Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Rev. James Forbes: Compassion at the dinner table

It is my great pleasure to have had the chance to hear the Rev. Dr. Forbes preach before, when he was the lead pastor of the Riverside Church, in New York. He is an amazing person, with a great message.

Casting Crowns Praise You In The Storm

Saturday, January 28, 2017

14 BIGGEST Cats in the World

I am a cat owner myself. I have a black and white cat named Norman. He might not be the biggest cat in the world, but I believe he thinks he is. In deference to Norman, here are some of the actual biggest tabby cats in the world.

U.S. Students Lag Behind Asian Peers in Math and Science

What is the problem in US schools? It goes back to an old adage: Why can't Johnny do math and science? Answer: Mathematics provides the answers to the universe -- some people believe all the answers to everything. On average, American students have a lot fewer of those answers than their Asian counterparts.

Technology Machines, New Modern Agriculture Machines 2017: Water wheel ...

25 Recent Space Discoveries That Blew Our Minds

The Real Meaning of E=mc² | Space Time | PBS Digital Studios

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

America Draws A Collective Breath


Many people in the United States are terrified that the new regime in Washington DC, led  by Donald Trump as president, will damage many parts of our way of life, perhaps enter us all into wars of adventure, and negatively impact those who are not the top 1 percent of earners in the country.

Well, it is almost 'go' time for Mr. Trump. I will admit that I am not a fan. However, he is the guy who won the job and he is our president for the next four years -- and that is how it is.

If America is going to keep Social Security in a form we are all familiar with, the public is going to have to speak. They did not do it at the ballot box, so the message will have to be sent in all the avenues Americans have open to them in the Constitution.

If America is going to stay out of unwanted wars the next few years, the public -- the people -- are going to have to speak. The last two cost the United States $6 trillion in a Chinese loan from Mr. Bush and America has received nothing for the expense -- not even security. Mr. Obama spent mightily on these fruitless American wars also. God knows what is coming down the pike.

If women are going to simply keep many of the rights they have today -- from rights over their own bodies to closer pay equality, they are going to have to speak in a way they have not spoken for decades -- over the blare of noise at the top.

If the poor are not going to move from desperate poverty to 'on-the-street' poverty, they are going to have to speak -- again, in those ways that are encouraged as part of peaceful dissent.

Most importantly, Americans who are Black and brown are going to need to find their voices. And, whites are going to need to be equal in that chorus. Racism is not simply an issue for Blacks or Hispanics -- it is an issue for whites. People of all color have enjoyed the retreat of ignorance from the bright lights. Frankly, I never believed in my lifetime that a candidate supported and endorsed by the KKK and American Nazi Party would ever win the White House. But, here it is.

As a former soldier, I feel very uneasy about a love-fest going on between the leader of the Russian Federation and the United States. I admit I am biased against that nation, by the proof of its own history in Europe, in its actions against the United States through out the years, because of the state-sponsored terrorism that has been linked to it since its inception as the USSR until this very day. No, for me, these people can never be friends of the United States -- not because of where they live but because of what Russia is and has always been.

Now is the time to hope for the best -- to hope that the aspects of America that are closest to our nation's people are not besieged. But, there is that possibility. Many are holding their collective breath. I hope that science will not become even more banished from public schools, encouraged by an anti-intellectual leadership at the top inspiring intellectually challenged politicians around the country.

My greatest hope, though, is that the American system of government was created with safeguards within it that made tyranny impossible to sustain. I know this intellectually. I hope it is not something that I found comforting without a reality behind it. Draw your breath, America, and I will draw mine too.

2017 - The End of Social Security?

Albert Einstein's Big Idea Nova HD

Monday, January 16, 2017


John Hickman (2014)

John Hickman passed from the world on January 14, 2017. He was 54 years old. He was a friend of mine, but without me remembering his life -- no one else is going to do it. And, he deserves being remembered.

John was originally from Brick, New Jersey. He attended Brick High School. After he graduated, he joined the United States Navy. He worked on aircraft in the service and was assigned to the USS Enterprise in the early 1980s. He earned the rank of Petty Officer 3rd Class. He did a Med cruise with the Enterprise, and he was aboard her when she performed duty in the Pacific also. He loved the Navy. He was proud to be a sailor.  He wished he stayed in.

But, after his tour, he came back to New Jersey. For a while, he worked as a mechanic for the New Jersey State Police. He liked that well enough but moved on from that after a few years.

Afterward, John held so many jobs -- from courier to sales associate at chain stores to taxi driver and more. John was never really close enough to a lady to get married. But, he searched for the right one throughout his life.

John's beloved USS Enterprise
John did wrestle with sobriety, more accurately the lack of it. He drank and he used drugs. In the end, he overdosed and died. At the time, he was living in Asbury Park, New Jersey: Not a nice place despite its ongoing renewal. It is not the Asbury Park of the 'bad old days' of the 1980s but it is still a haven for drug dealers and the like.

I met John before he moved to Asbury Park, in 2013 when we were both living at the Veterans Haven North, in Glen Gardner. It is a program offered by the New Jersey Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs. The goal of the place is to act as a rehab for the first 90 days and, thereafter, as a transitional housing facility for homeless vets for up to two years.

John stayed there and worked at the VA New Jersey Health Care System, Lyons Campus, for about a year as a maintenance man. Then, he received his housing subsidy and went to Asbury. Fortunately, he found three sisters who were lost to him. He was adopted. However, a few years ago he reunited with his siblings and their children. He connected with them. Even though it was sometimes stormy, he had family relations. The world was not as alone as it had been. I know he appreciated it.
John loved music, playing his guitar and listening to bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin and Aeorsmith, to name a few. He especially liked that kind of music turned up as loud as it possibly could. John hated disco and could not dance. He was a devotee of The Walking Dead AMC television show. It's how we met at Vet Haven. We were among a small, determined band of loyal viewers who would try and secure a television on Sunday night, which was hard during football season. It was some nice times, though.
Fellow vet Richie Toth and John Hickman jam to Led Zeppelin

We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas together two years ago. It was great. We made food, ate and sang some songs after dinner. It is among my most favorite times.

In the end, John could not stay sober for even a morning. He drank throughout the day. He smoked and he treated every night as a party, even when there was no more joy in it for him. He was loud and very grumpy. He didn't care for life that much and he saw no future. He was secure in the feeling he could never -- would never -- quit his addictions. Sadly, this was the end he chose for himself and he would say it often.

John saw many of his friends die from addiction. With each new death he saw it not as a wake up call, but as a premonition of his own. There was no changing his mind and no talking him out of it. I wish it were another way, because he had so much potential -- so much good in him: so much humanity.

John achieved things in his life, though, which were remarkable. He recalled to me once the rolling action of the Enterprise's deck in bad weather. He recalled the hectic flight deck and the camaraderie of the crew he served on. And, he could play his beloved guitar. Anyone who can love music the way he did has not lead a wasted life.
The Who was always on John's playlist

John's addiction pushed people away, though. He pushed people away. This was the fact. No one could have saved him. He was not having it. I remember him because no one else is going to do it. They saw his illness -- and it is an illness -- not the man. Most people could not get through the constant drinking and regular drugging; his dark moods and angry words. It is a shame, there was a lot more than that to him.

As a fellow veteran, John was my brother. I miss him, and miss what he could have been as well. John did not believe in God as much as Fate. I respectfully disagree with him, because I certainly hope he has found the joy and peace he so richly deserves in heaven. He would hate me talking about God and him but it is my hope and prayer.

John's life has ended. I do hope, though, that his story is a cautionary one for people suffering from addiction. I also hope people remember John and his contributions to the world.

Martin Luther King | "I Have A Dream" Speech

In honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Charlotte Church-Bridge over Troubled Water

For many of us, Christ is a powerful force in our lives. Indeed, He is our Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Please enjoy Charlotte Church's version of that immortal classic. Happy Sunday.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

'Yes, Jesus Loves Me,' Rendition by Rhema Marvanne

Discussion on Public Attitudes on Social Security Reform

The issue of Social Security Reform is going to be one that is going to come into focus very quickly in the coming Presidential Administration, which is only weeks away. There is a segment of Americans who do not believe this is going to be the case. However, even if incoming President Trump does not wish Social Security reform, it will nonetheless be a priority for the Republican-led Congress, which is going to compel the discussion -- and possible change -- during the next four years.

Now is not the time to put one's head into the sand and wish to ignore the coming events. The above video was not created by some fringe political group, but rather by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which is a Conservative organization that is proposing change.

How someone feels about Social Security is up to them. However, know that a time of great decision is coming and understand that knowing what is going on is better than finding out about it only after changes have been made. This issue is coming, and it will have to be contended with, as the conscience of each person dictates.

Ryan's plan for Social Security

Friday, January 6, 2017

The History of Social Security

Social Security is an issue that is about to take center-stage in the United States, as politicians and advocates of every stripe begin to consider questions about it. Every person will have their own view of what to do, if any, about Social Security. However, it is clear that any change in the system represents an enormous drift from what has come to be considered 'tried and true' where it involves the senior population of the United States.

What will become of Social Security? It is anyone's guess at this point. But, here is a little something about Social Security's past -- which represents the beginning of its story.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Social Security: What's next? An in-depth look coming

The election of 2016 is a distant memory now. What is left now is the swearings in of officials in Washington DC and around the country. The messages that were once slogans on signs and bumper stickers are now set to become bills and possibly laws.

There is no legislation more important in this country than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is because of this that The Purcell Chronicles will feature a multi-part series on Social Security -- right now -- in 2017 on the brink of a historic transition to an all-Conservative government majority in the White House and the both houses of the Congress.

The issues of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have passed the meridian of street politics and now head for the center stage in Washington DC.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Saudi Arabia spawns new worldwide health scare


According to the World Health Organization, since September, 2012, there have been 1,864 laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

The disease was first noted in Saudi Arabia and the WHO noted that its "understanding of the virus and the disease it causes is continuing to evolve."

According to the WHO, MERS-CoV is a viral respiratory illness caused by a "novel coronavirus." The disease first came into contact with humans, according to WHO researchers, through contact with diseased camel populations. While this must seem like the punchline of a joke for some Westerners, it is nonetheless a medical reality.

Since 2012's discovery, 659 deaths have been reported due to illnesses related to MERS-CoV. In addition, since that first appearance of the disease, it has spread to 27 countries around the globe. MERS-CoV can present in a range of ways, from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

According to the WHO, countries where the disease has occurred include: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, China, Thailand, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the United States, the Philippines, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea.

The House of Representatives Butchers Ethics Committee

Congressional Republicans have voted to limit the power of an independent ethics office created eight years ago. The purpose of the office was to rein in a series of embarrassing congressional scandals, from financial to sexual. Consequently, this office has been greatly limited in its powers following the vote.

What is a Therapeutic Community?

By David Kerr

It was 1978, a time when the Therapeutic Community or TC was a relatively new concept in the US and help was based on the positive strength and interaction of a community of people working together to help themselves and each other.  I worked with others in the Therapeutic Communities of America (TCA) and the World Federation of TC’s (WFTC) to define and codify the TC concept in the first international TC Certification Manual.  I spoke at the WFTC conference in Bali introducing many of my ideas but I was not alone.  I thank the many others in the US and in the worldwide TC movement for their tireless efforts at describing and passing on this unique form of help over many decades and even now!  The TC concept evolved and spread throughout the world to help millions with mental health and addiction issues.  Today, there are different interpretations of the Therapeutic Community as described below.  The pressure from many funding agencies to conform to the traditional medical/counseling model of help caused many program directors to stray from what they knew worked to what was fundable.  I experienced this pressure first hand and a few of us in Newark told our public funders: “close me down but I won’t do what I know doesn’t work.”  The original TC’s in the US were described by participants as hard and direct but the recovering staff knew what to do and new admits could not manipulate or “get over” on them.  More important, the new admits talked to those in the program and were convinced that “this program can work” while nothing else did.  The phrase “thanks for saving my life” was used by many members to each other and on speaking engagements.  They learned gratitude.  My hope is that those reading this paper will better understand the powerful help offered by the TC in 1978 and now.

This interview was transcribed word for word from a scripted interview in 1978 that I prepared to be read by myself (D.) and my pastor John (J.).  This mp3 is the actual audio tape of the scripted interview.

J.  What is a Therapeutic Community?  You talk about something called the Therapeutic Community.  Where did that phrase come from?
D. The phrase was coined by a doctor called Max Jones in a hospital in England called Dingleton.  Dr. Jones was a psychiatrist and concerned by the fact that traditional psychiatry did not seem to be helping the patient.  So he tried something unique. Nurses orderlies and other doctors got together in what he called a "ward meeting," where all were at the same level.  The idea was to try to reduce the authority figure in the hospital.  In short he was emphasizing the idea of self-help mutual help.  Let's all work together to help ourselves and one another.
J.  Well that's a very novel idea.  When did Dr. Jones bring the Therapeutic Community model to this country?
D.  Well he didn't really bring it. The type of Therapeutic Community that we now call the TC, did get started here.  For example in Connecticut, at the Yale Psychiatric Institute, a TC was started and it was very similar to his program at Dingleton.
J.  From there it just caught on in this country?
D.  Independent of Jones’ work, there was a fellow called Chuck Dederich who started a program called Synanon in Santa Monica California in 1958.  Synanon was a much more structured model of the AA meetings at the time.  Dederich’s model was also more authoritative than Jones's model and was based on alcoholics anonymous.  But still the basic concepts of self-help and social learning and being responsible for oneself, we're also reflected at Synanon. 
J.  So they have some things in common but also some real differences. Which model is common in America today?
D.  Well both the Jones and the Dederich models have undergone lots of changes. Both have improved quite a bit.  Today's Therapeutic Community model takes the positive aspects of both and yet it's more specific than either.  It's become a separate helping modality all on its own. 
J.  I still don't understand though what a Therapeutic Community really is.  I mean what's its goal? What does it try to do?
D.  Well, simply stated, it tries to teach people to grow up.
J.  Does that mean that the staff of these therapeutic communities are teachers and the clients are students?
D.  Everybody's a teacher I guess. The clients are teaching other clients as well as themselves.  It's called self-help and the clients are working together to help one another.
J.  Well suppose somebody has psychological problems in a TC.  How would the others deal with this since it's over their heads?  How do they deal with the self-help concept? Don’t you need a highly trained professional or doctor for this kind of problem?
D.  Well now don't forget, each TC does have a staff with a number of highly trained professionals and doctors on board.
J.  Would you say that people in a TC are not really clients, instead they are patients helping other patients as well as being supported or guided by the professional staff?
D.  In the TC, those wanting help are not really patients, as in the doctor-patient sense, in fact they're not even clients as in the social worker/ client relationship.  They’re not even students as in the teacher-student model.
J.  Okay, well then who or what are they?  Aren't we really just playing word games?
D.  Oh I don't think so.  There's an important distinction here.  Since the TC is more like a real living community or even a family, we like to call these people members just as we call them a member of the family, or a member of a community.  Each one is a part of it all.  We call our staff “coordinators” since they coordinate and facilitate the process of social learning.
J.  What exactly is the relationship between one of these TC's and the traditional helping professions treating people with psychological or behavioral problems?
D.  Simply stated they are very different.  The TC philosophy expressed in its controlled environment can replicate the natural process of growing up. The concept of maturation and social learning are really more appropriate terms to talk about what happens in the TC. Words like treatment, student, doctor, counselor or patient; these are words in the traditional disciplines but they have loaded meanings and I think they tend to cloud a true understanding of what the TC is about. Using the proper words in the TC is important because if you use the wrong words over and over again, you just get people confused about what they’re supposed to be learning.
J.  Well why do you even use the phrase Therapeutic Community?  When I hear therapeutic I think of the medical profession.
D.  Yeah right, “therapeutic” might not actually be the best word to describe our programs.  But the alternatives that we might suggest would probably cause so much problems and confusion.  I think at the time, we were afraid to change the word “therapeutic” too dramatically since we wanted our model to be held at the same level as other professionally respected models of help.
J.  That may be true
D.  You see we use the word “therapeutic” in a very generic sense. We don't equate it with the medical profession.  Actually, we use the word “therapy” to describe the entire positive social learning environment that fosters personal growth and maturation.
J.  I can see another reason: Since most of these TC's throughout the world are being funded under the label of Health agencies, I would suspect you would have to use the medical term if you're going to get funded.
D.  Probably true and these were practical considerations.
J.  Would you agree that 3rd party payments in the TC would only be paid if the program was seen as a variation of a medical facility?
D.  Very good and practical point.  Most TC's should be able to conform to the mandate of funding without modifying or undermining their own philosophies.  But if program survival needs alone are going to dictate program policy, then there simply won't be any TC's in the future, at least not as we know them today.
J.  Shouldn't the TC try to remain flexible and open to change though?
D.  Absolutely and in fact, it is one of the most flexible concepts of all the helping professions.  The more generic TC has been around for thousands of years and it is a concrete model.  A different way of solving human problems.
J.  You said that the TC has been around for thousands of years?  I thought you said that Jones started the model in England in the nineteen-forties?
D.  Well Max Jones coined the phrase but he certainly didn't invent the idea.  Actually Hobart Mowrer in a book called “Integrity Groups,” describes the Therapeutic Community concept as going all the way back to the pre-Christian era.
J.  I still have a question about the flexibility of the TC. 
D.  Well the TC is flexible but the TC staff have to understand the general guidelines under which an effective program can work and be modified. Without some basic clear-cut guidelines, there can't be any self-improvement, or staff development, or training, or program evaluation in the community.
J.  You make it sound like the TC has changed from originally being a social movement, to becoming a concrete philosophy or concept of treatment.
D.  That's partly true.  It really is a general philosophy.  The word treatment is really inappropriate.  Replace the word treatment with the phrase social learning or personal growth and you're talking about a TC.
J.  What do you mean when you say social learning?
D.  When I say social learning I mean the process of growing up.  Just like the child grows up and matures.
J.  Growing up is a complicated process though.  People do it in different ways. How could you possibly reduce that process to some set of simple guidelines?
D.  It's difficult, but I don't think it's impossible. We have some basic guidelines described in our manual. Not only have we defined the Therapeutic Community, but we have 10 competencies or skill areas that have to be understood and mastered by all the staff members in the TC.
J.  You seem to be trying to tie the whole TC concept into a tidy package.
D.  Well we really have to do that, not only for the purpose of good programming, but to assure that our approach will be accepted and survive with all the other traditional professions.
J.  In other words if you don't have it simple understandable manual you won't have a consistent approach.  But with this packaged or canned concept it still may not leave much room for flexibility.
D.  I understand why you would use that word canned but if you understood more about our ten competencies, you'd see that it is a very natural and common sense process which has a specific and clear-cut direction.  At the same time these competencies are general enough to accommodate even different belief systems from culture to culture and even country to country.
J.  You mean you can have this well-organized system applied differently in different countries?
D.  That's exactly what I mean.  Many people confuse specific tools and techniques in the Therapeutic Community with the overarching concept itself. 
J.  Do you suppose you could give an example of that?
D.  Well in the United States and especially in the northeast, programs find they have to use a certain hardline confrontation if they're going to help a person to see himself better and grow up.  Programs in Europe usually favored more subtle methods of change. For example Theme Centered Interaction, Gestalt therapy
J.  Come on now, confrontation and Gestalt therapy are miles apart. How can you possibly find anything in common between such different techniques?
D.  Oh but there are some general things in common, for example; first personal growth must occur in the TC no matter what therapy you use.  Secondly you have to make sure that the technique that you use to encourage personal growth is delivered just as much by the members emphasizing self-help, as it is by the staff. And finally the whole process has to conform to our TCA "Bill of Rights" and "Code of Ethics."
J.  That, I've never heard of.  Bill of Rights, Code of ethics? What is their role in the TC program?
D.  It's an absolutely crucial one. If you didn't have that Bill of Rights, a set of ethical principles could be badly manipulated by the staff and perhaps even turned into a cult.  Synanon itself initially went that route although they're trying to become more logical and rational today.  There are many self-proclaimed divine leaders who are manipulating people to follow whatever they're told to do.
J.  I know some of these codes can cause emotional harm, look at Jerry Jones Guenia.
D.  Right. Our broad based concept encourages such flexibility that the Code of Ethics and Bill of Rights are needed to make sure that kind of fanaticism doesn't creep into our midst.
J.  Okay how does one go about starting a TC?
D.  Basically you need 2 things: A group of people and a system of beliefs.
J.  How do you create a belief system?
D.  With people working together. They might be members or staff and they would decide on a system of values or beliefs that will become the backbone of their own program. That's what makes each individual TC absolutely unique and it encourages those who participate to feel like they really own it!
J.  Do they have any guidelines to do this?
D.  Well as long as the belief system generally reflects the values and ideals and of course the culture of the surrounding community, no specific guidelines.  That's what allows each TC to be unique and become its own particular program with its own values and all the rest.
J.  I think I'm beginning to finally get the picture. There's a large group of TC’s but within that larger community you can establish your own individual TC; a small community in its own right.
D.  That is exactly it.  Once the staff and members develop their own policies and rules, regulations, beliefs whatever, then it's up to everyone to abide by those guidelines, until such time as they need to be changed.
J.  Well how does change occur in a TC?
D.  Hopefully not by some kind of mandate or executive decree!  We encourage democratic decision-making where the members and staff throw out ideas and allow change to evolve in a natural manner through community interaction and feedback. 
J.  Well from what I have heard, little as it is, about TC's some of them sound pretty authoritative.
D.  You have to be assertive sometimes, say when you're dealing with a general crisis. Say there's a fire going on in the third floor, somebody's got to take charge; or there's a member in great distress who's threatening somebody's life or safety.  A decision has to be made quickly and effectively. You need an appropriate structure or authority. But most decisions are not like that. They can be made by the members themselves along with the staff. They don't have to be made quickly; so we can all sit down and in a truly democratic sense, decide what needs to be changed and how we're going to change it.  
J.  I can see where a sense of ownership that belongs to everyone would create a better team spirit and maybe even make it more likely that a member would continue to belong. What about the needs of the individual member? There are some people who function fine in a group but once they leave that group they don't even know who they are. 
D.  Now you're touching on a critical area here when you speak of individual needs.
J.  I can picture TC's pumping out robots into society who all resemble one mold. But they have no idea how this relates to their own individual needs and goals. They don't even know what to do when they leave the program. 
D.  That's why the TC stresses not only belonging to a family, but the individuality of every single member. It's a careful but important relationship, what we call a dialectic relationship between being an individual and belonging to the group.  Another words and member of the TC at one time may want to be part of the group, but the next minute he's rebelling and he wants to separate. He wants to go to his room and be alone. 
J.  It sounds like this person is pretty confused.
D.  Well perhaps it is.  Sometimes we want to be with people and sometimes we want to be left alone.  In our certification manual one of the competencies described speaks of this relationship between belonging and individuality.  
D.  The Therapeutic Community encourages both selfhood and the sense of being a person
J.  Could you elaborate on that?
D.  Sure; the phrase sense of being a person is what we call self-esteem, and self-esteem has been shown by at least one National study, to be enhanced in members who remain in our program for at least six months. 
J.  They just come to have more respect and regard for themselves? Is that what you mean by the sense of being a person?
D. That's right
J.  Then what do you mean by selfhood?
D.  Selfhood.  Well that really means individuality, personal identity. Unfortunately there are some TC's that don't seem to recognize this.
J.  I'm sure there are
D.  They want people to conform and by the time people complete that kind of TC program, they're ill prepared to reenter Society or pull their own weight without a crowd of people surrounding them to give them support.
J.  Now you're starting to make sense. I think that people have to stand up on their own.  They've got to make it. They've got to learn to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
D.  Hold on, that's not exactly what I mean. I don't think any of us are that sure of ourselves to reject the help of others if we really need the help. There's a phrase that goes "you alone must do it but you can't do it alone," from Hobart Mowrer. But I don't think it's so contradictory.
J.  But in one breath your talking about a concept that is only for self-help, and in the next you're saying that you need other people to help you. What is it that you're really trying to say?
D.  I guess all of that.  The first competence of the TC Certification Manual talks about self-help and mutual-help. It says help yourself but help each other as well. Whether we like it or not we are all interdependent. We all have to pull our own weight, to one degree or another, yes, but don’t we need the support of other people as well?
J.  Okay who is the TC supposed to help?
D.  It's supposed to help people with problems. They might be having emotional difficulties, they could be drug addicts or alcoholics, inmates or incorrigible children.
J.  It seems to me that if you have a group of drug addicts and you put them together for any period of time, all that they’re going to do is to start to plan how to get out, find some money, buy some dope.  Sure they pretend to go along with the program if they have to, but as soon as they walk out the door they start scheming - how to find some money and do some dope.  They're going to create their own leaders and their own structure, just like they do in prison.
D.  Now that is a valid and good point.  Unless a TC is functioning properly, that is exactly what is going to happen. But remember the Therapeutic Community is not a prison. Peer pressure is important and it could work positively or it could work negatively. Staff members are trained to work the peer pressure in a positive way, to encourage members to be positive rather than negative role models. It is not like being in prison.
J.  Well how does that happen?
D.  There has to be a high level of member interaction and participation, even to the point of having members manage the program.  When that happens then people begin calling the program their own.
J.  I can understand that but then they can talk about people as being their brothers and their sisters; people who matter to them. In the end, the regulations in most institutions come down to "it’s us versus them."
D.  Members should really care for each other.  Staff should not always have to assume the parental or custodial role either.
J.  But you said the members actually manage the program?
D.  Now why shouldn't they?
J.  Because they're sick, they have problems, I don't know....
D.  Hey now just because they've demonstrated irresponsible behavior in the past, doesn't mean that they're irresponsible people or that they should automatically be called sick.  That word (sick) is not appropriate to describe anyone in a TC.
J.  But managing the program?
D.  Well in Competence 2 of the manual there's an emphasis on very high expectations for members of the TC. 
J.  But we all can't be president if you know what I mean...
D.  Expectations reflecting a positive attitude, without being unreasonable
J.  What do you mean by that?
D.  In a TC we don't want to be too hung up on labels.  We don't want to become stuck with the prefex "ex,"  as in ex-addict, ex-con or ex-mental patient. 
J.  Yeah, for example; I was an ex-elementary School student. I know what you mean
D.  Traditional helping professions focus so heavily in the past that the present and the future may automatically become limited.
J.  You're saying that in a TC people believe that a person's background doesn't really matter?
D.  Of course it does. That's the reason that there's a high rate of recidivism. The negative ingrained thinking is that I am and I will be what I was in the past. 
J.  So what are you saying?
D.  What I am saying is how powerful and impressionable a person’s past is
J.  I see
D.  But the TC process is geared to counteract this tailspin by emphasizing new possibilities, high expectations.  I'm suggesting that a person need not be limited by the past.
J.  How are you going to teach people success after they've been failing year-after-year?
D.  Well just like failures can become habitual, success can become a habit.  The TC tries to encourage members to make a strong effort to succeed.  This effort is recognized and reinforced by the other members.  They're encouraged to appreciate the effort and the outcome, and to realize that the struggle to complete the task is just as important as the outcome of completing it. Insight into their problems comes from group and individual interaction but learning to experience, failing and succeeding and putting up with the consequences; that has the most impact on achieving change that is going to last.
J.  I think I get the picture so is this what you were talking about when you mentioned social learning?
D.  Yes, I've talked about social learning as being similar to a child's growing up. 
J.  I remember that
D.  During that process when a child fails and succeeds, a child is always learning, always maturing. Unfortunately many of the lessons of life must be learned through experience. The TC members must be allowed to fail since the successes that follow will be theirs, all theirs.  Their peers will confront them and this doesn’t need a lecture or counseling session by a staff member.  The lessons that they learn from the role modeling of their peers and from their own experiences are going to become part of their own personal change, improved self-image and eventual new lifestyle. 
J.  But doesn't a child learn by copying and imitating his parents? 
D.  As I mentioned before, this is power of positive role modeling in the TC. It is essential that Therapeutic Community staff recognize the value of role modeling in their program.  In the Therapeutic Community just as in real life, residents learn quickly from their peers to assume leadership roles. They model their behavior and attitudes after their peers much more quickly than if they were being told in a traditional didactic counseling session.
J.  But what if one of these members is a leader with a negative attitude? What effect does this have on the other members?
D.  Well the role of the staff and the other members in the TC is to promote and exemplify positive role modeling.  In the Therapeutic Community, one strong negative leader has the potential to destroy the entire TC family.  In fact this individual might have to be expelled if he/she does not learn to practice the principles of the TC.
J.  If this so-called ‘bad apple’ doesn't want to change his ways what impact can you have on him?
D.  Well some people do not want to change their ways no matter what opportunities are presented to them.  But in the Therapeutic Community we utilize very important growth or motivation mechanisms called "act as if."
J.  In other words, just do what you're told no matter how you feel?
D.  Yes but not exactly. We encourage people who have a habit of expressing depression or sadness to smile or whistle or act happy, even if he doesn’t feel like it.  If someone claims he does not know how to do something we tell him to "act as if he does."  Of course he should take the appropriate initiative and training to learn how he should do his job function and “act as if.” 
J.  If I'm in a bad mood I don't want to pretend that I'm happy.
D.  If you're in a bad mood in the Therapeutic Community, a major premise is to act as if you're happy and you’ll have 30 to 60 to 90 of your peers acting the same way helping to enforce your positive new behavior.  Just by repetition and the reinforcement of others you'll begin to learn to act as if you're happy. 
J.  But acting as if doesn't really make it happen does it?
D.  We find that in the Therapeutic Community if you act a certain way long enough, pretty soon you're going to feel that way and you become that individual.  That is the power of the Therapeutic Community and its impact on lifestyle change.  Parents are continually surprised as they see their sons and daughters, after only a few months in the TC, display an entirely different and positive attitude about life.  Here’s what the great behaviorist William James said “If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.[1]
J.  I've heard about the positive change that happens in the TC
D.  People spend most of their waking hours grumbling or complaining about having to get up and do menial chores around the house.  But after a while, they do massive amounts of work around the TC with few complaints, and often while displaying a positive attitude!
J.  Well if you see positive results from a member in the Therapeutic Community what kind of recognition do you give them?  I always hear about the stern rules and regulations and repercussions in the TC, but what about the positive side? What about some recognition?
D.  As I mentioned before, recognition in the TC comes from the behavior of succeeding, and that success is appreciated by both members and staff.  There are rewards in demonstrating positive attitudinal change and behavioral change.  This change is recognized by other members in the TC, giving more responsibility, more privileges and more recognition in the structural hierarchy.  In most therapeutic communities there is some kind of management structure, where certain senior members supervise newer members. This is especially necessary in order to promote the smooth functioning of the Therapeutic Community in areas like the kitchen Department, laundry, maintenance etc.
J.  I guess that’s kind of like the self-help we were talking about before.
D.  Right. After a member has demonstrated positive improvement he is rewarded by being advanced in the community structure.  He assumes more responsibility in the TC, also as I said, more privileges will be earned in this way.
J.  In other words, upward mobility and privileges are offered for self-improvement?
D.  In general that's correct but there are intangibles in the Therapeutic Community that we touched on, such as improving self-esteem, good feelings from one person to another, appreciating the need to be concerned for one another and to feel that concern.  These are also motivators that reinforce continued helping behavior
J.  You mentioned self-esteem.  There are studies that I've read showing that the self-esteem does increase for members in a Therapeutic Community.  But don't traditional individual counseling sessions have a role in the social learning process?
D.  Oh they do to some extent but I think that one experiential lesson is worth a hundred sermons or counseling sessions.  Remember the successes that occur in the TC are real, they're legitimate and just like real life situations. These experiences are not easily forgotten. And the success is rewarded by peer admiration and respect, and by advancement in the program. These successes gradually become stronger and are motivation for future accomplishments and more success!  They become a new lifestyle!
J.  I agree that "nothing succeeds like success"
D.  That's right.
J.  But what kind of activities actually go on every day in a TC[2]?
D.  That will vary from program to program but most TC’s spend a good deal of time in what we call "survival issues;" things like doing the laundry, maintaining the cleanliness of the house, public relations, preparing good food, cleaning up, making the beds, soliciting donations and things like that.
J.  But with all this housework and maintenance, you know I can understand the need for that but when do they have time for their therapy?
D.  That depends on what you mean when you say "therapy," because we use it in a very general sense.  All the interaction that is going on, even the work itself, is part of the growth process in the TC.
J.  Yes so that's part of their therapy, but what techniques get people well in a TC?
D.  Remember people in a TC are not sick so they don’t “get well.”  You might call their previous behavior and attitude immature or irresponsible,
J.  So the purpose of the TC is not to make people well, but to help people become more mature and behave more responsibly?
D.  Yes, and then they can grow up!
J.  Aren't there certain tried-and-true techniques in the TC that encourage this kind of growth?
D.  Well as I said before, the TC establishes its own values, its own belief systems that dictate a certain way that people work to help themselves and each other to grow up.   Again we use the word therapy in a general sense in the TC. Some programs will emphasize the encounter approach, or the scream approach, Christ therapy, whatever. While others emphasize health physical fitness techniques, personal enrichment, many many different things. 
J.  Well then does it matter what therapy you use?
D.  As long as that therapy is ethical and it doesn't violate a person's rights it really doesn't matter, as long as it works four people and helps people grow up.
J.  What you're really saying is that the specific therapy doesn't help people to grow up?
D.  What I'm saying is that it is the members’ belief in the positive value of the therapy, that has perhaps the most impact on self-improvement.
J.  I see

D.  More than the specific form that the therapy takes, in the end it's the day-to-day interactions, learning from experience, the role modeling and peer pressure, high expectations, the belief system itself, the sense of belonging as well as the sense of individuality[3], and finally the continued successes, that help a person to grow up.
J.  Are you saying that counseling the way it's traditionally described has relatively little impact?
D.  Showing concern from one person to another, demonstrating feelings, that's always important, whether it's done in a counseling session or whether it happens between people in a more informal sense.
J.  I keep hearing the thread of "human concern" and I certainly appreciate that in the TC, but how is this kind of concern shown? What are the specifics?
D.  You name it: Hugging, yelling, pleading, crying... The emphasis here is honest and genuine concern, trust, confidence in yourself, confidence your fellow men and women in the community. That's what's most important to learn in a TC.
J.  It almost sounds like something spiritual is going on in the TC.
D.  Well in our TC definition, which has now been adopted by the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities, it says that being part of something greater than oneself is an especially important factor facilitating personal growth. We believe that. Trust in something greater than oneself plays a very important role.
J.  Well from all you've described so far it seems that the TC is based on common sense. But then it's obviously very different from the traditional helping professions.  It's not like social work; it's not like rehabilitative counseling, or medicine, or psychology, psychiatry, teaching or really much of anything else.
D.  Exactly. It is a new model. A model for helping people to grow up, using the self-help philosophy and emphasizing the things I've mentioned before: " peer pressure, role modeling, act as if, learning through experience, setting high expectations, and the concepts of group confession and revelation.  The TC is a helping profession in its own right run by staff members who are well-trained certified, and fully professional.

This tape is a product of therapeutic communities of America. Thanks to the members of the credentialing task force as well and as other members of TCA who have contributed to the preparation of this interview.  Also thanks to the Reverend John McFadden for his help in the interview.  Both John and I were reading from a carefully prepared script describing the Therapeutic Community that I created in 1978, as understood by members of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities.  The dialogue accurately describes the nature of most Therapeutic Communities at that time.  The communal nature of experiential learning leading to personal growth was at odds with the Medical community and the traditional counseling model.
The purpose of my reiteration of what we did in the late 1970’s is to better track where we have been and where we are now in the model called Therapeutic Community. 
What is interesting to me and at the same time sad, is that, in the name of progress and securing our funds, many TC programs are now being forced to trash the very essence of what made the TC so well equipped to help addicts both then and now.  New rules and funding mandates are having the unintended consequence of encouraging extensive paperwork and reporting requirements that often don’t allow time for staff to show life changing human concern and caring.  These traits cannot be learned in class or seminars and yet they are critical qualifications for TC staff that often are acquired by the role modeling of others or by personal experience as an addict in recovery.

Most folks with some experience in the addiction field can see, even with only a short visit to a TC, whether or not the program is “owned” by the residents and staff.  This ownership can be seen in the positive family atmosphere of the TC.  An atmosphere that can offer a true live and learn experience for months and for years.  An environment that brings a person with addiction back to a positive lifestyle showing improved functioning, a more positive attitude and greatly improved self-responsibility and self-esteem.

​In general, shorter stay = quicker relapse

​From NIDA: ​
Traditionally, stays in TCs have varied from 18 to 24 months. Recently, however, funding restrictions have forced many TCs to significantly reduce stays to 12 months or less and/or develop alternatives to the traditional residential model (see "How else can TCs be modified?").
For individuals with many serious problems (e.g., multiple drug addictions, criminal involvement, mental health disorders, and low employment), research again suggests that outcomes were better for those who received TC treatment for 90 days or more. In a DATOS study, treatment outcomes were compared for cocaine addicts with six or seven categories of problems and who remained in treatment at least 90 days. In the year following treatment, only 15 percent of those with over 90 days in TC treatment had returned to weekly cocaine use, compared to 29 percent of those who received over 90 days of outpatient drug-free treatment and 38 percent of those receiving over 3 weeks of inpatient treatment.

[2] See  for a good description of the TC by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
[3] “Identity and Belonging”  Posted on February 6, 2014 by Jenny Minter
Who am I?: self and other (by Dr Jennifer Minter, English Works articles)
Theme (context/creating and presenting for Year 12): Identity and Belonging: what are the issues for self and other?
As the former Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu once said, “a person is a person through other persons.”  This statement alludes to the fact that belonging is critical to our sense of self as a person; often we define ourselves through the quality of these relationships.   Likewise an Age columnist, Ross Gittins reminds us, “we are, above all, social animals.” After we have secured our physical survival, the most important thing in each of our lives is our relationships: with friends, neighbours, workmates and, above all, with our families”.  He asks, “take away all our relationships and who would have much reason to keep living?”