An Enhanced Understanding of Therapeutic Communities Worldwide

Nelson Jose Tiburcio, Ph.D.

David Kressel, Ph.D.

Abstract.

Therapeutic communities posit favorable treatment outcomes by relying on the community as the healing agent (Deleon 2000). Active treatment participation and treatment tenure are two domains that are positive predictors of positive treatment outcomes over time. Some of the more important domains that remain to be thoroughly investigated in international research on therapeutic community (TC) treatment outcome studies are the underlying effects of culture on the treatment process. Cultural components play a significant role, as also reported by various TC participants over the years (such as the effects of health literacy on sustaining abstinence from drug use over the long term, Tiburcio 2008). In recent years, health literacy has taken on a significant role in order for individuals to readily understand their needs (Schillinger et al 2002; Jorm et al 1997); or as pertains to feeling shamed in the process (Parikh et al 1996). As these and other studies suggest, the cultural competence of the providers is equally important. To our knowledge the “International TC Study” and findings presented herein constitute one of only a few studies that have conducted investigations comparing therapeutic community treatment modifications internationally, from the perspective of the participants themselves and which consider cultural components of this process. One key advantage of the resulting Qualitative datasets and analyses is that it not only includes residents’ perspectives, and staff experiential elements, but importantly, incorporates staff debriefings about their respective interactions at each of the international treatment modalities, presenting well rounded depictions of each of these milieus. To that end, the data examined here presents an enhanced portrait of the provider-patient treatment dynamic, and lends voice to the various aspects of treatment participation in light of these cultural issues, and from the perspective of providers, as well as the participants.

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