Tavistock Clinic

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The Tavistock Clinic, also called the "Tavi," is the premier psycho-dynamic psychiatric out-patient clinic in the British Isles, with Health Service departments for adults, adolescents, and children and families. It provides consultations to other institutions. The Academic Services Directorate provides post-graduate trainings. Human development, inter-personal relationships within families and social structures are researched. The chief executive in 2005 was Nicholas Temple.

The Tavistock Clinic was opened in 1920 at No. 51, Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, London, by Hugh Crichton-Miller, who had used Freud's theory of neurosis in the treatment of soldiers suffering "shell shock" from the First World War.

Crichton-Miller was a Christian influenced by Jung and Freud. The clinic embraced a wide range of psychological approaches, and applied psychoanalysis and eclectic training, which resulted in a mutual antipathy with Ernest Jones, who officially banned psychoanalysts from staffing the clinic.

Staff and trainees undertaking psychoanalytic training later were Wilfred Bion, Margaret Little, Clara Thompson, C. Phillip Wilson, and Eric Wittkower. Michael Fordham trained with the Jungians. A few psychoanalysts, including Susan Isaacs and Karin Stephen, took part in the clinic's training.

During the World War Two, several staff members served in the Armed Forces; J. R. Rees becoming chief of Army psychiatric services, G. R. Hargreaves Assistant Director of Army Psychiatry. They brought together Bion, John Bowlby, Bridger, Dicks, Foulkes, Kelnar, MacKeith, Main, Morris, Phillipson, Rickman, Rodger, Trist, Wilson, and Wittkower, forming an "invisible college" working on officer selection, training, morale, civil resettlement, therapeutic communities, and group therapy. In 1946 some of these formed the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR), an interdisciplinary group interested in the problems of organizational and societal change. This group established a journal, Human Relations, and Tavistock Publications Ltd. With the Family Welfare Association (Enid Eicholz, later Balint) they created the Family Discussion Bureau (Tavistock Marital Studies Institute). In the clinic they established a unit for adolescents, developed the School of Family Psychiatry and Community Mental Health (Academic Services Directorate) and the joint Library.

The relationship between the clinic and psychoanalysis improved after the war, due to the work of John Rickman and Sylvia Payne. Bowlby headed the children's department and John Sutherland became medical director. Michael Balint joined in 1949. Many staff and trainees were in psychoanalytic training. The adult department focused on group-analytic therapy and the children's department on the total family. Bion wrote on groups, Dicks on marital difficulties, Malan on short-term psychotherapy, Sandler on the psychodynamic personality inventory, Parkes on bereavement, Laing on pathological family processes, Ainsworth on attachment, Bowlby on attachment and loss, and the Robertsons made films on separation. Training for lay child-psychotherapists was set up by Bowlby with Esther Bick and Martha Harris.

The clinic, with TIHR, moved to new premises in 1967, also housing the Child Guidance Training Center. The adolescent unit incorporated the Young People's Consultation Service headed by Walter Joffe.

The present-day clinic provides service, training, and research, complementary to psychoanalysis, and attracts visitors and trainees from afar.

Marcus Johns

See also: Balint group; Bick, Esther; Bion, Wilfred Ruprecht; Bowlby, Edward John Mostyn; British Psycho-Analytical Society; Great Britain; Infant observation (therapeutic); Laing, Ronald David; Rees, John Rawlings; Rickman, John; Robertson, James; Technique with children, psychoanalytic; Tustin, Frances.


King, Pearl H. M. (1989). British analysts during World War II. Inter-disciplinary collaboration. International Review of Psychoanalysis, 16, 15-34.

Trist, Eric; et al. (1982). The Tavistock Institute: origin and early years. Personal communication (pp. 1-30). New York: Pearl King, Academy of Management.

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Tavistock Clinic

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