What is Caritas?
Caritas — the Latin translation of the Greek word agapē, meaning “an unlimited loving kindness to all others” — grew from a telephone call made to Father Gianni Carparelli in 1980 by a distressed mother seeking help for her drug-addicted son. Soon after, groups of concerned parents with similar problems were meeting together. Caritas held its first annual “Together Event” in 1989 to educate the community and raise awareness regarding the needs of drug addicts and their families. Operating as a Canadian registered charity since 1994, Caritas is now a highly structured non-medical “Therapeutic Community” with a long-term residential program at its core.
Can Caritas medically treat my son’s addiction?
No, not medically! Within the Caritas Therapeutic Community, you will find a long-term residential program that is based on the belief that addiction is not a medical condition, but rather an acquired way of life. Therapeutic Communities have been designed to lead addicted individuals toward an understanding of the underlying issues that prompted the poor choices they’ve made regarding substance abuse. The degree to which a person is able to recognize, understand and let go of these underlying issues will determine their post-program success. In short, there is no existing medicine or medical treatment that can aid this process.
Is Caritas a religious program?
Caritas, like other Therapeutic Communities, integrates spirituality rather than religion into treatment. Caritas believes that addiction and other major life problems must be interpreted within a holistic, multidimensional (bio-psycho-social- spiritual) framework. Therefore, the program addresses human life in its entirety: the individual’s living body (bio-medical), the part of them that thinks and feels (psychological), their social skills — or lack thereof (social), and their spiritual needs (spiritual).
What is the admission criteria? Is Caritas solely for individuals with an addiction problem?
When abstinence is among the desired goals, those with a desire to recover are invited to join our weekly Inquiry Groups. These groups are designed to provide the individual with more information about the Caritas program, an understanding of why they might need help, and contact information for other available types of treatment should they not be interested in the Caritas program. The Caritas program is not solely for those who have drug addiction problems. Generally speaking, Caritas deals with people who have major inabilities coping with life. Our approach to recovery is broad enough to encompass various populations, including those dealing with mental health issues, gambling addictions and/or other behavioural problems. Ultimately, there is only one main criterion for admission and that is that you must want to accept our help.
Do you offer any scholarships to the residents?
No, we do not offer program scholarships. Our experience has shown that, if an individual has their own money invested in their recovery, then their chances of success increase. Conversely, if a person is given a scholarship, they have less at stake and are generally less committed to completing an honest recovery program. An individual has to invest in their recovery both morally and financially to make it work!
How long is the residential program?
Our experience tells us that 5 or 6 months are not enough. The duration of this all male residential program is 25 months, offered as a complete experience in 4 phases. It takes time to “unlearn” unproductive attitudes, lifestyles and values, and to establish a solid foundation on which a meaningful recovery can be built.
Why is there no contact between residents and their families for the first few months?
Lewis Yablonsky wrote in his 1989 book, The Therapeutic Community, that “The TC (Therapeutic Community) policy of restricting visits…to the newcomer is based on several specified assumptions. A guiding theme is that the newcomer addict is in effect an ‘emotional infant,’ and that some prior relationships encouraged, supported, or, at minimum, were incapable of deterring the individual’s use of drugs.” Since family dynamics can be a major force in the troubled individual’s life, the family must also be a central component in helping to facilitate long-term changes. In order for this to occur, families, as well as the addicted individual, need to understand the necessity for a change in their destructive patterns of behaviour. For these reasons — and especially to intervene and prevent certain setbacks due to family dynamics inadvertently disrupting the treatment process — we have adopted a policy that prohibits family contact for the first few months.
What is your position on “confrontation”?
Self-defeating behaviours are confronted in a caring manner through peer relationships and the utilization of the group process. However, within the Therapeutic Community model, modifications and exceptions must be made based on the guiding parameters of each client’s ability to tolerate and/or benefit from such standard interventions as confrontation, behaviour modification, etc.
What is your position on “harm reduction”?
Caritas, as a member of Therapeutic Communities of America (TCA), endorses the same views held by The World Federation of Therapeutic Communities (WFTC):
• The Therapeutic Community represents a design of treatment which is directed primarily toward recovery from substance abuse through personal growth and which requires abstinence from mind-altering substances (including prescription drugs used illegally).”
• Abstinence is a goal for individuals in the Therapeutic Community process and TCs will give a voice to a person in their decision-making process.
• Interaction with other health and social service networks will be based on treatment concepts leading to abstinence. Consequently, treatment concepts that approach addiction as “an incurable disease” are unacceptable.
• Needle-exchange projects and the policy of providing addictive substitute drugs (such as methadone) without any personal contact directed at improving the life of the addicted individual are inhumane and should be avoided. The prescribing of a substitute drug should only be implemented as a component of a program focused on rehabilitating the addict.
• Therapeutic Communities treat people, not drugs. Drug addiction is a symptom of other problems that can be dealt with after the drug-abuse and other acting-out behaviour have stopped.
• Treatment of addiction, which takes place in Therapeutic Communities, is “harm reduction.” However, “harm reduction,” as the term is commonly used, is not treatment. Therapeutic Communities aspire to be part of an integrated treatment system that includes residential and out-patient programs, day centres, methadone programs, detoxification clinics, as well as prison and hospital alternatives.
What is the most difficult aspect for a prospective resident upon entry into the program?
It has often been said that the most difficult part of recovery is asking for help. While this may be true, once an individual has entered our program, they will encounter a number of other difficulties and obstacles, some real, some only perceived. Initially, new residents complain about superficial things — perceived problems — that all speak to the lifestyle change that they are experiencing. For example, following a detailed schedule which charts their movements 24 hours per day, 7 days per week can be troubling for the person who has previously had the freedom to do whatever they want whenever they want — even if that only amounted to getting high — at any given time of the day.
Another common “perceived” issue that tends to surface at the commencement of the program is its duration. The fact that this is a 25-month program becomes an easily offered excuse for residents who want to leave prematurely.
On the other hand, the real difficulties and obstacles faced by a person entering our program will surface when the individual attempts to understand the root of their problem without “crutches” that can be used to escape from pain or a “mask” that can be used to hide from it. The closer the individual gets to the core of their problems, the harder the process becomes — until, finally, they are forced to manage their emotions in a healthy way.
What happens to a resident after completing the program?
Caritas offers The Transitional and the Guest Phase programs to its graduates. After the completion of the program residents are encouraged to enter a short “Transitional” phase in order to re-integrate into the society. Caritas also provides a “Guest” house for those interested in staying after the completion of the “Transitional” phase. At this point our graduates have entered the work force or attend a school on a full-time basis.