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Dr. Kenneth Silverman, Johns Hopkins ABA Expert, Speaks at GCU

Dr. Kenneth Silverman, ABA expert

Kenneth Silverman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Learning and Health at Johns Hopkins, visited Georgian Court University to discuss his work on the use of Applied Behavior Analysis techniques in treating chronic substance abuse disorders.

Dr. Silverman, who was invited by the GCU Applied Behavior Analysis graduate program, spoke about the therapeutic workplace, a contingency management program that addresses the “perfect storm” of poverty, drug addiction, and lack of education. Dr. Silverman’s work has demonstrated the potential of his approach in the treatment of some of society’s most vulnerable citizens.

“Our primary motivation for inviting Dr. Silverman to present his research was to show our students, and the GCU community, that applied behavior analysis is making significant contributions to areas other than the treatment of autism,” said David M. Wilson, Ph.D., BCBA-D., assistant professor of psychology.

“While the effectiveness of applied behavior analysis as an intervention for autism is well documented in mainstream news, effective applications in other areas often get overlooked,” said Dr. Wilson. “For many years, behavior analysts have been making contributions to areas including: education, pharmacology, medicine, organizational behavior management, sports, gerontology to name a few. Dr. Silverman’s work in the area of the treatment of chronic drug use represents an exemplary demonstration of the power of operant conditioning.”

Dr. Kenneth Silverman, Johns Hopkins ABA expert, speaks at GCU
GCU psychology faculty met with Dr. Silverman. Pictured left to right are Dr. Michael Tirpak, Dr. Stephen Levine, Dr. Sue Field, Dr. Silverman, Dr. David Wilson, and Dr. Christopher Perrin. Dr. Silverman was an invited guest of the GCU Applied Behavior Analysis program, which recently opened a new campus clinic to serve area residents.

Dr. Silverman discussed in detail the therapeutic workplace, which was designed to help “unemployed adults living in poverty earn the opportunity to work and earn wages by meeting treatment goals such as maintaining drug abstinence and adhering to prescribed medications,” according the Center for Learning and Health. The intervention has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Effective Programs.

Some people find the idea of providing salaries to addicts objectionable—even when the salary is contingent on sobriety.

Dr. Silverman acknowledged that there are many people who think addicts should just remain sober without being paid for it. But, he said, “these are people with serious problems…and we need to address those problems.”

This compassionate and nonjudgmental approach to the treatment of addictions has borne fruit in Dr. Silverman’s decades of research.

Contributed by Susan E. O. Field, Ph.D., GCU professor of psychology and counseling.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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