The 28th WFTC World Conference took place in New Delhi, India, from 2 to 4 December, in the presence of our representative, Ms Elena Goti.
By Elena Goti – Every two years, the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities (WFTC) brings together practicioners and students of Therapeutic Communities from around the world. This year, the event was organized in collaboration with SPYM (Society for the Promotion of Youth and Masses), an associate member of the Dianova network, whose director, Dr. Rajesh Kumar, was the event’s co-chair. The conference was attended by delegates from four continents and with the special participation of more than 350 field workers, professionals, collaborators and technicians of the SPYM organization who had come from various regions of India.
An array of residential programmes
The 28th WFTC Congress was of particular interest because of its strong link with the residential centres of the Dianova network – whether they are therapeutic communities or not. Therefore, I was very pleased, during this conference, to encounter anew the very soul of the community residential model through an array of presentations and papers that presented many different programmes, both long and short term, designed worldwide. Some of these programmes, or centres, may call themselves “therapeutic communities”, others do not, but all of them have in common a profound desire to respond to the specific needs of individuals in a social setting. There are centres for minors, centres for adults, programmes adapted to the needs of LGBTQI+ people, centres located in various geographical areas or social environments, and even prison programmes adapted to inmates serving life imprisonment.
Dianova and the gender perspective
Dianova was invited to make a plenary presentation on Gender entitled “Dianova and the Gender Mainstreaming Process”.
The presentation provided an overview of how gender is mainstreamed in all instances of the Dianova network, be it in policies through awareness-raising, in advocacy actions through campaigns, and as a cross-cutting element in all outpatient and residential centres. When deemed necessary for this purpose, changes are made to facilities, specific training is provided to staff, written and oral language is adjusted, and all activities are involved. A final mention was dedicated to the consideration of children as a particularly vulnerable group.
Visit to a SPYM centre for children and adolescents
Speakers and guests of the WFTC had also the pleasure to make an on-site visit to SPYM’s treatment and rehabilitation centre for children and adolescents in conflict with the law. Founded in 2014, the centre benefits from strategies and technical instruments specifically adapted to this population. In addition, all residents of the centre benefit from a wide range of activities thanks to the contributions of its many volunteers and its integration with community services.
The centre’s young residents are between the ages of 7 and 18 and all have a serious criminal record. Following an assessment process, they have been able to integrate the centre for an average of 90 days, extendable through a judicial permit if necessary. It should be noted that the centre has excellent mediation support, especially during the detoxification period, the first five to seven days. Residents also have the support of their families who are actively involved in the recovery process as a whole.
Finally, it should be emphasized that the programme has, according to those in charge, a very high success rate in breaking the link between crime and addiction, as evidenced by the very low number of people who have returned to the penal system after completion of the programme: only 4 have returned to prison out of a total of 6,500.
I would like to point out that we, some fifty visitors, were warmly welcomed with an outdoor lunch prepared by the centre’s trainee cooks and in the company of smiling and attentive residents. After a full tour of the centre and its activities, the visit ended with a show of music, dance and costumes, the fruit of the creativity and hard work of these young people.
The essence of therapeutic communities
These smiling, cheerful and boisterous young people and the committed involvement of operators and volunteers reminded me of similar situations experienced in some of the Dianova facilities dedicated to providing a home and a range of services to minors in vulnerable situations.
In conclusion, I would like to underline that, in my opinion, the therapeutic community is mainly based on this kind of social and relational approach. From an anthropological point of view, the social environment of the TC is much more like a small and dynamic village than a health institution. This is its strength.
This is why I believe that TCs should have a place in national health systems, not only because of the necessary diversity of care provision, but also because they provide people with comprehensive care, from therapeutic and socio-familial aspects, to professional and reintegration projects.