The hollow gardener and other stories
Reason and relation in the work cure
in Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015
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How have the proponents and practitioners of work therapy through time imagined work to benefit the mentally unwell? This chapter explores two common explanations of work therapy that have prevailed throughout the history of psychiatry and related professions: first, the value of work-related tasks in recovering the rational faculties of the mental health patient (the view advanced by moral treatment and made famous by the more critical analyses of Michel Foucault), and second, in what is often referred to as the ‘occupational view’ of the human, the ability of work to reintegrate the person with psychiatric difficulties into the community of human life (one’s ‘species life’, to borrow from Marx). Using case studies from two different points in the history of work therapy (an extract from Samuel Tuke’s iconic manual of moral treatment (1813) and the encounters of a therapeutic gardening programme at the beginning of the twenty-first century), the chapter explores the tensions between these differing views of the therapeutic properties of work – and what might become lost when reason and rationality become the only lenses through which to think about therapeutic occupation.

Editor: Waltraud Ernst


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