Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Mental health personnel-Attitudes, Mental health personnel-Psychology, Therapeutic communities, Residential therapeutic community, Staff members


This qualitative study was developed in order to gather information on residential therapeutic communities for individuals in mental health recovery. Although there is much literature on the therapeutic community modality, little is written about residential therapeutic communities (RTCs) in which staff members alongside clients in the community. The researcher was interested in gathering perspectives of current and former staff members who have worked and lived in such communities. Ten participants from two separate residential therapeutic communities in New England were interviewed. Participants must have shared a home with clients for at least 3 months. All participants were asked open-ended questions that prompted them to reflect on their experience as a staff member, to describe motivations for taking the job, to name rewards and challenges of their role, and to describe how they experienced the overlap between their home life and their professional role. Major findings of the study include: staff members were motivated to take on their job because of the unique opportunity to live in a community, and staff members often experienced challenges in navigating physical, personal, and psychic boundaries with clients and with the community as a whole. Another finding was that participants valued the experience of living and working in residential therapeutic communities for many reasons. In particular, participants noted that the complexity of navigating therapeutic and personal boundary challenges allowed them opportunities to develop authenticity as well as deepen their own self-awareness and relational skills.




iii, 60 p. Thesis (M.S.W.-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 53-54)