Identity, empathy, and inequality in a drug-focused therapeutic community Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
Creator
  • Ezzell, Matthew Brewer
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
Abstract
  • Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews, this dissertation examines the processes involved in the treatment of drug use problems at a therapeutic community (TC)--a residential program for individuals seeking personal change--and the accounts that staff members used to justify their treatment methods. In the Chapter II, I analyze the use of traditional TC treatment methods. I argue that staff members justified the use of the these techniques by (a) defining addicts as personally irresponsible, (b) construing them as manipulative liars, and (c) claiming personal authority for themselves as former addicts. I show that although staff rhetoric centered on personal responsibility, the organization left little room for it among the residents. I argue that the focus in the organization on compliance and social control constrained the moral agency of the residents. In Chapter III, I analyze the ways that male residents claimed a masculine self during group accountability sessions. I argue that in response to a loss of control in their lives, the men were encouraged to perform compensatory manhood acts through: 1) aggressive confrontation; 2) the subordination of women and non-conventional men; 3) gendered calls to account; and, 4) the control of emotional display. I argue that the men's identity performances drew on misogyny and homophobia for meaning, neglected the structural, and served as a means of social control by the organization. In Chapter IV, I analyze the ways that staff responded to a threat to their identities. TC staff were historically drawn from the ranks of former residents. The implementation of a new therapeutic approach represented a threat: (1) it challenged their claim to personalized authority in the organization; (2) it threatened their sense of competence and made them uncomfortable; and, (3) it altered the methods that they believed had worked for them as residents. Staff members with professional degrees responded through: (a) appeals to professionalization, (b) appeals to biology and empowerment, and (c) appeals to effectiveness. This research aids our understanding of the processes of personal and professional identity threat, in addition to adding to an analysis of treatment practices in TCs.
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  • Kleinman, Sherryl
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