An Interview with Anthony Gelormino

WFTC conference in Lima

Anthony Gelormino is President of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities

Could you tell us about the history of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities?

About 40 years ago therapeutic communities members used to belong to an organization called ICAA – which stands for the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions, an organization founded in 1907. At that time members had attended a session dedicated to TCs, headed by Monsignor O'Brien, the founder of Daytop Village. Mgr. O'Brien had said that every science had an explanation for addiction, but what was still lacking was a holistic explanation that would consider the individual at the center of everything. No one was talking about the person. 

wftc logo

Therapeutic communities were and still are interested in people, and as they understand it, addiction is only a symptom of the problem. In the 80s at the Stockholm Congress, the TC section declared and organized itself as an independent NGO and founded the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities (WFTC) with the concept of the individual at the core of the debate. This organization became the platform of the idea of ??recovery and reintegration in the field of addictions, ie, a new and comprehensive approach to addiction. After this even, an annual conference was held by the World Federation over a 10-year period. Currently, biannual conferences are being held regionally and globally.

What challenges will the WFTC face in the near future?

One of the greatest challenge facing the World Federation will be not to feel overwhelmed by the specific challenges within each region, especially in the field of the interdependence between addiction programs and the need for public funds… because the more subsidies programs get from a government, the more they will be subordinate to this government's specific drug policy or recovery concept.

"Another of our challenges will be to define a homogeneous action line in the different regions, notwithstanding that each one's reality and each one's addiction problematic is different, without being overwhelmed, and continuing to put the person at the core of the recovery process. There is also a tendency, even an insistence on designing shorter and shorter programs. However this would not be a problem at all if we had efficient and reliable post-treatment resources providing ongoing social support to people (…)"

The recovery concept appears essential, even though people have various ways of evaluating the outcomes of a given treatment program. Actually, about six years ago, a document was written to support this concept and we've been involved in this process up to the United Nations, although, and unfortunately, the recovery concept was not retained. The Dianova people have put great efforts in this endeavor, and I would like to thank them for this.

Meeting in New York

Can the TC concept be useful to other group or vulnerable profiles?

Many different issues can be addressed in the therapeutic community setting. Even though, in our case, the main issue is the drug problem, the therapeutic community offers a wide array of services which may help the individuals from a holistic standpoint. In general, a person must not only face a specific problem but also many other issues that are likely to influence his current situation. TCs have a positive influence on many more areas and issues that we thought in the first place. TCs can produce efficient work for the families, they work with an extensive network of volunteers, in collaboration with civil society, the te neighborhood, etc.

it is important to emphasize that TCs are not only beneficial to TC residents but also to society as a whole. It is essential to understand that the whole society gets a positive impact from the programs carried out in a TC. More importantly, TCs must adapt to society's current needs; and this is what we're doing due to the flexibility of this intervention model. 

Carrying out an efficient program and working with the person from a holistic point of view requires time and effort. But this is also the only way we can help people and empower them to eventually become productive citizens after their reintegration. Nowadays, the main focus is put on research, but not on addiction research, because we already know a great deal about addiction, however, what we need to understand better is prevention and recovery. And we may go back to the beginning of this interview and mention Mgr. O'Brien again. About 40 years ago, he used to say that every single science possessed part of an explanation of the addiction problem and that we had to apply a holistic concept to understand it fully. Now we need to investigate about not only what makes some people addicts, but also about what can help them recover and become drug free again.