Therapeutic community experts met on September 19 and 20 in Thessaloniki (Greece) to share knowledge and experiences on this addiction treatment model
By Lucía Goberna – The therapeutic community is not a fixed entity, it is constantly adapting to the needs of its beneficiaries. The 17th European Conference of the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities dealt with the need for this adaptation, bringing together more than 500 people from over 40 countries on September 19 and 20 with the title “Everything Flows: Change in the Therapeutic Community for Addiction”, in the magnificent concert building in the Greek city of Thessaloniki. Although it was a European conference, there were attendees from all the world, including the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Uganda. The conference was organized by KHETEA and ARGO, two dedicated Greek NGOs that have been helping people with substance use disorders for decades.
The European Federation of Therapeutic Communities (EFTC) has been organizing biennial congresses since 1982 to promote the exchange of good practices and knowledge regarding the provision of treatment services based on the therapeutic community treatment model. Dianova Portugal and Dianova Sweden are members of the EFTC. Dianova International is a member of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities (WFTC).
Among the main panelists were giants of the sector such as George de León, and other renowned international experts such as the director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction Alexis Goosdeel, the director of the Division of Drug Prevention and Health of the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime, Gilberto Gerra, and Igor Koutsenok, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. The speakers reflected on, among other topics, how everything has changed, including drug use has changed, the profiles of people who access treatment, treatment best practices and methods and how the sector has been able to overcome profound economic crises.
The plenary sessions on both days were followed by parallel sessions where professionals and researchers in the area of therapeutic communities presented the results of recent investigations, good practices or case studies among several topics, from how to provide a better service to unaccompanied migrant minors with addiction problems to how to involve neighbourhood communities and local governments in the relocation of therapeutic communities.
Obstacles to Addiction Treatment for Women
Gisela Hansen, psychologist at Dianova’s therapeutic community of Can Parellada had the opportunity to present “Stigma: a big obstacle in women’s recovery” on September 19 in a session that addressed the difficulties and needs of women who enroll in therapeutic communities.
Gisela Hansen addressed the issue of gender-related barriers in addiction treatment for women and focused on the problem of addiction stigma. She also presented how these barriers can be overcome and made a call to have the gender perspective integrated in treatment programmes.
Finally, Gisela Hansen presented the preliminary results of a study that is being carried out with the Autonomous University of Barcelona about “Women and therapeutic communities of drug addiction treatment: A study on barriers access, permanency, and the variables to improve treatment prognosis”.
About fifty attendees participated in this event and the following one, a presentation by Zacharoula Kasseri from the University of Crete (Greece), who presented research about the difficulties faced by women in predominantly male-biased therapeutic communities. Meanwhile, Anita Harris from the Irish organization Coolmine, presented the work of one of their centres for women, which has the particularity of involving participants’ children.
Throughout the 17th EFTC Conference, there was an atmosphere of optimism, not only to reinforce the TC treatment model, but also to advocate for their political recognition in the area of addiction treatment. Participants showed a will to continue working and improving a model which remains essential given the reality of today’s increasing problematic use and the necessity for efficient treatment programmes. For this reason, all those who are working in the treatment field should join forces and offer better and more effective treatment, adapted to each people’s needs.
The conference was preceded by a WFTC meeting on September 18 where, among other things, a strict code of ethics was approved for WFTC members, new statutes were approved and planning for the next world congresses was worked on.
From Dianova, we’d like to thank KETHEA and ARGO for their warm felt welcome and proper organization of the conference and we would like to give our thanks to Rowdy Yates, a key figure in the development and dissemination of the therapeutic community model and former president of the EFTC.