Dr Maxwell Jones

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Dr Maxwell Jones 1907-1990

Certain ideas at certain times create waves of progress in

humanity’s struggle with living.

Usually there’s a man with a program instigating this progress.

Maxwell Jones is such a man, social psychiatry is such an idea,

and the therapeutic community is such a program.

J. Douglas Grant

Dr Maxwell Jones Photo Montage courtesy of the Dennie Briggs Archive 2008

In 1938, Maxwell Jones, having graduated from medical school at Edinburgh University, became assistant to Sir Aubrey Lewis at London’s leading teaching hospital, the Maudsley, where, among other disciplines, he was exposed to psychoanalytic therapy. His residency was interrupted by World War II when the Maudsley was closed and moved into two units located outside London. Max went with Sir Aubrey to the detachment located at Mill Hill. There, in charge of a research project, he worked with soldiers suffering from neurocirculatory asthenia or effort syndrome. After conclusive physiological studies with a noted cardiologist, they confirmed that the disorder was essentially psychosomatic in nature and so he proceeded to find ways to alleviate the condition. From lectures and demonstrations on anatomy and physiology to 100 patients at a time, question and answer sessions turned into group discussions and the formation of a therapeutic community. An innovation in his program was the inclusion of young nursing assistants—women who were conscripted—who found a new role, that of social therapists.

Following the war, Max was put in charge of a social rehabilitation unit for the most seriously disturbed prisoners-of-war. He took along many of his social therapists and duplicated his community approach adding contacts with the outside community through families and potential employers.

In 1947, he was made medical director of the Industrial Neurosis Unit (later renamed the Social Rehabilitation Unit) located on the grounds of Belmont Hospital (which, when made autonomous, he named Henderson Hospital). There, for the next 12 years, he concentrated on methods of rehabilitation for people with chronic character disorders. During this tenure he refined his ideas and developed the practice of “social therapy.” He began a psychoanalysis with Melanie Klein. Traveling widely, lecturing and consulting in many countries, in 1952 the World Health Organization appointed him as Member, Expert Advisory Panel in rehabilitation and gave him carte blanche authority to visit projects anywhere in the world to review and report on their nature.

Visiting Commonwealth Professor of Social Psychiatry at Stanford University (1960- 1961) gave him the opportunity to expand his practices to a wider spectrum from community mental health, to prisons and education. Collaborating with Dr Harry Wilmer, they established a model community mental health clinic. As consultant to the California Department of Corrections, Maxwell Jones outlined a prototype for the treatment of youthful, aggressive offenders and assisted in training staff for the first therapeutic communities in prisons. He was given the Isaac Ray Award by the American Psychiatric Association that year, the first to be so honored from another country.

Following his “sabbatical”, he decided not to return to Henderson and instead was made Director of Education and Research at Oregon State Hospital where he was successful in implementing a state-wide community mental health program. He decentralized the hospital into autonomous units according to the area of the patients’ residences, operated by mental health teams. The program rapidly moved into prevention and, although he mounted resistance, was able to begin closing wards of the hospital and concentrate efforts in the community.

In 1962, he was offered the position of Medical Superintendent of Dingleton Hospital in Scotland, a post he held for the next eight years, putting into practice many of the ideas he had developed in the US. Following the model he had developed in Oregon, Max formed living units of patients according to their neighborhood residences. Mental health teams trained local practitioners—general physicians, clergy, probation officers, police, and so on—to counsel prospective clients in an effort to prevent hospitalization or shorten it when necessary. He introduced peer teaching and classroom discussions into the local schools.

Upon retirement Max returned to the US where he became senior consultant at the Fort Logan Community Mental Health Center in Denver, Colorado. He focused his attention on crisis intervention and working with children in schools through peer teaching and total classroom discussions. Following a brief period in the Virgin Islands where he unsuccessfully attempted to establish a community-based mental health program, he located in Phoenix Arizona. There he was active in establishing a model program in the local jail for prisoners who were psychotic.

In 1986, he moved to rural Nova Scotia where he spent his remaining years writing, consulting world-wide and teaching. Maxwell Jones became interested in treatment of drug addiction and served as a consultant to the drug-free programs of Centro Italiano di Solidarietà in Rome.

Maxwell Jones died in his home on August 19, 1991.

Fellow psychiatrist, Morris Carstairs wrote in 1968:

The name of Maxwell Jones is probably better known throughout the world

than that of any other British psychiatrist. . . .

Maxwell Jones is a genuine democrat. He began to demonstrate

a form of non-authoritarian “participation of the workers”.

Unlike most of us, he has resisted the tendency of the middle-aged

to believe that those who are senior in age or status must always know best.

In addition to over 100 publications in various medical, psychiatric and nursing journals, and chapters in books, he published seven books. His first, (1952) Social Psychiatry: A Study of Therapeutic Communities, was followed by (1962): Social Psychiatry in the Community, in Hospitals, and in Prisons; (1968); Social Psychiatry In Practice; (1968); Beyond the Therapeutic Community, (1976); Maturation of the Therapeutic Community, (1982); The Process of Change, and finally, Growing Old: The Ultimate Freedom. (1988).

See Also: Dennie Briggs, A Life Well Lived. Maxwell Jones—A Memoir. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher. 2002; “summing Up: A Day with Maxwell Jones. Therapeutic Communities. Vol 24. pp.301-324. 2003 (Winter)


Courtesy of the Dennie Briggs Digital Archive 2009

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