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Beyond the “Black Box” of the Therapeutic Community: A Qualitative Psychoanalytic Study

This text is the written version of the public defence of my doctoral thesis which took place on September 22nd, 2014 in “Het Pand” in Ghent. It describes an analysis of the functioning of Therapeutic Communities (TCs) using a variety of qualitative methodologies and a psychoanalytic frame for interpretation. An important finding is that the TC approach succeeds in establishing a fundamental change in the emotional and psychic lives of the residents. A state of general numbness – which is characteristic of those who have been addicted for a long time – evolves in the direction of a re-connection to the Other. I have attributed this transformation (process) to the way in which the TC law is managed, that is, to the way in which both the mother- and the father-function are installed. A further step is that the particularity of each resident is allowed to emerge in the process of transformation. I have concluded that the successful processes of transformation in TCs involve both identification and subjectivization on the basis of which an Other life has become possible.