Madness and chaos in the culture of a therapeutic community

Leach, Jonathan (2019). Madness and chaos in the culture of a therapeutic community. Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities, 40(1) pp. 16–24.



Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the perceptions of staff members working in a psychiatric therapeutic community in relation to ideas of “madness” and “chaos”.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper is a qualitative study based on oral history group witness seminars.

Findings: The findings indicate that many of the participants experienced working in a therapeutic community as both exciting and unsettling; some found themselves questioning their own mental health at the time. Despite a sense of “madness” and chaos in the life of the community, there was also a feeling that it provided a containing environment for some very disturbed patients.

Originality/value: This study is unusual in drawing upon staff member’s perceptions of their own relationship to “madness” in response to being involved in the life of a therapeutic community.

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