This profile was prepared when Jacques Mabit was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Jacques Mabit believes that effective drug rehabilitation efforts must enable the persons treated "to find clear answers in their existential searches for identity," and that it is those answers that will lead to abandoning the use of mind-altering substances. Jacques is also convinced that treatment programs can be markedly strengthened by drawing on Amazonian healers' and shamans' vast knowledge of the therapeutic properties of tropical plants that they have long employed in healing processes.The treatment approach that Jacques and his associates are employing and evaluating is not coercive, but instead is focused on helping their patients find new meaning and purpose in life. Its particularly innovative feature is its combination of treatment methods–a blend of psychotherapy techniques developed in Europe and the United States over the past 100 years with techniques that Amazonian healers have developed and used over many centuries. Conventional medication is not used (except in rare emergencies), and physical detoxification is accomplished through the use of medicinal plants.Still in its pilot phase, Jacques' approach, and the various techniques that it employs, are being carefully evaluated, and their longer-term results rigorously measured, both by members of the team that he has assembled and by international researchers. The preliminary results are highly encouraging and are generating wide interest in his work throughout Latin America.