Aims: It is the goal of this study to investigate the first development of the drug-free therapeutic community (TC) in Europe. The paper aims at systemizing information, scattered all over Europe and is the first stage in an ongoing study to record the development of the European TC movement and its influences. Design: After a study of the grey (hidden) literature, TC pioneers and experts per country were contacted to further elaborate the first findings. Subsequently, a preliminary summary of our findings was published in the Newsletter of the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities (EFTC), inviting additional information and corrections. The authors completed the results for this article with relevant first-hand information, obtained through interviews with European pioneers. Findings: The findings are summarized under three topics: chronology, interconnections and European identity. It was found that from 1968 until 1989, a new therapeutic approach arose all over Europe, modeled after Synanon, Daytop and Phoenix House, New York, through Phoenix House, London and Emiliehoeve in the Netherlands. Therapeutic communities were established in Belgium, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland as well. These communities were closely-knit and interconnected in their reaction against psychiatric and methadone treatment. The European TCs developed an own identity compared to the American ones. Conclusions: The European TCs adapted the model of their American predecessors to their own culture, influenced more by milieu-therapy and social learning. Instead of harsh behaviorism, more emphasis was placed on dialogue and understanding. Professionals occupied a more pivotal role and took over the dominant position of ex-addicts. Research, executed by TC professionals gradually entered the TC. A generic network of TC connections, through which the development evolved, was uncovered, and clear regional trends can be observed.