Photo of Sheila M. Alessi, Ph.D.

Sheila M. Alessi, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Psychiatry
Academic Office Location:
Calhoun Cardiology Center - Behavioral Health
UConn Health
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030-3944
Phone: 860-679-1849
Fax: 860-679-1312

Contingency Management Research Group

Sheila M. Alessi, Ph.D., earned her doctorate in psychology from Wayne State University in 2000, after which she completed a National Institute on Drug Abuse postdoctoral research fellowship in the Human Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory at the University of Vermont. Dr. Alessi is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Calhoun Cardiology Center - Behavioral Health at UConn Health. She conducts research on substance use disorders with an emphasis on cigarette smoking. Her work is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Donaghue Foundation.

B.A.University of New HampshirePsychology, Pre-med Track
M.A.Wayne State UniversityBiopsychology
Ph.D.Wayne State UniversityBiopsychology

Post-Graduate Training
Professional TrainingUniversity of MassachusettesUniversity of Massachusettes Medical School’s Basic Skills for Working with Smokers Online Course
Professional TrainingUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School’s “Addressing Depression and Anxiety in Tobacco Treatment"
PostdoctoralUniversity of VermontNIDA Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Name & DescriptionCategoryRoleTypeScopeStart YearEnd Year
WNPR, Where We Live, live discussion for program, “Why is it so difficult to get healthy?”, 9 a.m. and replayed at 7 p.m. Invitation extended through the Donaghue Foundation. April 14, 2010OtherDiscussantOtherState2010
Society for Research on Nicotine and TobaccoProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberOtherInternational2009
NBC 30 live interview regarding the Donaghue Foundation “Contingency management and pharmacotherapy for smoking” study on the 11:00 morning news program. January 12, 2009.OtherIntervieweeOtherRegional2009
Cox Radio interview regarding Donaghue Foundation study, audiotaped via telephone, November 13, 2008.OtherIntervieweeOtherRegional2008
Fox 61 live interview regarding the Donaghue Foundation “Contingency management and pharmacotherapy for smoking” study on the morning news as a segment related to the Great American Smokeout, November 20, 2008.OtherIntervieweeOtherRegional2008
American Psychological Association, Division on AddictionsProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberOtherNational2005
Alcohol Research CenterMemberUConn HealthUniversity2002
Ad hoc reviewer for the following profession journals: Addiction, Addictive Behaviors, Behavioural Processes, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Nicotine and Tobacco Research, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, PsychopharmacologyOtherReviewerOtherInternational2002
American Psychological AssociationProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberOtherNational2000

My research focuses on behavioral interventions for the treatment of cigarette smoking, alcohol, and drug use disorders and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Donaghue Foundation. My research principally focuses on using contingency management, a procedure based on basic behavioral principles that involves the systematic use of reinforcement to promote positive behavior change, to promote abstinence from cigarette smoking and other substance use and to promote increases in other positive health-related behaviors. For example, I am principle investigator on a project designed to examine the effects of using reinforcement to promote abstinence from cigarette smoking in residential substance abuse treatment patients who otherwise do not receive treatment for their smoking. In another project, we are examining the benefits of adding reinforcement for smoking abstinence to a course of varenicline (Chantix®) for smoking cessation. In a large project on which I am an investigator, we are examining the effects of varenicline in addition to reinforcement for smoking abstinence on smoking, hypertension, and related outcomes in hypertensive smokers who want to quit. In addition, I recently received funding for a project designed to explore the feasibility and effectiveness of using cell phone-based and other mobile technology to monitor and reinforce smoking abstinence in smokers who want to quit. Projects aimed at the treatment of other substance use disorders include a large recently awarded project designed to systematically vary reinforcement parameters of contingency management to determine relative efficacy and cost-effectiveness. My CV has a complete list of ongoing research projects.

Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • Pharmacology and treatment of substance abuse: Evidence and outcome based perspectives
    Barry, D., Petry, N. M., & Alessi, S. M. Cocaine. 2009 Jan;317-334
  • Contingency management in the treatment of substance use disorders: A science-based treatment innovation
    Petry, N. M. & Alessi, S. M. Lowering costs in drug abuse treatment clinics 2007 Jan;261-279
  • Contingency management interventions for the treatment of substance use disorders
    Alessi, S. M. & Petry, N. M. Comprehensive Handbook of Drug and Alcohol Addiction, Second Edition 2007 Jan;
  • Psychosocial treatments
    Higgins, S. T., Alessi, S. M., & Dantona, R. L. Voucher-based incentives: A substance abuse treatment innovation 2003 Jan;61-86