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Therapeutic Community Model for Alcohol & Drug Treatment


A powerful tool in recovery

The therapeutic community at Smarmore Castle is one of the most important resources available to patients. On entering our programme, the patient joins a community of people going through similar experiences and united by the common desire for recovery. It provides a trusting, safe environment and an excellent source of support and understanding.The benefits will stay with patients when they return to their homes and communities.

It is common for individuals suffering from addiction to become isolated and inward-looking, ignoring others. Part of the recovery process involves identifying these destructive behaviours and overcoming them. Reconnecting with others and recognising others’ needs is an important element of this. During group therapy, positive peer influences help patients to identify feelings and use problem solving  to improve their attitudes and behaviour. This helps to build self-esteem and encourages openness, allowing patients to engage fully with the treatment programme.

What is a therapeutic community?

The residential nature of our care means that we have formed a supportive community which is of therapeutic value for the patients. Community spirit is expressed in a number of different ways:

  • Established patients mentor newcomers. They often provide new patients with an understanding of treatment and recovery, as well as helping to reduce any anxiety they may feel.
  • Patients attend therapy in the same groups for the duration of their stay, meaning they develop strong relationships with peers.
  • Patients provide each other with support and understanding in group therapy sessions, as well as challenging unhelpful, negative attitudes and beliefs surrounding addiction.
  • Patients follow rules to ensure that everyone is treated equally.
  • Patients create an inclusive, open atmosphere and not forming cliques.
  • Staff follow the dynamics of the therapeutic community closely and intervene on the rare occasions when this is necessary.

In what ways does the community benefit patients?

  • It provides a safe space where patients can express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.
  • Other patients have often experienced the same life circumstances, thoughts or behaviour, meaning they can provide mutual support and understanding.
  • The patient learns to cooperate with others.
  • They must solve any disagreements or conflict without resorting to alcohol or drug use, which develops new coping mechanisms.
  • Self-esteem is boosted by interacting with others and sharing their experiences with a group.
  • Living according to a shared set of rules allows patients to take responsibility for their behaviour, and consider the needs of the community.
  • Following a routine restores order to the patient’s life and provides them with a shared sense of purpose.

We listen to patients

Staff and patients meet weekly to discuss matters affecting the therapeutic community and to voice any concerns. We listen to our patients and we ask them to help us shape their community. This structure encourages personal responsibility.

The importance of community for recovery

Our therapeutic community is one of the factors that makes Smarmore Castle’s treatment programme so effective. Patients leaving our programme often name this as the most important factor for their recovery. This is only possible within a residential rehab programmes like ours, and may partly explain the higher success rates of inpatient compared to outpatient care.


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Find Us

Smarmore Castle is located near Ardee, County Louth, about 45 minutes north of Dublin, Republic of Ireland and 1.5 hours south of Belfast, Northern Ireland.