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Therapeutic community

Therapeutic community is a term applied to a participative, group-based approach to long-term mental illness and/or drug addiction that includes group psychotherapy as well as practical activities, and which may or may not be residential with the clients and therapists living together.

The term may have first been used in the 1940s by Harry Stack Sullivan, but the modern community was pioneered by Tom Main, Maxwell Jones, R. D. Laing and the Philadelphia Association, David Cooper and Villa 21 and Joshua Bierer, and gained some reputation for success in rehabilitation and patient satisfaction in Britain and abroad. In Britain, 'democratic analytic' therapeutic communities have tended to specialise in the treatment of moderate to severe personality disorders and complex emotional and interpersonal problems. The evolution of therapeutic communities in the United States has followed a different path with hierarchically arranged communities (or concept houses) specialising in the treatment of drug and alcohol dependence.

The availability of the treatment on the National Health Service in the United Kingdom has recently been threatened because of changes in funding systems. However, development of 'mini' therapeutic communities, meeting for three or less days each week and supported out of hours by various forms of 'service user led informal networks of care' (for example telephone, texting and physical support), now offers a more resource and cost effective alternative to traditional inpatient therapeutic communities. The most recent exponent, the North Cumbria model, uses a dedicated out of hours website moderated by service users according to therapeutic community principles. This extends the community beyond the face to face 'therapeutic days'. The website guarantees a safe group-based response not always possible with other systems.


Under the influence of Maxwell Jones, Main, Wilmer and others (Caudill 1958; Rapoport 1960), combined with the publications of critiques of the existing mental health system (Greenblatt et al. 1957, Stanton and Schwartz 1954) and the sociopolitical influences that permeated the psychiatric world towards the end of and following the second World War, the concept of the therapeutic community and its attenuated form - the therapeutic milieu - caught on and dominated the field of inpatient psychiatry throughout the 1960’s. The aim of therapeutic communities was a more democratic, user-led form of therapeutic environment, avoiding the authoritarian and demeaning practices of many psychiatric establishments of the time. The central philosophy is that clients are active participants in their own and each other's mental health treatment and that responsibility for the daily running of the community is shared among the clients and the staff. 'TC's have sometimes eschewed or limited medication in favour of group-based therapies.

In the late 1960s within the US correctional system, the Asklepion Foundation initiated therapeutic communities in the Marion Federal Penitentiary and other institutions that included clinical intervention based upon Transactional Analysis, the Synanon Game, internal twelve-step programs and other therapeutic modalities. Some of these programs lasted into the mid 1980s, such as the House of Thought in the Virginia Correctional system, and were able to demonstrate a reduction of 17% in recidivism in a matched-pair study of drug-abusing felons and sex offenders who participated in the program for one year or more.

See also

  • Soteria
  • Social Psychiatry
  • Psychotherapy
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Therapeutic_community". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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