Necessary Conjunctions: Hawkspur Camp and the transdisciplinary roots of therapeutic community

Jones, David W. and Fees, Craig (2023). Necessary Conjunctions: Hawkspur Camp and the transdisciplinary roots of therapeutic community. Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities, 44(4) pp. 73–86.



Purpose: This paper aims to tell something of the story of the ‘Hawkspur Experiment’ (1936 -1941), a therapeutic camp organised early in the modern history of therapeutic community as an intervention into the lives of young men who were viewed to be at risk of delinquency (Wills 1967). Although it was to have remarkable influence on group and therapeutic community practice and theory, we argue that its influence is not as well remembered nor incorporated into contemporary therapeutic understanding and discussion as it should be.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper is a historical reflection based on systematic examination of the clinical and administrative records of Hawkspur Camp for Men, and supporting documents held in the Planned Environment Therapy Archive. In addition, we use published primary and secondary sources.
Findings: Hawkspur Camp was a cross-disciplinary enterprise which brought together psychoanalytic thinking, social work, an interest in groups, political activism, a concern with the dynamics and working of democracy, and the application of emergent social science methods. It was overtly an intervention into the criminal justice system, but was also an intentional exploration of the therapeutic benefits of community living and of a ‘pioneering’ lifestyle; a rigorous experiment in how psychoanalytic ideas might be employed in group residential settings; and a politically grounded exploration of participative democracy as a fundamental therapeutic principle.
Originality/value: This paper presents the first findings from a systematic study of the records of Hawkspur Camp.

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