The quintessential element of the therapeutic community (TC) approach is community. It is the element of community that distinguishes the TC from all other treatment or rehabilitative approaches to substance abuse and related disorders. TCs differ profoundly from other communities in their rationale and purpose. This chapter discusses the general characteristics of community as a treatment approach: its relationship to the TC perspective, its healing and learning properties, and its social and cultural features. It translates this approach into a specific method the components of which are the “active ingredients” in the treatment process. Residents in TCs have been labeled as bad or rebellious kids, dangerous addicts or criminals, failures or losers, sick or crazy. The negative social labels become embedded in self-perceptions regarding their social and personal identities. The community approach fosters change in the social and personal elements of identity.
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In the therapeutic community (TC), the therapeutic and educational component that focuses specifically on the individual consists of the various forms of group process. The groups that are TC-oriented, such as encounters, probes, and marathons, retain distinctive self-help elements of the TC approach. This chapter provides an overview of general elements and forms of group process in the TC. Conventional psychotherapy and group therapy have not been particularly effective with substance abusers entering TCs for various reasons. Group tools are certain strategies of verbal and nonverbal interchange that are employed by participants to facilitate individual change in group process. There are two main classes of group process strategies: provocative tools and evocative tools. Provocative tools, hostility or anger, engrossment, and ridicule or humor, are most pointedly used to penetrate denial and break down deviant coping strategies such as lying.
Community is the primary means of teaching and healing in the therapeutic community (TC). This chapter presents an overview of the four main facility-wide community meetings, namely, morning meeting, seminar, and house meeting, and general meeting, as organized components of the daily regimen. The common purpose of the main meetings in the TC is to enhance the perception of community among the participants. These differences reflect community and clinical management as well as psychological considerations. Each meeting focuses on a specific component of community business and clinical transactions involving a large number of residents. This provides oversight of the physical security of the house and facilitates assessment of overall clinical status of the residents. Changes in individual or collective mood, attitude, and behavior can be quickly detected within a single day’s observation. Overall the various meetings are essential for efficient community as well as clinical management of the facility.
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.
In the therapeutic community (TC) perspective, changing the whole person unfolds in the continual interaction between the individual and the community. This chapter provides the multidimensional picture of social and psychological change in terms of behaviors, cognitions, and emotions. Four major dimensions reflect the community’s objective view of individual change. The dimensions of community member and socialization refer to the social development of the individual specifically as a member of the TC community and generally as a prosocial participant in the larger society. The developmental and psychological dimensions refer to the evolution of the individual as a unique person, in terms of personal growth, personality, and psychological function. Each illustrates typical indicators of individual change in terms of objective behaviors, cognitions, and emotions. Changing the “whole person”, however, includes how individuals perceive and experience the program, the treatment, and themselves in the process.
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.
The therapeutic community (TC) is a culture of change. All of the activities, social roles, interpersonal interactions, and community teachings focus upon the theme of individual change. The perceptions that are considered to be essential to recovery are interrelated, although they can be organized into classes to clarify their contribution to the process. Perceptions related to treatment reflect the individual’s motivation, readiness, and suitability to engage in the process of change in the TC. Self-control is indicated when individuals perceive the problem as internal rather than external, as one of regulating their impulses. Perceptions of self-management of patterns of behaviors, attitudes, and feelings depend upon previously learned control of specific behaviors in various situations. Assessing and affirming individual progress is a central activity in the TC. Staff evaluations formally assess the levels of self-change, while peers and staff assess them informally.
As components of the therapeutic community (TC) treatment model, the stages define the program’s plan for moving individuals toward the goals of social and psychological change. This chapter describes the process of change in the TC in terms of participation and levels of involvement. It focuses on participation and community as method through the program stages. The chapter outlines some relations between the social and psychological dimensions of individual change and the community expectations for participation. It also describes the process of multidimensional change through treatment in terms of levels of involvement in the community. Participation and involvement link community as method to the individual in the change process. The terms engagement, immersion, and emergence label the individual’s level of involvement in the community. Perceptions related to self and identity are incremental through the levels of involvement.
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.
At the core of the change process in the therapeutic community (TC) is the relationship between the individual and the community. Internalization is a familiar psychodynamic concept connoting learning that involves “taking in” the behavior and teachings of others. In the TC, internalization is evident when new learning becomes a “natural” part of the individual’s repertoire. In the TC internalization is inferred from patterns of behavioral, experiential, and perceptual change occurring over time. These may be described in terms of several broad characteristics: cognitive dissonance and behavioral conflict, generalization, learning to learn, and confirmatory experiences. The course of internalization can be characterized as a gradient that depicts changing levels or stages of internalization. Four stages refer to changes during treatment, compliance, conformity, commitment to program, and commitment to self. A change in identity is the distinctive marker of the integration stage.