When Assistance Is Not Given: Disaffiliative Responses to Therapeutic Community Clients’ Implicit Requests (book chapter)

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In this chapter I examine interactions between the clients and the staff members of a Therapeutic Community (TC). The TC clients sometimes use expressions of need (“I need X”) and desire (“I would like X”) to convey implicit requests for assistance. Analysis illustrates that with these expressions the clients provide the staff members with an opportunity to offer assistance, instead of overtly demanding it. This can put the TC staff members in a delicate position when, for several reasons, they may be reluctant to assist the clients in the achievement of particular goals (such as renewing a driver’s license, buying a car, etc.). The staff members sometimes deal with this problem by disaffiliating with the clients’ projects to achieve particular outcomes (e.g. renewing a driver’s license) on the basis that the clients (allegedly) lack entitlement to those outcomes. This practice enables the staff members to convey that assistance will not be provided, without saying it in so many words.