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What is a Therapeutic Community?

The Therapeutic Community (TC) is distinguished from other treatment approaches by the use of the community as the primary method of treatment to bring about positive prosocial and psychological changes in individuals.

  • The daily regimen and social aspects of the TC are designed to facilitate emotional healing, social learning, and changes in behaviour patterns and self- identity, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • All community members (staff members and residents) create a social learning environment.
  • TC residents experience being in a supportive family-like atmosphere that allows them to heal emotionally and change their lifestyles and selfidentities.
  • Recovery occurs through interactions with peers and through the self- help and mutual self-help learning process.


1. Member roles
Participants gradually become integral members of the community by acting in a variety of work and community roles and contributing to all the activities of daily life in the TC.

2. Continual feedback from peers and staff members
Participants are observed by all members of the community and are held accountable for their own actions. They receive continual feedback (both reinforcing and corrective) from peers and staff members, expressed with authentic and responsible concern for their well-being and progress.

3. Role models
Participants adopt principles of recovery and right living and gradually aspire to become role models for others. As they progress through the program, participants provide feedback to others about what the others need to change about themselves and serve as examples of such change.

4. Friendships and healthy family-like relationships
At the beginning, participants attempt to continue their deceitful patterns and want merely to “hang out.” As they progress through the phases of treatment, they learn what friendship is by sharing their feelings and thoughts and by challenging others. The friendships may last a lifetime and become the basis for new social networks.

5. Collective Learning
Participants work, learn, and heal in group settings such as meetings, classes, work teams, and recreational activities. Virtually all the learning and healing experiences, essential to recovery and personal growth, take place with Positive Peer Role Models.

6. Internalization of the TC Culture and Language
Participants gradually adopt and internalize the language used in the TC. This is a sign of their assimilation into the culture of the TC change process and of the progress they are making.

7. Hierarchical work structure and communication system
The hierarchical work structure and communication system teach members to be responsible and to work, following organisational rules and procedures. Participants become people on whom others can depend, by adhering to procedures, accepting and respecting supervision, and behaving as responsible members of the TC. The system of sanctions and privileges guides participants’ learning as they experience the positive and negative consequences of their actions. The hierarchical structure of the TC, the chain of command, is similar to the organisation of mainstream culture. It is designed to teach participants the skills and behaviours they will need to be successful outside the TC. Gradually and with practice, participants are able to generalise what they have learned in the TC to the outside world. The communication system in the TC, including such activities as surveillance, data collection, reporting, and giving feedback, is designed to promote productive, prosocial behaviour, as well as to correct self-defeating behaviour.

8. Open communication and personal disclosure
Participants gradually engage in open communication and personal disclosure when they feel that the TC is a safe environment. Participants eventually learn how to communicate with others and to reveal their inner thoughts, which help them build self-esteem, develop trust and relationships with others, heal, become self-aware, and grow. This process begins initially with staff members and then in group settings with peers. Sharing feelings in public is an important part of the self-help recovery process. Sharing feelings is part of the mutual self-help recovery process as well because participants realise that they are not alone and that other people experience the same feelings.
No secrets exist in the TC When rules are broken, the infraction is discussed publicly to ensure that everyone feels safe and to maintain the integrity of the community.