'Charting the links between community therapies, psychiatric diagnosis and Mental Health policy: A Study of the archives of Hawkspur Camp (1936-1940) and Mulberry Bush School (1948-2000)
The British Academy has awarded a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant to co-applicants Dr. David Jones, for the University of East London, and Dr. Craig Fees, for the Planned Environment Therapy Trust.
The two-year "Charting the Links" project will allow a team of researchers to explore the unique archive collections in the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre, and engage former children and staff, service users, child care and mental health professionals, researchers and other stakeholders in a ground-breaking project linking the history of therapeutic care and understanding, with its future theory and practice.
The project will focus on two inter-linked collections of case files. Hawkspur Camp began life in 1936, and directly involved therapeutic community pioneer David Wills, as well as paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, and, formatively, Chris Beedell, who later developed Bristol University's seminal Advanced Child Care Course, one of two Home Office sponsored courses in the country. The roots of the Mulberry Bush School go back into World War II, but the School itself began formally in 1948 under the direction of Barbara Dockar-Drysdale, with influences throughout its early history from Donald Winnicott and David Wills, and with Chris Beedell a significant member of its later Management body.
Drawing on this significant continuity in documentation, theory and influence, the research team will sample case files throughout the two collections to trace the development of diagnostic language, practice and the shifting conceptualisations of troubled young people over time. This, in turn, will shed light on the development of concepts that were to have a substantial impact on the relationship between child care practice and government policy through the second half of the 20th century. This work will draw on and contribute to a parallel project between the University of East London and the Mulberry Bush School to explore and better understand the impact of the school's practice in the lives of successive generations of students.
The project will sample case files from key periods in order to trace the development of diagnostic categories and shifts in how young people’s disturbed and troubled behaviour has been conceptualised. It will explore how the language used to both describe and understand the underlying causes of disturbance changes, and how that change connects with explicit theoretical models and less obvious currents and values concerning the relationships between motive, individual responsibility and group dynamics. The project will also track changing ideas about what constitutes effective measures of social control, and treatment interventions.
In addition to the immediate study of changing diagnostic practice and shifting conceptualisations of children and young people’s difficulties, and responses to those difficulties, key outcomes will include the creation of a database at PETT and the formation of a wider research group than can used as a platform for further study and exploration.
Forum and Symposium
Among the goals of the project is to create a Forum, bringing together former children and staff with current researchers, academics and practitioners, with at least one residential symposium to enable the various perspectives and experiences to meet and learn with one another.
This is clearly an area where cross-disciplinary work is particularly important, as the topic will benefit from an understanding brought by those with historical, sociological, child and group psychological perspectives, and where the records, and the professionals' understandings of them, will benefit from the insights and lived experiences of those who are the subject of such records. The study also has potential implications for a range of disciplines and perspectives – from the academic study of the history of medicine to contemporary institutional childcare policy and practice.