The idea of the therapeutic community (TC) recurs throughout history implemented in different incarnations. In its contemporary form, two major variants of the TC have emerged. One, in social psychiatry, consists of innovative units and wards designed for the psychological treatment and management of socially deviant psychiatric patients within mental hospital settings. In the other form, TCs have taken are as community-based residential treatment programs for addicts and alcoholics. This chapter explores the sources and evolution of these communities to illustrate how they contribute to the theoretical framework of the TC. It describes the direct and indirect influences shaping the essential elements of the modern TC. The early religious influences on the Oxford group and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) reappear as elements of the modern TC. The search for an “essential TC” reveals a universal idea recurring in various forms throughout history: that of healing, teaching, support, and guidance through community.
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The therapeutic community (TC) for addictions descends from historical prototypes found in all forms of communal healing. A hybrid, spawned from the union of self-help and public support, the TC is an experiment in progress, reconfiguring the vital healing and teaching ingredients of self-help communities into a systematic methodology for transforming lives. Part I of this book outlines the current issues in the evolution of the TC that compel the need for a comprehensive formulation of its perspective and approach. It traces the essential elements of the TC and organizes these into the social and psychological framework, detailed throughout the volume as theory, model, and method. Part II discusses the TC treatment approach, which is grounded in an explicit perspective that consists of four interrelated views: the drug use disorder, the person, recovery, and right living. The view of right living emphasizes explicit beliefs and values essential to recovery. Part III details how the physical, social organizational, and work components foster a culture of therapeutic change. It also outlines how the program stages convey the process of change in terms of individual movement within the organizational structure and planned activities of the model. Part IV talks about community enhancement activities, therapeutic-educational activities, privileges and sanctions, and surveillance. The groups that are TC-oriented, such as encounters, probes, and marathons, retain distinctive self-help elements of the TC approach. Part V depicts how individuals change through their interaction with the community, provides an integrative social and psychological framework of the TC treatment process, and outlines how the basic theory, method, and model can be adapted to retain the unique identity of contemporary TCs.