Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Token Economy in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Hannah GrigorianEmail author
  • Joanna Elmquist
  • Gregory L. Stuart
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_99


Token economy is a system of behavioral reinforcement in which tokens are awarded for specific desired behaviors in order to increase their frequency. “Tokens” can be any object or symbol such as a plastic coin or a check on a chart. These tokens can then be exchanged at a later time for a list of reinforcers that are assigned token values. Both the desired behaviors that will be rewarded as well as the menu of reinforcers that tokens can be exchanged for are specific and clearly presented to the patient to avoid misinterpretation. Depending on the setting, patients will be able to dictate or provide input into these behaviors. Token economy gained notice in the 1960s with its influence still seen clearly in modern therapeutic practices.

Before the 1960s, the behavioral modification program of token economy was used mainly on animal subjects. The most notable of these experiments included the use of value-based tokens with chimpanzees by John B. Wolfe and John T. Cowles...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah Grigorian
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joanna Elmquist
    • 1
  • Gregory L. Stuart
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleKnoxvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Brian Baucom
    • 1
  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA