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Are You Optimistic?

Even though Motivational Incentives is well-established as an evidence-based practice, people who strike out on their own to use them usually take a leap of faith. It may be to the chagrin of other staff members in the same agency who say, we shouldn’t “reward” patients or clients for doing what they should already be doing to help themselves. They should want abstinence to avoid all the external negative consequences: incarceration, eviction, violation of probation, rejection by family. Such negative results can be compounded by feelings of shame, isolation, and pessimism. Small prizes are similar to gold stars on a good paper. But, perhaps more valuable than the gold star or trinket for a small success is the feeling of approval instead of disappointment. Really, it’s a question of whether or not you believe in the power of positive reinforcement, or the old adage: honey catches more bees than vinegar. To find out if you’re naturally optimistic, take this on-line quiz.

If you’re looking for small prizes here’s the place to be. THE DOLLAR STORE Try to distinguish between the junk and what could be useful to your population, a keychain, a coffee mug, a journal, toiletries like toothpaste, soap or warm socks. Let us share with you some strategies for success by offering suggestions based on your target audience and your target behavior. Need help with recording data or purchasing prizes. You’ll find it here. Don’t see what you need? Join our discussion board and ask a colleague. See suggested Prize Ideas on this page.

• Improving the Balance Sheet

• Reward Receipt Record *

• Incentives Recognition

• Recovery Activity *

• MI Fishbowl Tickets *

* These materials are part of the official NIDA/SAMHSA Blending Initiative Product.(PAMI) For more information about the NIDA/SAMHSA Blending Initiative, please visit

1) Creating a Good Job Certificate is always welcome. For some people, it will be the first of its kind, and you’ll see them beam with pride in achieving it. Remember, this can be the last prize in a series fo smaller prizes, not something the patient is waiting to earn. Creating them is easy, and the only cost is paper and printing. Patients and clients will also like promotional items that you can order on-line in bulk. They like tote bags and coolers and insulated mugs. certificate
2) You can purchase smaller prizes on-line. You can usually buy in bulk and get each item for less than a dollar. Check out sites, like to find ideas. There are small craft projects novelty keychains, inspirational rubber bracelets, flashlights. Items that are about to go out of season are even cheaper! For more small prize ideas click here to see a video.
3) For medium prizes it’s good to give a gift card from a local store that’s nearby. See what chains are near you: Royal Farms, 7-11, CVS. (You can’t buy liquor or cigarettes with a gift card.) They do however, offer the recipient choice. Does he/she need diapers, milk, a new toothbrush. You can get them in different denominations. Buy two different kinds and add another choice. gift cards
4) You can order promotional items on-line in bulk at a place like, Patients and clients will like tote bags and coolers and water bottles, and insulated mugs; they will like to use them even as they advertise where they came from. Staff will also appreciate these kinds of acknowledgements : an umbrella, a folding chair, or a t-shirt with your agency’s logo. tote bags
spacer 5) Jumbo prizes (since there’s usually only one to be bought) can be a choice by the recipient, or a gift card to one of the chain stores like Walmart or Target.  
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