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Key Definitions

The following are definitions associated with mental health care. Information sources include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

What is a Therapeutic Community

The central philosophy of “therapeutic community” is that each resident (residential client) is empowered to be an active participant in his/her own recovery as well as in the recovery of other residents in the community. The day-to-day activities of the community are shared among staff and residents. This collaborative effort is a special part of their treatment, and for many may be the first time their views have been heard and respected. Residents are encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings about their behaviors in order to further understand themselves and their illnesses.

Sensitivity to cultural issues is an important part of the therapeutic community. The program/services provide an environment that accepts and values everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, class, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. The needs of different cultures and religions are integrated into the therapeutic community program.

Within the therapeutic community model, the community itself is the modality for change for the individuals, through:

  • Use of the mutual-help principle
  • The therapeutic work program and group structure
  • Rules
  • Schedules for residents
  • Responsibilities
  • Behavior expectations
  • Feedback from staff and – more importantly – from peers
  • Learning interventions
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