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See Tavistock Institute for the independent charity focussing on group relations. For the organisation which contains the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, see Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology.

The Tavistock Clinic is a noted centre for mental health therapy in the British NHS. It offers outpatient clinical services in London and provides many postgraduate training and academic courses for the mental health and social care professions.

According to the official history of the Tavistock Clinic:

  • In 1920, under its founder Dr Crichton-Miller's leadership, the Clinic made a significant contribution to the understanding of the traumatic effects of 'shell shock' and how it could be treated by talking, listening and understanding. Before that soldiers who suffered these symptoms in battle were regarded as cowards and likely to be punished, even shot. The Tavistock was set up by charitable funding to provide mental health treatment to the general population based on psychological approaches.
  • The Second World War saw many of the Tavistock's professional staff joining the armed services as psychiatric specialists, where some (notably Dr Wilfred Bion) introduced radical new methods of selecting officers, using the 'leaderless group' as an instrument to observe which men could take responsibility for others, by being aware of their preoccupations rather than simply by giving orders. This led to reductions in the number of applicants rejected.[1]

The early wartime experiences still "influence the clinic's work in group teaching and work discussion, in consultancy, in the understanding of early separation from parents (as happened during evacuation of children) and in the treatment of trauma. Today, the Trauma Unit offers a training workshop in the understanding of trauma and its treatment and is called on to offer help in national and international disasters. This work is described in Understanding Trauma published in 1998 by Karnac Books, one of the many texts in the Tavistock Book Series." [2]

Currently the name Tavistock Clinic is used only to refer to the British National Health Service (NHS) clinic, offering psychotherapy and other mental health services. This NHS involvement began in 1948 when the British NHS was founded, other Tavistock activities being continued under newly allocated names, in particular the Tavistock Institute. A history of the Clinic can be found on the website of the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust, of which it is a major part [3].

R. D. Laing is one of the prominent psychiatrists who was associated with the Tavistock. Laing, who also served in the British Army Psychiatric Unit, became well known, and highly controversial, for his experimentation with LSD and his views on schizophrenia. Laing suggested that schizophrenia was not a "disease" but rather a state of radical privation[4]. John Rawlings Rees also worked at the Institute for several years prior to World War Two and became its Medical Director [5].

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