25th World Conference of Therapeutic Communities

The 25th World Conference of Therapeutic Communities was held in Bali (Indonesia) from November 5 to 10, under the auspices of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities and the Kasih Mulia Foundation, one of the country’s largest associations dedicated to the treatment of alcohol and substance abuse. The representative of Dianova, Michele Bellasich, was present.

Drug abuse is a very serious problem in Asia as in the rest of the world, altering deeply the socio-economic fabric, social organization and public health. Illicit drug abuse is also a powerful catalyst for violence and political destabilization, dragging millions into a deadly whirlwind.

In such a context, the therapeutic community is not only a method to treat  addiction disorders, but it has also proven to be a powerful way to deal with people as a whole, with their strengths and weaknesses, their potential and their dreams.

The 25th Conference of Therapeutic Communities brought together over 600 participants coming from all walks of life to share their experiences on the small island of Bali in the Indonesian archipelago, under the theme “When East meets West”.

The West is now crippled by the economic crisis, by a crisis a values. Therapeutic communities need to change but have the greates difficulties to do so because they never could adapt to modern times’ new perspectives and challenges. In contrast, Indonesia is one of the most dynamic Asian countries, with nearly 250 million inhabitants living in an archipelago comprising a little less than twenty thousand islands, whether big or small.   On the other side of the medal, Indonesians’ life expectancy is limited to 50 years, while they can’t benefit from any governement assistance. Addiction treatment programs are still in their infancy, yet skillfully combining traditional medecine and harm reduction methods, with the assistance and supervision from the US and the UN through DayTop and the UN agency against drugs and crimes – UNODC.

While I was attending the conference’s various session, I could reconnect with old friends and meet new people, including an internationnally recognized expert in the treatment of substance abuse and a leading authority on TC research and theory, George De Leon, Ph.D., with whom I had a much interesting discussion. I also met Prof. Dr. Eric Broekaert who founded the first TC in Belgium and is now involved in a project launched by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction to study European therapeutic communities… And many more.

Without going into details of each one of the interventions during the conference, I would rather express my opinion on a critical element that became clear to me : all of these therapeutic communities which were present in Bali are now engaged in a much difficult fight to ensure sustainability. They all strive to offer new services, to adapt to new needs and expectations, to seek new ways to collect funds. All of their members have demontrated their courage and their strength in the struggle to  adapt an approach which is still a basic and valid component of drug treatment

Michele Bellasich