I remember...

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Please feel free to add your memories and recollections of experience with therapeutic communities, short or long, formal or informal. If you aren't comfortable with wiki editing, you can send your recollections to moderator@tc-of.net, and we will upload them. Please be sure to include your name, and email address if you are willing for others to get in touch.

Return to History of Therapeutic Community Special Interest Group


Anthony Slater, 13 February 2006: Phoenix Haga

On March 1st, 16 years ago this year, I found myself standing outside an empty former agricultural college here in Norway. It was freezing cold outside, and the former head of the old school refused to let us in to accept the keys. Finally after walking to a public telephone box a mile away and calling the county council, we were let in to an empty, cold set of buildings. 16 years later, the same place is now full of alive young people, who are in recovery and although the main purpose of the place is no longer about growing vegetables, or learning to farm the land. Our community continues to learn how to grow as people, without the trauma of drugs.

At times I wish we had noted more, each day was full with “firsts,” the first time this happened, then something else and so forth.

(originally posted on the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities email discussion list, therapeutic-communities@jiscmail.ac.uk)

Ian Milne, 14th February 2006 Henderson Hospital 1970

I remember Stuart Whiteley coming into the Community Meeting at the Henderson saying "some guy called Leonard Cohen wanted to come and sing for the community".

Stuart obviously did not realise the significance of this, and neither did I because I recorded it and stored it under the stairs for years. Only last year did I rescue it and gave a copy to the PETT archives. It is not for public release but if you visit the archives Craig might just play it to review its quality.

Leonard Cohen was very excited the day before the Isle of Wight Concert and sang songs which were not recorded until a few years after. He was happy and sang happily "Songs to live to". he also told us the story of each song. Ian Milne

Steve Paddock, August 2006: Pink Villa, Alpha House & the Nelson Clinic

Discussion Re: Alpha House and Pink Villa, St. James' Hospital, Portsmouth and a reminiscence of the Nelson Clinic from the mid 1990's

[1]This links to the current Phoenix site for Alpha House in Droxford, Hampshire.

Rowdy wrote:

For background here's a clip from a forward I recently wrote for the TC journal:

Small, seemingly unimportant events, often have enormous, unlooked for, consequences. When a young Ian Christie settled into his seat in an off-Broadway theatre during the spring of 1968, he was hardly likely to have thought that the clandestine tape-recording he made of the play would spark a virtual revolution in drug treatment across Europe. The previous year, Dr. Christie had taken up his first consultancy post at St. James’ Hospital, Portsmouth. As the new boy, he was given the least attractive job in psychiatry at that time – the addiction treatment unit (Christy, 2004).

At that time - and for the first time since the publication of the Rolleston Report in 1926 - British policy on drug treatment was about to undergo a momentous change, with general practitioners losing the right to treat addiction with drugs such as heroin and cocaine and the power to prescribe such drugs being vested in drug dependency (sic) clinics in psychiatric hospitals (HM. Government, 1926; Yates, 2002). Christie recognised that this would dramatically increase referrals to the small unit he had inherited. He saw too, that there would be an urgent requirement for new treatments. This was a time when the belief in recovery was extremely low. Bassin (1978) describes how the impact of the approach pioneered at Synanon1 (Yablonsky, 1978; Kooyman, 2001; Rawlings and Yates, 2001) was all the more magnified since the common view at that time was that the best that could be done was to ‘contain the whirlwind’ (Bassin, 1978): abstinence seemed a million miles away.

Christie’s arrival in New York had been inspired by a meeting with Griffith Edwards, who was himself shortly to establish Featherstone Lodge (later, Phoenix House) in London. Edwards had advised a fact-finding trip to New York and produced a short-list of people and places to visit. The list included Phoenix House and Daytop Lodge where Christie spent an inspirational weekend. And he sat through a play called The Concept where the progress of an individual through this new type of community was laid bare in shocking and emotional detail. Speaking of that time he noted in a recent interview:

“I am an atheist. Have been since I was 13. But that experience was literally like a religious conversion. At the time I didn’t recognise how powerful it was. But in fact I came back from America and I was completely manic.”

What he had seen was dramatically different from the therapeutic community he had seen in operation during his training at Belmont Hospital. In these American communities, the programme was managed overwhelmingly by addicts or ex-addicts, with few if any, professionals in evidence. There was a clear, and clearly enforced, hierarchy of residents and much of the therapeutic work appeared to centre around a verbal maelstrom called an encounter group. And, amazingly, it seemed to work. Armed with little more than his tape of the play, his recollections of a weekend spent at Daytop and a boundless enthusiasm, Christie returned to Portsmouth and established a make-shift therapeutic community (Pink Villa Huts, later Alpha House) in the space of two astonishing, whirlwind weeks.

Rowdy Yates

Re: Pink Villa, King Villa, Nelson Clinic & St. James' Hospital Portsmouth.

I trained as a Psychiatric Nurse in St. James’ Hospital, Portsmouth from 1993 to 1995. I also had my first job at the ‘Nelson Clinic’, an Alcohol Treatment Centre that was next door to ‘King Villa’, one of the acute units serving Havant etc. I think Pink Villa was the next villa along. It was derelict at the time I was there. I know that Diane Carpenter and her husband, David Carpenter were at St. James’ for a fair while. I don’t know whether they had anything to do with Pink Villa?

[2]This links to the current NHS Site. It mentions Highclere as a Therapeutic Community.

I think there must have been something of Christie’s spirit in the air; I certainly gravitated to the ‘Nelson Clinic’ and alcohol treatment as one of the few places that was doing anything exciting. At the time it was a 6 week treatment program that consisted of open groups, education and structured groups. I remember the structured groups would be sprung on the residents as a surprise. These were a ‘Drink Pattern’ group, an ‘empathy’ group and another one that I can’t remember. We also had a weekly feedback group where each resident would give honest feedback to their peers (a bit like reality confrontation).It was quite a small unit and so effectively the whole patient community was present in one group. It had a strong network of sober graduates that would meet weekly at the clinic. There was also a ‘relatives’ group and a family group, where residents’ partners would come once a week and we would have an open group.

Looking back I find it slightly incredible that I did this work! We had weekly supervision from Robert Gottesman, a psychoanalyst and group therapist, other than that it was a bit ‘seat of the pants’.

There was a parallel unit for other Drugs called Highclere; this was at Northern Road in Cosham. I did some work here, but not a lot.

I left Nelson in about 1997 to go to work at the Henderson Hospital. The Nelson Clinic as a residential treatment service was coming to an end and switching to a ‘detox’ based service. I keep in touch with one of my colleagues from that time. She still works there.

Steve Paddock AKA Cartoon Monkey --Cartoonmonkey 11:57, 24 August 2006 (BST)

Steve Paddock, September 2006: Welcome to Webb House: A 17 hour staff experiential workshop on the 7th and 8th of July 2000

Webb House opened its doors to residents on Tuesday 12th September 2000. As part of a familiarisation process and to give people a flavour of what was to come I decided to create a TC-like experience for all staff at Webb House. This included admin, caretaker, nurses, social therapists, outreach staff and researchers (Barbara Rawlings!). I am writing this some 6 years later so it may be a little hazy. Hopefully staff that were at this event will be able to give a different perspective of it. I will organise this by having branches from this main tree, so that we can think of the different narratives that may materialise.

  • Welcome to Webb House:The Organisers Perspective click here

I or others will add further contributions as they come to light.

--Cartoonmonkey 10:15, 12 September 2006 (BST)

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