Peer influence is an important component of the TC. Residents interact with peers through a variety of group processes used to help individuals learn and assimilate social norms and develop more effective social skills.
CEC's Therapeutic Communities (TC) programs provide a treatment milieu that motivates and assists residents in achieving meaningful goals. This includes helping residents develop basic values, behaviors and work skills that are consistent with the behavior of responsible members of society. Staff members function as role-models by demonstrating appropriate attitudes, behavior, and the shared values of the TC community.
The TC programs use a hierarchical model with treatment stages that reflect increased levels of individual and social responsibility. Peer influence is an important component of TC programs. Residents learn and assimilate social norms and develop more effective social skills through daily community meetings, work assignments and the peer group process. Daily interactions are used to cultivate a sense of community mission and mutual self-help. Under the mutual self-help concept, individuals assume responsibility for the recovery, personal growth and right living of their peers in order to maintain their own recovery.
CEC's TC programs operate according to standards set by the American Correctional Association (ACA) and Therapeutic Communities of America (TCA); and professional literature by experts in the field.
The TC approach is one of mutual self-help with members acting as "brother's keepers," and staff acting as role models and rational authorities, forming a caring surrogate family that provides a corrective developmental experience. It represents a mirror through which each individual's self-awareness is raised as the community gives continuous feedback. The focus is on helping individuals to 'get in touch' with their feelings and to address such common antisocial personality characteristics and drug-seeking behaviors as: self-deception, manipulation, lying, cheating, stealing, low self-esteem, poor impulse control, low frustration tolerance, inability to delay gratification, conflict with authority and immaturity. In contrast to a medical or traditional mental health model, residents take full responsibility for their addictive behavior; they 'do' treatment rather than passively receive treatment. Positive peer pressure maintains the onus on the individual to change behavior; and engagement in interpersonal relationships with positive role models replaces the more dependent patient-therapist relationship model. DeLeon (1994) proposes that TC interventions must be organized around a developmental view of individual change, in order to facilitate the offender's movement through the stages of the recovery process.
These principals capture the essence of the philosophy of CEC's TC program:
- The overarching approach to TC treatment should be "community-as-method," with activities taking place in interactive group settings;
- It is most desirable to have a majority of staff as ex-addict/offender role models;
- There must be a prevailing culture of positive peer pressure which counteracts the "inmate code" of the general population;
- There must be a strong sense of community, with a common language, rituals and rites of passage, which prevents a "we-they dichotomy";
- There must be a shared locus of control, with residents running most of the program and staff maintaining ultimate control and applying it with rational authority and acting as pro-social role models;
- Cooperation and continuous communication with security and administration personnel (i.e., warden) is essential to the autonomous functioning of the TC;
- There must be a pro-social code of morality - 'right living' - which promotes empathic relations between staff and clients along with open communication, honesty, trust, positive work ethic, community responsibility, etc.;
- The environment must be maintained as physically, emotionally and psychologically safe, and drug-free;
- Members should be organized by job functions in a hierarchical structure with corresponding rewards;
- The community must adhere to strict behavioral expectations with certain consequences and sanctions applied in a mutual effort by other members and staff;
- The program must support an optimal time-in-program (TIP) based upon research findings, with dedicated community-based aftercare; and
- In order to insure that there is no corruption or programmatic drifting it is essential to have regular TC-specific monitoring and training from outside the community.