The meaning and application of ‘therapeutic’ in the Alcohol and Other Drug Courts of New Zealand

Katey Thom1, Stella Black2

1 University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142,

2 University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142,

This paper will explore the meaning of ‘therapeutic’ in the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODT Court) pilots of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Drawing on qualitative research that included courtroom observation (over 200 hours), interviews with the court team professionals (n=25), and document analysis, the presentation will explore the four strands – Law, Lore, Recovery and Drug Court Best Practice – that we argue are woven together to produce a therapeutic philosophy of the AODT Court. Understanding the ‘therapeutic’ as a practical accomplishment in the AODT Court, we will illustrate the weaving of these strands with examples grounded in the everyday reality of professionals as they interact within the courtroom. We will then consider how the therapeutic philosophy adopted in AODT Court can be understood within the context of international conceptualisations of therapeutic jurisprudence, as well as the ways in which the AODTCs may be developing organically to reflect the unique cultural, legal, and clinical practices of Aotearoa. The presentation will conclude by considering some of the challenges faced by the professional team that have the potential to disrupt the production of the ‘therapeutic’ in the AODT Court.


Katey Thom is a Senior Research Fellow within the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland. With a background in sociology and health sciences, most of her research has focused on the topic of social justice within mental health and addictions. Her research to date has covered the application of mental health law and human rights, and more recently, the use of therapeutic approaches in the criminal justice system of Aotearoa New Zealand.

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