103643761a.jpgBy Maia Szalavitz

Today is the final day of Recovery Month, during which we celebrated those who are overcoming addictions. But as the month winds down, the question of how best to spur recovery remains. One New York program, Exponents, has pioneered an approach that I think deserves to be more widely considered and replicated.

It’s based on the idea that offering beneficial social services, even if they don’t entirely relate to drug treatment, and supporting multiple visions of recovery works better than using one rigid approach.

“In ‘treatment,’ the focus is on individual pathology. You’re looking at what’s wrong with the person and how you go about fixing them,” says Exponents founder and president Howard Josepher, himself an ex-addict. “[But] to engage someone in a teaching dynamic, they’re a student and their only job is to be open, to be receptive. You’re not telling the person there’s something wrong with them.”

In other words, honey works better than vinegar. Likewise, encouraging people to take part in treatment leads to better care than using the criminal justice system to coerce people into it — not least because when the government doesn’t force customers to either accept a recovery program’s services or go to prison, that program has got to step up its game.

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