Milieu Therapy: What Is It?
“Milieu” is French for the social environment. Milieu therapy leverages therapeutic communities and environments to inspire and effect positive change on individuals, often focused on self-care and cognitive-communication. Simply, milieu places a particular emphasis on the ability of community to promote change in the individual. In substance abuse treatment programs, milieu therapies help ensure patients are better equipped for successful long-term recovery.
“People respond to love and concern. Love is the giving of one’s self without expectation of reward. When we let someone know we care, and share ourselves with that person, there is a basis for recovery. Many problems could be resolved if we could learn to accept people as they are rather than trying to mold them into something they are not. The same principle applies to our own self-acceptance.”
– William “Doc” Leipold, Valley Hope Clinical Founder
The essence of the milieu supports a community of individuals whose common goals are recovery from substance dependence and repairing the emotional, physical, economical, legal, social and spiritual damage that substance dependence has caused in their lives. To accomplish these goals, the members of the treatment team are emotionally open, trusting, respectful, responsible and accountable.
It Takes a Village
Effective milieu therapy is a critical element of Valley Hope’s treatment programs. The key concepts of this approach include trust, respect, responsibility, accountability and open communication. Those concepts are the bricks in the construction of the community:
- Establish therapeutic environment;
- Manipulate environment so that all aspects of patient’s treatment is considered therapeutic;
- Create a safe place for patients to “act my way into a new way of thinking;” and
- Encourage staff and patients to inquire, encourage and reinforce the behavioral interventions.
Valley Hope’s program is built on the philosophy that addicts are human beings who are competent to be responsible for their actions. In fact, this accountability is essential to recovery in our treatment approach. Of course, the relationships between patients are as important in the healing process as the relationships between patients and staff, milieu therapy is an excellent tool in fostering those relationships.
Finding the right balance between structure and freedom of choice is especially challenging in chemical dependence treatment programs. And, milieu therapy puts the patient in charge of his or her own recovery. Engagement is essential in order to gain the benefits of self-control that milieu environments instigate.
In a milieu therapy environment, almost every interaction a patient has includes a therapeutic intervention element. The power of a community built to provide such interventions, from clinical staff to fellow patients and everyone in between, ensures every social interaction provides an opportunity for growth in recovery.