Contradictions in philosophy and practice in a residential drug abuse treatment facility


Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk

An Ethnography of a Drug Abuse Treatment Facility

Geoffrey R. Skoll

cloth EAN: 978-0-87722-917-9 (ISBN: 0-87722-917-1)
$70.50, Jun 92, Available
224 pp 5.5x8.25

"Skoll cogently presents the often ludicrous contradictions in philosophy and practice which continually face both residents and staff. The double-binds, Catch-22s, and condemnation of almost all past behavior promotes a pathological conformism to the facility aptly reflect in the book's title."
Dr. Jerome Beck, Public Health, Institute for Scientific Analysis

As a counselor for more than two years at a residential drug abuse treatment facility, Geoffrey Skoll observed the many contradictions between the public image of the institution as a center for therapy and the actual day-to-day practices that went on inside. In this case study, he argues that the facility forces its residents to "walk the walk and talk the talk" by compelling them to subscribe to its rules and ideology, which emphasize the need to conform to the image of a dope fiend in order to show "progress" in treatment. Skoll contends that facilities like this do not produce a positive change in the characters of their residents as claimed, but instead reinforce negative social identities, especially their powerlessness and subordinate status.

Skoll cites specific interactions that force residents to "snitch" on each other over petty misdemeanors in order to perpetuate negative identities, such as whore or addict. His analysis reveals that this treatment facility aims at thought reform and behavioral control rather than therapy, and he concludes that this approach confers the addict lifestyle for most of its patients.


1. Introduction
2. The Residents
3. The Counselors
4. The Political Economy
5. The Ideology
6. Talk the Talk
7. Conclusion


About the Author(s)

Geoffrey R. Skoll teaches in the Anthropology/Sociology Department at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Subject Categories

Health and Health Policy


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