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Therapeutic communities and the local community: isolation or integration?

David William Best (Associate Professor David William Best is the Head of Research and Workforce Development, based at Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Melbourne, Australia and Monash University, Clayton, Australia.)
Gerard Byrne (Gerard Byrne is based at Salvation Army, Sydney, Australia.)
David Pullen (David Pullen is based at Salvation Army, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Jacqui Kelly (Jacqui Kelly is based at Salvation Army, Sydney, Australia.)
Karen Elliot (Karen Elliot is based at Salvation Army, Gold Coast, Australia.)
Michael Savic (Dr Michael Savic is based at Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Melbourne, Australia.)

Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities

ISSN: 0964-1866

Article publication date: 2 December 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to test the feasibility of utilising an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model in the context of an Alcohol and Other Drug Therapeutic Community, and to use this as a way of assessing how TCs can contribute to the local communities in which they are sited.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a qualitative action research project, based on an evolving model in which key stakeholders from participating sites were instrumental in shaping processes and activities, that is a partnership between a research centre, Turning Point in Melbourne, Australia and two Recovery Services operated by the Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory (TSA). One of these is the Dooralong Transformation Centre on the Central Coast of New South Wales and the other, Fairhaven, is in the Gold Coast hinterland of Queensland, Australia. The project was designed to create “rehabilitation without walls” by building bridges between the treatment centres and the communities they are based in, and improving participation in local community life. This was done through a series of structured workshops that mapped community asset networks and planned further community engagement activities.

Findings

Both of the TCs already had strong connections in their local areas including but not restricted to involvement with the mutual aid fellowships. Staff, residents and ex-residents still in contact with the service were strongly committed to community engagement and were able to identify a wide range of connections in the community and to build these around existing Salvation Army connections and networks.

Research limitations/implications

This is a pilot study with limited research findings and no assessment of the generalisability of this method to other settings or TCs.

Practical implications

Both TCs are able to act as “community resources” through which residents and ex-residents are able to give back to their local communities and develop the social and community capital that can prepare them for reintegration and can positively contribute to the experience of living in the local community.

Social implications

This paper has significant ramifications for how TCs engage with their local communities both as a mechanism for supporting resident re-entry and also to challenge stigma and discrimination.

Originality/value

The paper and project extend the idea of ABCD to a Reciprocal Community Development model in which TCs can act as active participants in their lived communities and by doing so can create a “therapeutic landscape for recovery”.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the senior managers from the Salvation Army and the staff and graduates from the two services who have supported this initiative.

Citation

William Best, D., Byrne, G., Pullen, D., Kelly, J., Elliot, K. and Savic, M. (2014), "Therapeutic communities and the local community: isolation or integration?", Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 150-158. https://doi.org/10.1108/TC-07-2014-0024

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited