Treatment Model: A Therapeutic Community

Staff and Clients Interacting In a Therapeutic Community Treatment ModelOdyssey House employs a therapeutic community (TC) treatment model across all of its programs.

A therapeutic community is an evidence-based treatment model (or style of treatment), and we emphasize it because it is a big part of how we achieve high recovery success rates for the graduates of our programs.

TC programs work, and that’s why we use them. Over the years, we have customized our version of the therapeutic community treatment model, based on the evolving needs of the addiction community and the data that we have collected. This resulting blend of strategies offers our clients a one-of-a-kind program structure that delivers unmatched recovery success.

Continue reading below for more details about therapeutic communities and the aspects of our community that make it a step above the rest.

Therapeutic Communities Increase Success Rates

Therapeutic communities have proven to be highly successful because they approach substance abuse as a symptom of broader personal issues. Odyssey calls it “whole-person” treatment, and the therapeutic community model is part of what makes whole-person treatment possible for our clients.

Therapeutic communities offer an effective program structure that serves as an alternative to common 12 step programs, and statistically speaking, TCs are much more effective than the 12 step treatment model.

In the TC environment at Odyssey House of Utah, clients receive any combination of family therapy, medical care, education, psychiatric services, work training, and parent coaching during treatment — all of which we tailor to treat their unique circumstances (and all in addition to their substance abuse treatment).

Who is the “Community” in a TC?

Everyone who is at Odyssey House, or who is involved in the treatment of individuals at Odyssey House, is part of the therapeutic community, including all staff, alumni, clients’ families, and the clients themselves.

Together, the entire community forms a net of support where each individual shares in the responsibility to aid the recovery of those in treatment and to aid the continued sobriety of those who have already graduated. For clients who are in treatment in our programs, this means that they are primarily responsible for their own successful recovery (since, after all, they are part of the community), and that they also share in the responsibility to hold accountable the other clients in the program.

The sheer size and interconnectedness of this support structure explains a lot about why it works. In effect, every person in our program has the support of literally hundreds of people who are there to help them stay on the path to success.

Perhaps even more importantly, an effective therapeutic community will mirror what a healthy community should function like outside of rehab, and by immersing clients in this support environment during treatment, they learn through experience what types of healthy social situations they should pursue after treatment.

For many graduates of our programs, the therapeutic community experience compels them to drastically reevaluate their social life after their treatment ends at Odyssey, and they frequently decide to leave damaging, harmful friends and social situations behind them in preference of healthy, supportive ones.

Accountability in the TC Model

Therapeutic communities view accountability differently than 12 step programs. A TC program like ours believes that every individual is responsible for both their addiction and their recovery. Certainly other factors influence a person’s decision to use drugs or alcohol, but the final choice to use or not to use rests on the individual.

In contrast, AA programs, and other 12 step treatment models, tell participants simply to put their possible recovery success in the hands of a higher power. “Let go. Let God” is a common motto in 12 step programs. Although trust and faith can be positive influences in recovery, we believe that this approach sidesteps the accountability of the addicted person and instead invites them to believe that their recovery is beyond them, somehow, or outside of their control.

At Odyssey House, we say “You got yourself here. Now you can get yourself out, with the support of others.” Trust and faith still have their important roles in this model without ignoring the responsibility of the addicted person to work toward their own recovery.

Although learning to be accountable in this way is often a jarring and challenging experience for the clients in our programs, through their self-accountability they learn to be empowered by their ability to make healthy decisions that directly shape the quality of their lives, including the decision to remain sober.

Community is the Agent of Change

For clients in our programs, their entire social environment in treatment consists of the therapeutic community, and because of this immersion in the community, the community acts as the primary agent of change in the client’s treatment. Except for individual counseling sessions, clients perform all activities with the community, including peers, graduates of our programs, and all staff.

It might be more simple and useful to think of it as positive peer pressure. Peers and alumni who advance in their treatment serve as role models to the other recovering clients, while staff serve as rational authorities, facilitators, and guides. In a TC model such as the model at Odyssey House, the community itself is the Great Teacher and the most powerful influence of change.

Emphasis on Right Living

At Odyssey, recovery from drugs and alcohol addiction means developing healthy thinking patterns that lead to healthy behavior. We call it right living. When people live right because they have learned think in healthy ways, abstinence from drugs and alcohol becomes a natural extension of their new lifestyle.

What we call right living is actually the most all-encompassing result of our whole-person treatment style. Instead of only treating behaviors and thinking patterns here and there, the way that many other programs do, we instead teach our clients a whole new system of thinking and living altogether. Whole-person treatment reaches to the core of what drives the addicted person’s behavior, and we believe that is why it produces better, longer-lasting results than other methods.

When reading about rehab programs available across the country, you have likely noticed that many programs describe themselves as being “holistic,” and you might have also noticed that many agencies misuse that term severely. Holistic addiction treatment does not mean meditating, doing yoga, or trimming bonsai trees at a fancy, resort-like treatment center the way that some agencies make it sound. (And we don’t necessarily believe that effective treatment programs should feel like a vacation.) We often avoid using the “holistic” to describe our services, not because it is inaccurate, but more because the word is so commonly misused that we seek to avoid confusion.

Holistic treatment should mean exactly what the word holistic means — comprehensive, full, all-inclusive, and far-reaching down to the deepest issues while extending out to the most superficial ones. That is what clients can expect at Odyssey House, a truly holistic (in the literal sense), whole-person treatment for the entire individual, and our therapeutic community model is part of how we accomplish that kind of treatment.

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Culture of Family

It is difficult to adequately describe the family culture at Odyssey House without having you experience it first hand for yourself, but it is an important aspect of what makes our agency unique and is worth mentioning here.

Recovering adults need a strong support structure with meaningful personal connections during treatment, especially when they are temporarily displaced from their family homes in residential treatment and while going through so many rigorous learning experiences. We do not intend for the therapeutic community at Odyssey to “replace” the client’s real family in any sense; in fact, regular family support is a mainstay of our treatment model. In addition to the support that clients get from their true families during treatment, the close family atmosphere at Odyssey helps to fill important emotional and sociological needs for clients while they are away from home.

Most of the clients and potential clients who come to Odyssey say that they can sense the family environment here immediately when they visit or when they start treatment. We encourage interested potential clients to come down to meet our staff and current clients to feel it out for themselves, even if only for a consultation or tour of our facilities. Because our community is open and loving, you will find that clients will be eager to share their real feelings about their experience here.

The point of our family culture is for clients to feel a sense of belonging and “home away from home” while staying with us, and to make lasting, healthy, sober friendships with their peers and the staff that work with them. The final goal, of course, is to return to their real homes enriched by their experience with us.

Much like how healthy thinking produces right living, our therapeutic community model helps promote the family culture here at Odyssey.

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Dual-diagnosis is the evaluation process that Odyssey House uses to target what are called co-occurring issues. Co-occurring issues are factors that contribute to the cause of a person’s addiction, and they can be anything from lack of life skills or poor performance in school to mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, that effect their decision to use drugs or alcohol.

On average, over 80% of our clients have co-occurring issues that must be addressed with dual-diagnosis. Individual with many co-occurring issues face greater challenges in their addiction treatment than those with fewer co-occurring issues, and the former require additional care due to the complexity of their cases.

Our dual-diagnosis enhanced program allows Odyssey House to effectively treat clients with co-occurring disorders, whatever those issues may be. We integrate mental health treatment, life skills training, and many other interventions designed to address each factor that contributes to the addiction.

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The Level System

We use the level system as part of our therapeutic community treatment model. There are five levels in Odyssey’s residential rehab program that clients can achieve leading up to graduation.

Each level encompasses its own strategies in conjunction with the client’s individualized treatment plan, and the level system is completely integrated into our therapeutic community structure. Length of stay at a given level depends on the client’s progress in relation to his or her treatment plan. As a client progresses in treatment, his or her level of responsibility, authority, autonomy, and privileges will increase with each new level earned.

The first three levels are designed to address significant behavior challenges, thinking processes, motivational challenges, life skills, educational needs, and coping skills deficiencies.

Treatment focuses on establishing and maintaining abstinence and preventing relapse while engaging the client in the treatment environment. Development of coping skills, personal responsibility, self-discipline, relationship skills, and positive attitudinal changes is vigorously encouraged.

The final two levels focus more on underlying psychological issues and profound deficits in interpersonal relationship skills. At these levels, the goal is to gain a more consistent application of relapse prevention, coping, and other pro-social skills while acting more autonomously in less structured situations.

The final level is called the Voyager Program, and it is an optional level program for residents who are over 18 years old. Clients in the Voyager Program live in an Odyssey sober housing community while they gradually transition from residential care and into aftercare.

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