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Investigating the Role of Cultural Environment in Addiction Treatment and Recovery in the United States-México Border Zone


This dissertation focuses on therapeutic experience in community-based (non-biomedical) drug addiction treatment in the United-States-Mexico border zone. Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in four residential rehabilitation centers (two faith-based and two 12-Step) in Tijuana, México, I analyze the therapeutic model and daily life in each center to understand how its distinct formulation of treatment guides inpatient efforts toward recovery. By examining the complexities of social roles, stigma, and temporal experience, I devote careful attention to the convergences and divergences of community conceptualizations, institutional programming, and individual experience. I demonstrate that cultural conceptions of mental illness shape persons’ self-identification as either healthy or ill, formatively influencing their engagement with the treatment process and efforts moving into recovery. My dissertation thus explores the range of therapeutic effects that occur within the same treatment model and their implications for anthropological theory and implementation science within global mental health practice.

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