From work and occupation to occupational therapy
The policies of professionalisation in English mental hospitals from 1919 to 1959
in Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015
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This chapter outlines the pattern of growth of new forms of work and occupation for patients in English mental hospitals and how those activities were conceptualised as occupation therapy between 1919 and 1959. These developments in policy and practice in the hospitals took place within a legal framework overseen by the Board of Control, the statutory regulatory body for all mental institutions in England, and were dependent on the medical superintendents of the institutions, co-ordinated by the national professional body for psychiatrists, the Royal Medico-Psychological Association (RMPA). The professionalisation of occupational therapy took place through both the introduction of formal training and the formation of professional bodies, the organisational context of most of the early English training courses reflecting a crucial distinction between the interests and objectives of the larger understaffed public hospitals and the smaller charitable and private institutions. There was active competition between different groups, including mental nurses, for control of the new and varied forms of therapy, and complex interactions between the policies of the Board of Control and of the RMPA in striving to maintain professional hegemony, the aspirations of the emergent professional groups, and political concerns which led to the 1959 Mental Health Act.

Editor: Waltraud Ernst

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