University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Department of Psychiatry

APA Award Recognizes Higgins’ Research Contributions

Stephen Higgins, Ph.D.
Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and psychology, received the American Psychological Association Division of Pharmacology and Substance Abuses's MED Associates - Brady-Schuster Award at the organization's annual meeting August 4, 2011. (Photo by Raj Chawla / UVM Medical Photography)

Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., University of Vermont professor of psychiatry and psychology, received the 2011 MED Associates – Brady-Schuster Award from the Division of Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse of the American Psychological Association (APA) at the organization’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on August 4, 2011.

The Brady-Schuster Award honors a mid-career or senior scientist who conducts outstanding research underscoring the fundamental importance of behavioral science to psychopharmacology or substance abuse. Nominees must have an established record of outstanding research in psychopharmacology, behavioral pharmacology or substance abuse that underscores the contribution of behavioral science in one or more of these interdisciplinary research areas. Award winners receive a modest cash award, an engraved plaque, and travel support to attend and present an address at the annual APA convention.

Higgins, who also serves as vice chair of psychiatry and director of the Human Behavioral Pharmacology Lab, is best known for his groundbreaking research and success in contingency management, a psychological strategy designed to change behavior using modest financial incentives, including vouchers for groceries and exercise, which he developed and has used in his long-term cocaine abuse treatment studies. He is an editor of the textbook Contingency Management in Substance Abuse Treatment (The Guilford Press, 2007).

An article in the Division of Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse’s spring newsletter stated that Higgins “has transformed the field of drug abuse application, research, and theory with his findings. He developed a therapy referred to as ‘community reinforcement approach with incentive motivation’ in which treatment involved reinforcing abstinence and developing alternative sources of pro-social reinforcement. This incentive treatment became the centerpiece of a large multi-site clinical trial conducted through the Clinical Trials Network of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The work revolutionized the field of drug abuse research.” Higgins’ address at the organization’s annual conference was titled “Applying the behavioral sciences to reducing cigarette smoking among pregnant women.”