Ashburn Clinic Therapeutic Community - What is it?

Coming to a therapeutic communityShady trees
such as Ashburn Clinic
can feel very different

What is a therapeutic community?

A therapeutic community is a place where we (patients and staff ) work alongside each other in an atmosphere of open communication. At Ashburn Clinic traditional hospital hierarchy is relaxed, so we can build a more democratic and open style of relating between staff and patients.

As a patient you are expected to take an active part in your own care, and to take part in the running of the community. You will also help and support each other in the challenges of living and working within a therapeutic community.

The therapeutic community at Ashburn Clinic utilises a structured day, with an emphasis on group meetings of various kinds. Within our community, as you enact your familiar ways of relating to other people these will be explored through processes such as group work. Through being able to understand and communicate to others the reasons for the development of your own individual difficulties, you will be better able to cope with the necessary effort and pain which characterises major personal change.

Our community concentrates on the meaning of each person’s feelings, actions and relationships, so changes in understanding and behaviour can be made.

Aims of The Ashburn Clinic Therapeutic Community

  • To enable you to learn more about your problems and difficulties, thereby increasing your ability to effect change.
  • To encourage personal responsibility for your own behaviour and situation.
  • To assist you to live successfully in the outside world without resorting to unhelpful behaviour patterns, particularly when faced with stressful or difficult situations.

Therapeutic Community Principles

Attachment: The process of joining, belonging to, and leaving a therapeutic community evoke a variety of emotional responses. (Haig, 1999)

Democratisation: Every member of the community (staff and patients) share in making decisions about community affairs, and are empowered to share in responsibility for the community. (Rapoport, 1960; Haig, 1999)

Containment: Usually, a range of distressing emotions and behaviours are able to be tolerated by the community as there is sufficient strength within the community as a whole to contain and hold the anxiety or pain such feelings and behaviours generate. (Rapoport, 1960; Haig, 1999)

Communication/Communalism: Tasks and social opportunities are shared by everyone (patients and staff), and a culture of openness is fostered so that the honest communication of feelings is possible. (Rapoport, 1960; Haig, 1999)

Reality Confrontation: Patients continually have other people presenting interpretations of their behaviour so defence mechanisms such as denial, distortion and confusion become obvious. Over time, ongoing therapeutic interventions enable patients to reflect on how they are with other people, and to make changes. (Rapoport, 1960)

How our therapeutic community works

The backbone of our therapeutic community is the group. At Ashburn Clinic each day is carefully structured, and a variety of small and large groups take place. These include:
  • Small psychodynamic groups
  • Art or music therapy groups
  • Task oriented work groups e.g. gardening, cookery
  • Communal sports activities
  • Cleaning groups

Also, meetings of each unit and of the entire community regularly take place, where business and personal issues are discussed which impact on the community as a whole. The structure of the community allows for emergency meetings to be called by either staff or patients when a need arises.

Staff at Ashburn Clinic participate in a range of groups alongside patients, and also meet as a staff group to discuss the dynamics of the various groups, and to reflect on the functioning of the staff team. The role of staff here is a demanding one, as they must continuously monitor group dynamics, interpersonal interactions and their own responses, and be able to understand and reflect on the unconscious and conscious processes within the community.

Individual therapy will take place for you within the wider context of the therapeutic community and is one part of the total sum of therapeutic opportunities offered, as all activities in a therapeutic community are designed to provide a forum for therapeutic change, and all participants in the community are mediators of these changes. Because you will participate in both the formal and informal psychological and social life of the community, there is an increased opportunity to learn about the connections between your feelings and behaviour and the unconscious meanings which may underpin them.

The process of change takes time so as a patient in a therapeutic community such as Ashburn Clinic you may expect to stay longer than in a traditional hospital inpatient unit. There are studies which show the benefit of this longer stay can be a lowered incidence of readmission.

Phone us: 03 476 2092


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