What are the strengths (best parts) of the
drug court treatment program?
Brooklyn participants pointed to several positive features of the treatment
experience, including the structure it provided, its educational aspect,
positive social interaction and support, and the rediscovery of self-esteem:
- The structure.
- Education. . . . It made me aware of what drugs is doing to your body.
- For me it was the social outings with my peers . . . that we could
all get together and have fun without getting high.
- The best part? My peers. I met a good group of people.
- Just bein clean aint gonna do you no good if you aint
got someplace to go . . . cause we all got problems. Problems do
arise, clean or messed up. Using your group helps out a lot. They give
you their direction, they give you that support you need.
- I think it was getting my self-esteem back.
In the Las Vegas focus groups, participants who were serious about overcoming
drug problems seemed to find the treatment program very helpful. Several
participants stated that graduation was the best part of the program,
both their own graduation and those of people they know. They
felt inspired and motivated by successful graduations:
- Id say getting out of Phase I and graduation. . . .
- Yeah, I mean its kind of a motivational thing. Or seeing somebody
that you know, that youve known before you got into the program
or even when you first got in, you know you both were doing the same drugs,
a lot of the same drugs, and seeing that person just totally change lives.
. . . Its like, you know, if he or she can do that, then I know
Another participant stated that just listening to other peoples
problems was very helpful because it provided a perspective that would
otherwise not be available. Other parts of the treatment program that
people liked best included the group counseling sessions, acupuncture
(needling), and relationships with specific treatment counselors.
Some participants also mentioned Phase II of the treatment process (the
phase following detoxification) as a very useful part of treatment because
of its structure and the information it provided:
- Phase I groups I think are kind of a waste . . . but when you get into
Phase II groups, thats when it starts to make more sense and it
starts being more helpful, starts to make you understand if you do have
a problem that you do need help with it, and there are people who will
- Phase II is a good program because its structured and you have
a book and you learn a lot about yourself, dependency and codependency
and everything. . . . Its got a lot of useful information.
Discussion among Las Vegas participants on this topic turned quickly
to group counseling sessions, with a variety of views. Groups were seen
by participants as useful opportunities to get things off ones
chest and to get other peoples opinions and feedback:
- I like groups. . . . Thats helping me a lot. . . .
- I think the groups suck. They dont help me at all. Theres
one counselor . . . he talks about smoking blunts and getting high on
drugs and partying . . . and to me, that just makes me want to go out
and get high, you know. And then you have another counselor thats
just into her spiritual aura. I mean, I like her. The counselors are very
nice people but the groups, for me, just dont do me any good.
- I think the groups real cool. I like listening to . . . peoples
stories. It helps you to relate. I think thats what the biggest
part about it is, hearing everybody talk and letting yourself talk and
express yourself, especially when . . . youre not doing what youre
supposed to and here youre in a room with a whole bunch of people
who are, who have been where you are but are now clean. It makes you like
envy them. It makes you see, Whoa, you know, I should be there,
maybe I can do this.
- The groups are okay. Some days theyre good and some days theyre
bad, you know. Just some days, everything, I mean you really get into it, and then some days,
you know, you look at your clock and cant wait to get out of there.
. . .
Some participants had different expectations of what the treatment process
would be and were not so satisfied with their experiences:
- I dont know. I havent seen any treatment going on here,
to tell you the truth. . . .
- The counselor really talks the majority of it and really doesnt
have anything thats really helpful to you, you know, that deals
with you yourself and what problems youre having . . . and then
you go and sit in there for a half-hour where they stick needles in your
For one participant, the most useful part of the treatment regimen was
its more general effect; she was able to stop her substance abuse and
her life began to improve:
- I think the best part about the classes and all that is that when you
really start to get serious about it and you are clean for a while and
you start noticing differences in your own life. . . . Cause I know
I felt really good about myself once I was clean. I was clean for a good
6 months or more and Im seeing how my life went from, you know,
doing drugs all the time, trying to get by, to actually wanting to stay
off drugs and working and having a place and paying my bills and feeling
real good about myself.
There was a general consensus among the participants in the Miami focus
groups that group was a very helpful part of the treatment
- The most positive? Group.
- Being able to talk out. Being able to talk about your situation . .
. some people dont know what an addict is.
- Being able to talk about your problems, meeting people with similar
problems, learning about your problem, and having a good relationship
with the counselor were also mentioned as being the best parts of the
San Bernardino participants noted several positive features:
- When you have a problem, when youre just going through stuff,
you just come and talk to the group and you leave it all here, and when
you go home you feel a lot better. You relieve the pain and stuff.
- Learning how to deal with your problems.
- Being healthy.
Seattle participants made comments similar to those in the other sites.
However, they also discussed a special feature of the Seattle drug court
program, adapted from the Portland model, which permitted a 2-week trial
period in treatment before the decision to participate was final.
(This was designed for legal reasons, not for treatment reasons, to permit
immediate treatment but protect the defendants right to trial in
the event that counsel found grounds to pursue normal adjudication.)
- Make a decision in 2 weeks. . . . Well, my mind was already made up,
but then everybody else was at me saying, Youre crazy.
That its just a trap and all that.
- They give you 2 weeks. Like she said, my mind was made up on the first
day. Im facing
4 years for possession and you dont need 2 weeks to think about
- I thought it was good because it gave me a chance to weigh my options,
see which way I really wanted to go.
- Lots of people choose not to say. . . . There is a lot of people that
take the jail time instead of the drug court.
Back to The Treatment Experience
Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts