes an expectation for the next time the behaviour is repeated. For alcohol addiction, this means that the first experience with a alcohol will shape expectations for future experiences. The feelings of euphoria or reduction is stress will become associated with the stimulus, and will drive the person to repeat the behaviour. These expectations will change over time (for example, as physical tolerance emerges) to account for subsequent experiences. If the rewards persist throughout extended use – even if there are also negative consequences – the person will continue to use the alcohol for them and eventually become addicted.

Social factors also play an important role in the social learning model. If someone’s peers are all taking alcohols, and appear to achieve a blissful state or some positive benefit, this will also contribute to the individual’s expectations of the alcohol. There is also the issue of social conformity, in that fitting in with a social group could in itself be deemed a reward. This is the reason people often start to smoke if they make friends who do regularly. References to behaviours on television can also produce similar reinforcements.

When the social learning model is applied to alcohol rehab, it focuses on replacing these learned behaviours or coping strategies with more healthy ones. For example, if a person feels like they have to take cocaine to feel happiness then they need to learn that the same feeling can also arise from harmless activities such as meditation. The old association is replaced with a new one, and then they won’t see the substance as the sole route to the reward.

Self-efficacy is another key component of the social learning model, and alcohol rehab programs which use the model incorporate this. It is simply a person’s own measure of their ability to achieve a particular goal. If they don’t feel like they can achieve happiness without alcohols because of a poor self image, this image has to be improved before the person feels able move forwards without the crutch of alcohols. This makes the social learning model a positive, self-esteem building style of alcohol rehab.

If you are choosing a alcohol rehab facility for yourself or a loved one, consider the different approaches to the issue and which one is most suited to the specific circumstances. We provide free advice on the different options available, and can help you reach the right decision for yourself or your loved one. We understand that addiction is difficult for everybody concerned, and we are here to help you.


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