In the recovery perspective of the therapeutic community (TC), lifestyle and identity changes reflect an integration of behaviors, experiences, and perceptions. The essential experiences can be conceptualized under three broad themes: emotional healing, social relatedness and caring, and subjective learning. Emotional healing refers to moderating the various physical, psychological, and social pains that residents experience in their lives directly or indirectly relating to their substance use. The essential experiences reflecting psychological safety are blind faith and trust, and understanding and acceptance. Trust problems are prominent in the lifestyles of substance abusers. Hallmark characteristics of substance abusers in general are their lack of self-understanding and self-acceptance. Personal isolation or unhealthy attachments with others characterize the past social relationships of residents in TCs. The key social relatedness and caring experiences are identification, empathy, and bonding. In the TC, social learning unfolds as an interaction between the individual and the community.
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Encounter group is a profoundly significant component of the therapeutic community (TC) approach, illustrating by example some of the TC’s basic teachings: compassion and responsible concern, the necessity for confronting reality, absolute honesty, and self-awareness as the essential first step in personal change. The encounter group is pre-eminently a verbal forum employing everyday personal and social vernacular. All encounter groups in the TC are similar in their preparation, structure, and process. An encounter unfolds as a process characterized in terms of four phases: the confrontation, the conversation, the closure, and the socializing phase. Ideally, each encounter accomplishes its general purpose of strengthening group cohesion and its goals for specific individuals. Depending upon its purpose or group composition, the encounter can be modified in intensity and format and the extent of staff involvement as facilitators.