Unfortunately the Arbours Association is no longer offering Therapeutic Communities as part of its ongoing service. The Arbours therapeutic communities closed its doors in May 2020
Our houses were situated in quiet residential areas of north London. They were comfortably furnished and could accommodate up to eight residents in single rooms with communal rooms shared by everyone. When possible we tried to ensure an even balance between male and female residents and attempted to provide as wide a range and diversity of cultural and ethnic backgrounds as possible.
- aims and objectives
- referral criteria & assessment procedures
- user participation
- community support & therapy programme
- staff support
- practical support
- families and partners
- moving on and after-care
Aims and Objectives
Our aim was to maintain a nurturing, non-institutional, home-like atmosphere where respect for the freedom and unique potential of each individual was honoured. We saw it as our task to help residents face and work on the difficulties that may be impeding their growth, and to motivate them in the direction of achieving a more satisfying way of life so that they could live as viable members of society.
The umbrella of therapeutic and practical support provided by Arbours fostered a climate providing necessary freedom for residents to find their own identity and take responsibility for their lives. The long-term aim was for each resident to overcome his or her emotional and psychological dependency and to gain a more independent way of living.
Referral Criteria and Assessment Procedures
Referrals to the communities came from individuals, psychiatrists, GPs, social workers, psychologists, and psychotherapists, and from statutory and voluntary agencies.
Each potential resident had an interview with an experienced psychotherapist who assessed the applicant’s psychological and emotional needs, and suitability as a community resident. This provided an opportunity for the potential resident to raise any questions they had and to receive information about the communities.
The next stages in the assessment procedure were interviews with each of the house clinical coordinators and an informal meeting with the present residents. If all went well, the potential resident was invited to spend a weekend in the community. The whole procedure lasted from four to six weeks.
User participation was a vital component of our therapeutic approach. We expected each person to contribute to the running of the house, and to help with cooking, cleaning, shopping, financial management and maintenance, as well as with choosing new members and with attending on-going discussions of house policies.
Community Support and Therapy Programme
Throughout their stay in the community, residents were required to attend:
- The twice-weekly group meetings, which were led by the house clinical coordinators, where the residents could explore and clarify both personal and inter-personal issues. The group could also offer an experience of belonging that was often lacking in individuals who had been isolated by their problems.
- Two individual psychotherapy sessions a week with a trained and experienced psychotherapist where residents could explore the meaning of their problems and difficulties in a trusting one-to-one relationship.
- Art and movement therapy groups (one of each a week) where residents could explore their experiences and feelings in a medium other than words: through painting, drawing, sculpture and movement.
In addition the residents were living in a therapeutic milieu in which they could learn, with the support of the clinical coordinators, the community facilitators and their peers, to take responsibility for themselves and others and to learn relational, social and domestic skills. Any difficulties experienced in meeting these responsibilities were discussed in the regular house meetings.
Our experience showed that it took time for a person’s psychological repertoire to unfold. Therapeutic programmes could not, therefore, be static. Residents’ progress was assessed on an ongoing basis, and changes were effected at times to meet their needs. In addition, formal internal reviews of residents’ needs and progress took place approximately every six months.
The community provided outings and day activities and residents were encouraged to explore and create links with the outside community, working towards eventually making use of courses and other activities.
Arbours has always been concerned about the alienating aspects of “staff-patient” relationships often found in institutional settings. In order to counter-balance such alienation we developed a careful programme of staff support that proved to be both therapeutic and effective. During the past fifty years, our experience has been that this supportive therapeutic programme has made it easier for residents to resolve their difficulties.
Two clinical coordinators, both experienced psychotherapists, had overall practical and therapeutic responsibility for the house. They were on call for advice and support and led house meetings every week. Residents saw their own individual psychotherapists twice a week and attended art and movement therapy groups once weekly.
In addition to the above, we established a policy of having in the house, residential community facilitators who shared living in the community. In addition, our trainee psychotherapists and volunteers conducted visiting placements.
The Arbours office provided assistance with DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) and Local Authority payments, and advice about rights, training courses and any other issues throughout the resident’s stay.
The office staff visited the community regularly to impart useful information and offered practical help, particularly with problems related to social security and with maximising income. The office staff were also available to provide help with move-on accommodation and any other practical issues.
Families and Partners
The families, partners and other individuals in the resident’s social network may have been in need of emotional psychological support. Where appropriate, we were able to see residents with their partners or family. It was however at times more therapeutic for families and partners to receive individual psychotherapy, which we provided directly by means of a referral.
Moving On and After Care
When moving-on was indicated, appropriate support was provided and residents were able to discuss their anxieties and practical difficulties of moving on with the house clinical coordinators and in the house meetings. Residents were encouraged to take courses, train and find employment before leaving the community.