The 13th European Federation of Therapeutic Communities (EFTC) conference was held from 20-23 September with more than 150 delegates representing most of the federation’s member organizations. This successful conference provided a unique opportunity to hear from various experts who discussed best practice and the evidence-based outcomes of the therapeutic community addiction treatment model. Cristina Lopes and Michele Bellasich, respectively representatives from Dianova in Portugal and Dianova in Sweden attended the event.
The EFTC 13th conference was held in the picturesque building of Keble College (Oxford, England). During four days, the conference provided a key forum for discussion and debates with colleagues attending from around the world. The various speakers presented several scientific studies proving the effectiveness of the TC addiction treatment model.
Yet, during times of financial, political and social crisis, many decision makers question the benefit of treating substance abusers in a residential setting versus resorting solely to harm reduction policies – the largest investments being reserved to drug maintenance programs, without ensuring the individuals’ adequate integration in psychotherapeutic or psychoeducational services.
Several researchers and addiction professionals presented a set of scientific investigations which have proven the added value of TCs and their efficiency in providing responses to such a complex problem as addiction which affects not only the individual, but also his/her family and the whole society. TCs can operate at lower cost than outpatient programs; in addition not only are they oriented to achieving abstinence, but they are also dedicated to helping people develop their potential through a transversal, multidisciplinary approach which encompasses health needs, vocational and educational training, job search, citizenship training, etc.
Nevertheless, many doubt TCs efficiency. Such concerns are primarily related to the fact that no one can provide simple responses to such a complex problem which necessarily implies the need for a variety of methods and disciplines. Second, it seems that the TC model for addiction treatment is often subject to stigma and social ignorance – a reaction which may be observed even among decision makers and politicians.
Therapeutic communities have a great capacity for evolution and adaptation, and can meet specific needs for special populations (e.g. pregnant women), through and integrated, professional, but also humane and optimistic approach. The significant investments made to professionalize therapeutic teams have resulted successful to provide high quality treatment standards, in addition to a relationship between staff and residents based on trust and empathy.
The ability of TCs personnel to communicate, motivate and educate provides surprising results in terms of: the number of people having successfully completed their rehabilitation program, now fully re-integrated back in their communities, and moreover, happy; the innovative responses to those problems which deeply undermine our societies (co-morbidity, e.g. mental health issues, integration in TCs of people undergoing maintenance programs, etc.)
Therapeutic communities should improve treatment effectiveness, and retention and completion rates – this is what many experts have stated, stressing the importance of high quality personnel as a key factor to such improvement. TCs should be a place dedicated to the individuals’ emotional development, both secure and facilitating behavior changes. The capacity to create, to build individualized treatment responses, tailored to individual needs, was also presented as a key to improving treatment programs retention and completion rates.
TCs may, in addition, enable better coordination and networking between different institutions while providing beneficiaries with better access to the agencies or services they need.
It is obvious that we should continue to makes the appropriate investments to raise awareness and provide scientific evidence of the effectiveness of the TC addiction treatment model, as compared to other long or short-term approaches, while providing appropriate monitoring, e.g. With the assistance from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
The conference was closed with an overall commitment from all delegates to join a network dedicated to performing such investigations and monitoring their outcomes. Everyone agreed to draw policy makers’ and the civil society’s attention to participate in the 14th EFTC conference to be held in Prague (Czech Republic) in 2013. And in anticipation of this occasion, the delegates took up the challenge to come with their beneficiaries to participate in the annual celebration of Addictions, in the field of artistic expression.
Dianova in Portugal