From Therapeutic Community to the Real World: A Windhorse Transition

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Length: 17 minutes

David L. Stark, CPS

Clients with a history of severe social challenge (such as the presenter, a former Windhorse client) often have lost social skills not simply due to illness, but due to lack of opportunities-- to practice, to regain trust and confidence in others, and to form genuine friendships.  Illness and at times, the unrealistic expectations of treatment providers can unfortunately create conditions in which the ability to relate to others may be dormant, forgotten, or even deemed futile. Windhorse offers entering clients an opportunity to engage with others through the framework of therapeutic community.  The community consists both of clients (who are “peers” to each other) and professionals (who are trained in forming authentic, clinical, yet mutual relationships with the clients they serve).  Through a daunting process of trial and error, experimentation, developing a capacity to withstand anxiety and let go of paranoia, redefining shameful or embarrassing moments as exercises in being fully present, and developing strategies for self-assertiveness and for accepting disappointment when goals remain unmet, clients accrue valuable social experience in a variety of community circumstances. 

The ultimate goal, however, is to transcend and graduate from the therapeutic community container.  Navigation of the supportive Windhorse milieu establishes confidence and a form of social currency that can then be transferred to the forming of connection in the outer, public community.  This broadening of social network, and experience of reciprocal relationship, are the social and emotional terrain of the recovering Windhorse client.

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