Work is therapy?
The function of employment in British psychiatric care after 1959
in Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015
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This chapter explores how the policy of psychiatric deinstitutionalisation transformed the nature and intended functions of employment for people with mental health problems in post-war Britain. It focuses on industrial therapy, which hospitals implemented as part of rehabilitation programmes designed to prepare long-stay patients for discharge. This involved patients undertaking industrial sub-contract work in spaces designed to resemble a factory environment. The chapter considers two earlier developments which informed the ethos of industrial therapy; the system of rehabilitation designed to meet the needs of disabled soldiers during the Second World War, and occupation and employment schemes developed for people with learning disabilities. It explores the operation of industrial therapy units, which had been established in most British psychiatric hospitals by the 1960s, and the creation of complementary extramural facilities. Finally, the chapter evaluates the tensions between individual therapeutic needs and labour market requirements which came to the fore in industrial therapy, before examining how the industrial therapy model came under pressure due to changing social and economic circumstances in the late twentieth century.

Editor: Waltraud Ernst

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