Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

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See Tavistock Institute for the independent charity focusing on group relations. For the organisation which contains the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, see Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology.
The statue of Sigmund Freud on the corner of Belsize Lane and Fitzjohns Avenue, with the main Clinic building behind it.

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust is a specialist mental health trust based in north London. The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust is a world leader in the field of mental health and social care. It has an international reputation as a centre of excellence both for clinical services and for professional education, training and research. The Trust has been providing NHS services to people with emotional difficulties and other psychological problems for nearly 100 years and specialises in talking therapies, which research shows are the best way of treating people with those conditions. Since its foundation in 1920, the Trust has been recognised as a leader in pioneering theories and treatments about emotional and psychological wellbeing.

The department of training and education trains 2,000 students a year on 50 courses and 50 continuing professional development (CPD) programmes and all tutors are experienced clinicians, often recognised leaders in their field.

Owing to the broad range of specialist services and commitment to research and learning, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust continues to be at the forefront of mental health services for adults and young people.

The Trust is based at the Tavistock Clinic in London, founded in 1920 by Dr. Hugh Crichton-Miller. Notable people associated with the clinic have included Arthur Hyatt Williams, A. K. Rice, Eric Miller, Eric Trist, Hugh Crichton-Miller, Isabel Menzies Lyth, Jock Sutherland, John Bowlby, John Rawlings Rees, Henry Dicks, John Rickman, Esther Bick, Martha Harris, Michael Balint, Pierre Turquet, Robert H. Gosling, Ros Draper, Rosemary Whiffen, Wilfred Bion, Donald Meltzer, Neville Symington, Mary Ainsworth, John Steiner, Anton Obholzer, Margot Waddell, Peter Hobson and Margaret Rustin.

The recent clinical, training and consultancy work of the Trust is exceptionally well documented and theorised in the Tavistock Clinic book series published by Karnac Books. Margot Wadell's best selling Inside Lives, Michael and Margaret Rustin's Mirror to Nature, and Andrew Cooper and Julian Lousada's Borderline Welfare are at the more socially engaged end of the series spectrum, alongside many volumes representing the work of clinical teams and specialisms.

Early history[edit]

Though Hugh Crichton-Miller was a psychiatrist who developed psychological treatments for shell-shocked soldiers during and after the First World War,[1] clinical services were always for both children and adults, in fact the clinic's first patient was a child. From its foundation it was also clear that offering free treatment to all who need it meant that the Tavistock Clinic needed to offer training to staff who could eventually help people across the UK. The clinical staff were also researchers. These principles remain to this day.[citation needed]

Following its founding the Tavistock Clinic developed its interest in preventative psychiatry, expertise in group relations (including army officer selection), social psychiatry, and action research. Its staff, who were still mainly unpaid honorary psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers were interested in leadership within the armed forces. The staff also treated the civilian population who might be traumatised by the prospect of a further world war, which could bring bombing of cities, evacuation of children and the shock of bereavement.

Post-war history[edit]

After the Second World War, the Tavistock Clinic became a leading clinic within the newly created National Health Service. At this point its education and training services were managed separately by the Tavistock Institute for Medical Psychology, which was also the umbrella for the Tavistock Institute (involved in social action research and thinking about group relations and organisational dynamics), and for work with marital couples. The clinic was managed on a democratic model by a professional committee and developed further its distinct focus on multi-disciplinary and community-centred work.

New developments in child and adolescent mental health were particularly fruitful in the immediate post-war period. In 1948 the creation of the children's department supported the development of training in child and adolescent psychotherapy. Dr. John Bowlby supported this new training and naturalistic infant observation. He also developed Attachment Theory. Clinicians James and Joyce Robertson showed in their film work the impact of temporary care on young children who did not have a significant substitute attachment figure (for example, when they were admitted to hospital for treatment).

The Tavistock Clinic opened its Adolescent Department in 1959, recognising the distinctive developmental needs and difficulties of younger and older adolescents. By the 1960s The Tavistock Clinic was also providing both 1-year and 4-year professional training courses in educational psychology, the latter embracing a teacher training element through Leicester University School of Education. For a number of years the senior tutor and principal psychologist for these courses was Irene Caspari who did much to promote the concept and practice of Educational therapy. In the 1970s systemic psychotherapy became the Tavistock Clinic's newest professional training. Applications of the clinical ideas and skills of its multidisciplinary clinicians are at the heart of its education and training, with academically validated programmes developing from the early 1990s with the University of East London, and later with the University of Essex and Middlesex University.

Infant observation, work discussion, supervised clinical practice and experiential group relations work are central to many trainings all of which aim to equip mental health workers with the emotional, organisational, and relational capacities to operate confidently in front line settings. A BBC TV series 'Talking Cure' brought the work of the Clinic to a wider audience in 2000 and remains relevant today. Organisational consultancy by former CEO Dr. Anton Obholzer featured in the series, and his edited collection (with Vega Roberts) 'The Unconscious at Work' is one of the classic texts to emerge from the Tavistock.

The Tavistock's tradition of social and political engagement has been renewed in recent years through its programme of Policy Seminars which model a dialogic, exploratory approach to policy analysis and debate with Richard G. Wilkinson, Oliver James and Polly Toynbee among recent contributors. The series of Thinking Space events follows a similar model of participatory engagement around themes of diversity, racism, and sexual orientation.

The Tavistock Institute, which had been part of the Tavistock family, moved to its own premises in 1994. The Tavistock Centre for Couples Relationships (TCCR, formerly the Tavistock Institute of Marital Studies) was always a separate, charitably-funded organisation which left the Tavistock Centre for new premises in 2009.

In 1994 the Tavistock Clinic joined with the Portman Clinic to become the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. In 2006 the Trust acquired Foundation Trust status and become the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

The Trust provides clinical services for children and families, young people and adults. It also provides multi-disciplinary training and education. These programmes include core professional training, for example in psychiatry, psychology, social work and advanced psychotherapy training, as well as applied programmes for anyone working in the mental health or social care workforce.

Since 2010 the clinical work of the Trust has diversified with award winning new services such as the Family Drug and Alcohol Court in Milton Keynes[2] and the City and Hackney community psychotherapy service maintaining the clinic's reputation for cutting edge developments in mental health work.

The Trust is an active member of UCL Partners, the Academic Health Service Centre located in North London.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dicks, H.V., (1970). 50 Years of the Tavistock Clinic. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul
  2. ^ "Court is supporting families to stay together in Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire". MK Web. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 

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