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The Tavistock Institute is an outgrowth of the Tavistock Clinic, which was founded in 1920 in Tavistock Square in London. The Institute, founded in 1946, was originally called the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. These institutions were entirely private, supported by private donors.
The Institute engages in research and consultancy work in the social sciences and applied psychology for the European Union, several British government departments, and private clients. The Institute has its own publishing house, and owns and edits Human Relations, the international social sciences journal. The Institute also edits the journal Evaluation.
The Tavistock Clinic is now a British National Health Service (NHS) trust, offering psychotherapy and other mental health services. A history of the Clinic can be found on the website of the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust.
Founded in 1920 by psychiatrist Hugh Crichton-Miller, the Tavistock Clinic made a significant contribution to the understanding of the traumatic effects of shell shock and how it could be treated by psychotherapy: talking, listening and understanding, according to the Clinic's website. Before that, soldiers who suffered these symptoms in battle were regarded as cowards and were punished, even shot.
The Second World War saw many of the Tavistock's professional staff joining the armed services as psychiatric specialists, where some -- notably psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion -- introduced radical new methods of selecting officers, using the so-called 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 who were rejected.
These wartime experiences still influence the Clinic's work in teaching, in consultancy, in the understanding of early separation from parents, as happened with the evacuation of children during the war, and in the treatment of trauma.
Today, the Tavistock's trauma unit offers a training workshop in the understanding of trauma, and has been called upon to help in national and international disasters. This work is described in Understanding Trauma published in 1998 by Karnac Books.
R. D. Laing is one of the prominent psychiatrists who was associated with the Institute. 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 a way of experiencing the world, not a disease.
- Tavistock Institute web site
- Tavistock Institute - History
- The Foundation and Development of the Tavistock Institute to 1989 by Eric Trist and Hugh Murray at www.moderntimesworkplace.com
- Quotes from R.D. Laing's The Politics of Experiencede:Tavistock-Institut
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