My name is Connie Pike, and I am a Criminal Justice PhD Candidate at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). Prior to receiving a Vice Chancellor Scholarship in 2021, I completed a Master’s Degree whereby my supervisor, and current Director of Studies, Dr Helena Gosling, invited me to be a research assistant on her project with Phoenix Futures which aimed to capture the impact of COVID-19 on residential drug treatment. Not only was this the beginning of a professional connection with Phoenix Futures, but it was also my first glimpse into how research could directly inform practice.
My educational background has, over time, focused on addiction, rehabilitation, and social support for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. This occurred naturally as my practical background developed in this area alongside my education, from being a volunteer at a Homelessness Day Centre in Liverpool to working as a Criminal Justice Recovery Coordinator within a Probation setting whilst living in Manchester during the early months of my PhD journey.
In August 2022, I moved to Glasgow to be near Phoenix Futures’ new specialist family Therapeutic Community (TC) in Scotland. It just so happened that the month after I moved here, the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities Conference was held in Glasgow. I was pleased to attend and was quite star-struck when I met George De Leon (pictured above) – a pioneer in the field of TCs. Conversations experienced during this conference have been pivotal for my research and position as a researcher, providing a new sense of direction and purpose.
My research will employ realistic evaluation methods to capture the evolution of this new specialist service in a ‘post-pandemic’ context. This method of evaluation requires close observation of context (the inception of a specialist family TC) and process (the day-to-day mechanisms of service delivery) to understand outcomes (amongst a cohort of family units). I aim to understand the processes and complexities at play, and I have adopted a role as an observer who participates in most of the day-to-day activities of the service on a weekly basis.
I have started interviews with volunteering participants to capture their journeys from beginning, end, and six months after treatment, not only following the evolution of the service but also that of the ‘first generation’ of community members in this TC. This is a privilege that I do not acknowledge lightly. I very much find myself adjusting and evolving alongside the TC and through this research, I have a unique glimpse into the mechanisms and complexities at play within a new specialist family TC for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. My hope is that this research will provide residents and staff an opportunity to work with me to co-create knowledge and learning of how a new specialist family TC transpires from theory into practice, so that the findings can be applied to shape and inform policy and practice in years to come.