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Democratic therapeutic communities (TCs), use a “flattened hierarchy” model whereby staff and clients are considered to have an equal voice, sharing administrative and…
Democratic therapeutic communities (TCs), use a “flattened hierarchy” model whereby staff and clients are considered to have an equal voice, sharing administrative and some therapeutic responsibility. Using the sociological framework of interaction ritual chain theory, the purpose of this paper is to explain how TC client members negotiated and enforced community expectations through an analysis of power within everyday interactions outside of structured therapy.
The study used narrative ethnography, consisting of participant observation with two democratic communities, narrative interviews with 21 client members, and semi-structured interviews with seven staff members.
The findings indicate social interactions could empower clients to recognise their personal agency and to support one another. However, these dynamics could be destructive when members were excluded or marginalised. Some clients used their interactions at times to consolidate power amongst dominant members.
It is argued that the flattened hierarchy approach theoretically guiding TC principles does not operate as a flattened model in practice. Rather, a fluid hierarchy, whereby clients shift and change social positions, seems more suited to explaining how the power structure worked within the communities, including amongst the client group. Recognising the hierarchy as “fluid” may open dialogues within TCs as to whether, and how, members experience exclusion.
Explorations of power have not specifically focused on power dynamics between clients. Moreover, this is one of the first papers to look at power dynamics outside of structured therapy.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the potential for personal and community transformation through storytelling within a therapeutic community (TC) through the…
The purpose of this paper is to explore the potential for personal and community transformation through storytelling within a therapeutic community (TC) through the analysis of one narrative case study.
The paper uses a narrative research design to describe and theorise the individual narrative of a TC client member, “Emily”, who self-identified areas of therapeutic change. Emily’s story is a single case of personal and community transformation. Analysis focussed on story of her weight loss to understand her changing role to herself and the community.
Emily’s story reveals the social complexities underpinning individual transformations within a community context. This complexity is particularly evident as Emily experienced visible weight loss but identified that the meaningful change is her changed relationship with herself and others. Using theories on symbolic interactionism, analysis of Emily’s narrative indicates the TC played a role in facilitating personal change and that through sharing her story with the wider TC, the community shifted its perspective on food and weight loss.
The paper expands the discussion on how storytelling practices within a TC contribute to therapeutic change. It is argued that community relationships play a key role in facilitating a changed relationship with self and others, and that stories themselves play an active role in shaping community meanings.