What is a Therapeutic Community?

The Therapeutic Community is a value formation program whose primary goal is the promotion of personal growth and the cessation of substance abuse behaviors. It is a scientific method of intervention founded on the “Enlightenment Model” of recovery where individuals living together empower each other to heal their dependencies through insights derived from group processes and “learning experiences”.

Therapeutic communities (TCs) have a “recovery” orientation, focusing on the whole person and overall lifestyle changes, not simply abstinence from drug use. Recovery is seen as a gradual, ongoing process of cognitive change through clinical interventions, and it is expected that it will take time for program participants to advance through the stages of treatment, setting personal objectives along the way.

TCs encourage participants to examine their personal behavior to help them become more pro-social and to engage in “right living”—considered to be based on honesty, taking responsibility, hard work, and willingness to learn. As program participants progress through the stages of recovery, they assume greater personal and social responsibilities in the community. The goal is for a TC participant to leave the program not only drug-free but also employed or in school or training. It is not uncommon for program participants to progress in their recovery to take on leadership and staff roles within the TC.

National Institute on Drug Abuse
The Therapeutic Community by George de Leon

TC Tools of the House

At the core of every TC program are the Tools of the House. These unique forms of intervention help the community achieve effective organization and control. The Tools introduce the dependents into the learning culture of the TC, slowly replacing the “drug culture” they have adopted over the years of their drug taking. The “Tools” is a cluster of behavior modification methodologies and each has a specific purpose in promoting change. Together, they have a logical and practical function in sustaining the objectives of the community and cause lasting changes in the client’s behavior.