Spaces of psychiatric contention: a case study of a therapeutic community

Health Place. 2009 Sep;15(3):841-7. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2009.02.004. Epub 2009 Feb 20.


This article uses a historical case study of a day hospital therapeutic community (TC) to explore the emergence of particular spaces of psychiatric contention. Using ideas from critical social geography, it employs the notion of 'convergent spaces' to understand how particular sites become important in the development of innovative practice and new social movements. It argues that these spaces of convergence enabled innovation to occur through a collectivised social setting where commonalities were expressed, new resistant identities forged and charismatic figures such as 'tricksters' emerge to challenge and subvert psychiatric authority. In discussing some of the problems which beset the day hospital, it is proposed that the notion of 'paradoxical spaces' might also be helpful to understand how contested spaces can avoid imposing new forms of totalisation. It concludes by reflecting on the conditions of possibility for new spaces of contention.

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Social Change
  • Therapeutic Community*