Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform > Daytop Village

Alexander Bassin


"Judge Bassin": “Harnessing the offender as a potential reform agent” [At Daytop] “They will train him how to be a change agent”
VIDEOTheraputic Communities As An Alternative to Prisions
Dr. Alexander Bassin discusses therapeutic communities at a conference on offender rehabilitation. Dr. Bassin co-founded Daytop Village.

Part Two goes into more information about Bassin than I have seen elsewhere and from himself, so I’ll include it here:

--- Quote ---A World War II History Club has as its speaker Dr. Alexander Bassin, a former Army Corp. Of Engineer photo-mapping specialist. Dr. Bassin begins his speech discussing his W.W.II experiences. In this video, Chapter II, of his talk he explains how the G.I. Bill impacted his life and how as a probation officer after the war he was instrumental in co-founding the nation's most enduring drug rehabilitation program Daytop Village
--- End quote ---

He credits Lou Yablonsky for introducing him to Synanon.(13:13)shows a photo taken by Bassin that features Dr. Dan Casriel and two other fellows in front of Synanon House. In the course of this visit Dederich had an argument with Casriel about funding accountability which lead them to have to come up with an alternative route.
In this [Bassin's] version it was O’Brien who suggested that Deitch be brought in as he [Deitch] had had a falling out w/ Synanon and was available to replicate the model.This information as related by Bassin is at odds with accounts given by Monsignor  O’Brien and Deitch.

From The history of therapeutic communities: a view from Europe by Martien Kooyman

In 1962, a team of four consisting of Joseph Shelly, head of the Supreme Court Probation Department in New York, Alexander Bassin, psychologist and Director of Research at that department, the criminologist, Prof. Herbert Bloch and the psychiatrist Daniel Casriel went on a journey through the United States to study possible solutions to the drug problem. They followed the suggestions of J.L. Moreno, the founder of psychodrama as a method of group psychotherapy, and of Carl Rogers, who had developed his 'Rogerian' psychotherapy and was later to lead and promote encounter group therapy (Rogers 1970), to pay a visit to Synanon. When discussing with Rogers the Synanon procedures of shouting, criticizing, making judgments, so much unlike the gentle, unconditional acceptance that is at the heart of his philosophy, Rogers replied that perhaps beneath the cursing and shouting and judging, there was a supply of pure undiluted love and concern that none of the residents had ever experienced before (Bassin 1978).

The team was met at the door of the home of Synanon in Santa Monica by Lewis Yablonski, a sociologist and psychodrama-therapist, who had been living for some time in Synanon as a resident. They also recognized some members as the addicts they had known in New York who had come there through Synanon’s New York induction centre.

At that time Synanon housed more than one hundred ex-addicts, the majority of them being ex-heroin addicts who apparently were successfully living together without relapsing. Life in this community had little to do with the friendly, understanding approach practised in most professional treatment centres of those days. In the early 1960s this was a unique situation. The team saw how the ‘family’ demonstrated the ‘morning meeting’, the ‘seminar’, both the verbal and real ‘hair cuts’ and the ‘learning experience’ of carrying a sign of corrugated cardboard hung around the neck. They were astonished when they experienced the games, which were held three times a week, then also called encounters (Bassin 1978). Casriel asked to stay somewhat longer and got a job in the kitchen. Because he was a good cook they made him ‘the Synanon psychiatrist’ after a few days and he was present in all group meetings (Casriel 1963).

After Casriel's return to New York, Daytop Lodge was founded in 1963 as a halfway house for addicts referred from prison. ‘Daytop’ stood for drug addicts treated on probation (Casriel 1971). Of this first intake, all were men and female addicts were not admitted until the expansion of services in the following year. Contrary to Synanon, the goal was to restructure the residents' life in such a way that they would be able to function again in society without a need for drugs (Shelley and Bassin 1965). Although the first year was chaotic due to lack of experienced staff, this changed when, after a year, when Casriel brought David Deitch, who had just been expelled from Synanon, to Daytop. Monsignor William O'Brien, who, through his work as a parish priest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, had become convinced that drug abuse was behind most of the violence in the city also got involved at this time.

A non-profit organization, now called Daytop Village, was founded in 1964. Msgr. O'Brien became the Chairman of the Board of Governors and later President. Casriel, became the Medical Director and Deitch became the Director of the Therapeutic Community, located at Staten Island. Daytop expanded and more facilities were opened in old mansions and former hotels. Basic elements in the program's philosophy were self-help and responsible concern: ‘You alone can do it , but you cannot do it alone’ (Ottenberg 1978).
Five years later the organization went through a crisis, when Deitch began to have grandiose ideas and started putting up pictures of Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung in the community and threatened to burn the American flag as a protest to the government policies in Vietnam. He tried to dismiss the board and finally left Daytop, together with hundreds of residents. He later regretted these actions. He went back to study and gained his Ph.D. at the Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. He helped to start Gateway House in Chicago and much later he worked for some time first for Phoenix House and also again for Daytop and also as a consultant for therapeutic communities in Sicily and Greece. Daytop survived the crisis and the first resident admitted, Charles Devlin, became the Director.

Phoenix House was started, as many other therapeutic community organizations, with support from Daytop. In 1966 the psychiatrist Efren Ramirez was appointed by Mayor Lindsey to establish a program for drug addicts in New York. He was of the opinion, that a treatment program should last a minimum of two years and should consist of three phases: induction including detoxification, treatment in a therapeutic community and a re-entry program. Re-entry residents should assist staff in the therapeutic community and after that in the induction program, before starting to work outside the program (Ramirez 1973). He hired Sam Anglin from Daytop and the psychiatrist Mitchell Rosenthal, who had been working in Synanon projects in California. In that same year,1966, Phoenix House was founded, financed by the City of New York (Biase and Rosenthal 1969).
In 1967, the psychiatrist Judianne Densen-Gerber became the founder of Odyssey House when she established a therapeutic community with 17 addicts in the Metropolitan Hospital as an alternative to substitution therapy, as there was a growing dissatisfaction with the therapeutic value of methadone. Although Daytop and Phoenix House greatly influenced Odyssey House, unlike these programs, which were staffed almost exclusively by former addicts, in Odyssey House almost half of the staff were professionals.

Daytop Village, and Phoenix House were models for a fast growing number of therapeutic communities in North America (Broekaert 1996). Outside the United States in Montreal, in 1973, the Portage program was founded by staff members from Daytop Village with John Devlin as the first director. Staff and a group of residents from a therapeutic community of Daytop Village had moved to Canada to start this pioneer program of which the psychologist Peter Vamos later became the director. With the help of Daytop Village, Bob Garon founded Dare in Manila, Phillipines, a therapeutic community which was not dependent on government funds. Modelled after Dare, the Therapeutic Community Pusat Pertolongan was founded in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1973. This therapeutic community also had to survive without any government support under the leadership of a former German priest, who became a Muslim, Abdul Rahman Scholer.

In the United States too, a number of self-supporting therapeutic communities were established by ex-Synanon members such as Delancey Street in San Francisco by John Maher and Habitat in Hawaii by Vincent Marino. Ex-Synanon members were important leaders in the early years of the American therapeutic communities and included David Deitch and Ron Brancato in Daytop and Frank Natale in Phoenix House. Professionals, such as Mitchell Rosenthal, Pauline Kaufmann, George De Leon and Nancy Jainchill in Phoenix House; Judianne Densen Gerber in Odyssey House, Vince Biase in Daytop Village; Harry Sholl and Sherry Holland in Gateway House; and Don Ottenberg who transformed Eagleville Hospital in Philadelphia from a tuberculosis sanatorium into a therapeutic community for alcoholics and drug addicts, contributed greatly to the scientific evaluation and development of therapeutic communities. The family of the addict was seen as part of the problem and parents and other relatives were involved in the treatment of therapeutic communities (Kooyman 1993; O'Brien 1983).

Under the leadership of Msgr. William O'Brien, who has been the President of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities for more than two decades, Daytop Village helped to establish many therapeutic communities in Europe and South East Asia. Phoenix House sent a staff member to establish Phoenix House London in 1970. Both Daytop and Phoenix House offered professionals from abroad the opportunity to stay as a guest or as a resident in one of their therapeutic communities in order to experience the process for themselves.

This looks like an important historical hotspot. Interesting to trace through that history. The vid in the first post paints a pretty clear picture. I can’t help but notice the solution that Bassin so emphatically offers is to train the drug addicts to be Change Agents for the new arrivals who will in turn be trained for the next group (in the video he is excited about  reality therapy being the basis for training at one facility).  Bassin sounds as if he is taking directly from  forms of human relations training regarded as a modification of early thought reform. And he specifically uses the term ‘Change Agent’… I wonder where that comes from?

“Organization development (OD) is a planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization's effectiveness and viability.

Kurt Lewin (1898–1947) is widely recognized as the founding father of OD, although he died before the concept became current in the mid-1950s. From Lewin came the ideas of group dynamics and action research which underpin the basic OD process as well as providing its collaborative consultant/client ethos. Institutionally, Lewin founded the "Research Center for Group Dynamics" (RCGD) at MIT, which moved to Michigan after his death. RCGD colleagues were among those who founded the National Training Laboratories (NTL), from which the T-group and group-based OD emerged….

OD is a long range effort to improve organization's problem solving and renewal processes, particularly through more effective and collaborative management of organizational culture, often with the assistance of a change agent or catalyst and the use of the theory and technology of applied behavioral science.

Change agent

A change agent in the sense used here is not a technical expert skilled in such functional areas as accounting, production, or finance. He is a behavioral scientist who knows how to get people in an organization involved in solving their own problems. His main strength is a comprehensive knowledge of human behavior, supported by a number of intervention techniques (to be discussed later). The change agent can be either external or internal to the organization. An internal change agent is usually a staff person who has expertise in the behavioral sciences and in the intervention technology of OD….” - “

There is no question that there is a connection to this influence, and Bassin seems so  familiar with it in this particularly coercive organizational format,  it’s like he’s reading straight from the text.  For more on this I’ll submit my post  ‘Training, Therapy or Thought Reform in the TTI? -    viewtopic.php?f=81&t=31447


Thanks for your nice information.  :on phone:


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