Therapeutic Community

What is a Therapeutic Community?

The therapeutic community is a drug-free self help program whose primary goals are the cessation of substance abuse behaviors and the fostering of personal growth. The TC model incorporates nine essential elements. These elements are based on the social learning theory that utilizes the community to foster behavioral and attitudinal change. The elements are: active participation, membership feedback, role modeling, collective formats for guiding individual change, shared norms and values, structure and systems, open communication, individual and group relationships and a unique terminology.

The TC includes both professional and para-professional staff. Graduates of the TC program who have completed classroom and internship training in counseling are an essential part of the program's effectiveness, as is the inclusion of professionals from the fields of medicine, mental health, education, and law.

Community activities help members explore and learn about themselves in the following five distinct yet overlapping areas of personal development: behavior management, emotional/psychological, intellectual and spiritual, vocation/education and survival skills. The TC believes that people can change and that learning occurs through challenge and action, understanding and sharing common human experiences. Treatment in the TC begins with entry into the community. Here the member learns the values and norms of the community, which are a reflection of those held by society. In the middle phase of treatment, members explore individual histories and experiences, practice new behaviors and begin to gain increased self-esteem and knowledge of themselves. As new attitudes and behaviors are developed so too are individual goals and possibilities for the future, including vocational and educational training. The next phase of treatment involves the important task of re-entry into the larger community. New ways of relating to others are practiced and members gain valuable experience in working or going to school outside the TC while receiving support from the community. Ultimately, the member will be ready to live independently and continue to gain support from an aftercare program.

The TC model is adaptable to different client populations and settings. Adolescent programs include a full educational curriculum and greater family involvement. The model can be adapted to an outpatient setting, long or shorter-term treatment and include specialized groups such as those involving medical regimes or other lifestyle changes. The TC engages the whole person in the recovery process and challenges the individual to have a full, positive life with healthy supportive relationships and satisfying work.