The main distinction between the Therapeutic Community and other treatment models is the use of the community as the method for instilling change in an individual.
The overarching goal of the community is to sustain the individual’s full participation in the community so that he or she can achieve the social and psychological goals of lifestyle and identity change. The community itself establishes expectations and standards of participation and the community then assesses and responds to each other according to how those standards are being met.
Community as method means teaching individuals to use the community to learn about life and themselves through the different member roles, member feedback, individuals and group counselling, lectures and seminars, structure, time management and systems, open communication and community expectations and norms.
The TC focuses on behaviour change and understands that whilst each person is an individual, the behaviours that need to change are the same. Once those behaviours are identified and worked on, each person’s individuals characteristics becomes more enhanced and embraced. This happens through building trust that allows people to peel away their masks and defences and get back in touch with their true self. The residents use each other as a mirror to see their own negative behaviours and often find that they are able to relate to each other and learn through each other.
By using the community as method the TC program becomes not only a self help program but has an element of mutual self help. This means that each person takes some responsibility for the recovery of their peers in order to maintain their own recovery. Although recovery is still the responsibility of the individual, other recovering people are essential in promoting change in the individual.
In the TC perspective, treatment works because individuals make it work using other people with whom they can relate and share common ground.
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De Leon, G (2000) The Therapeutic Community: Theory, Model and Method. Springer Publishing Company, New York.