Book Review: Perspectives on the Henderson Hospital

The featured book is ‘Perspectives on Henderson Hospital. 2nd Edition’ edited by Fiona Warren and Bridget Dolan. Henderson Hospital is a therapeutic community that the authors write was established in 1947 originally for veterans of the second world war. Since this book was published  in 2001, there has been some suggestion that the Henderson Hospital might close leading to an online petition. However this webpage about the Henderson Hospital is worded in the present tense and outlines available services noting that the residential facility is closed.

The book itself is a collection of papers about the Henderson Hospital with a foreward by the editors Fiona Warren and Bridget Dolan. In the chapter, effectively a paper from the International Journal of Therapeutic Communities the author J Whiteley discusses the history and development of the Henderson. A number of staff from the Henderson have gone on to direct units elsewhere, introducing elements of this model of care.

The model in which residents and staff both have a say in the running of the unit is markedly different from what would be thought of as the usual inpatient psychiatric models and is described here (potential resident recruits have been interviewed for admission)

‘After the formal group interview, there is a closed discussion, by staff and residents, of the candidates. This culminates in a democratic vote, by residents and staff, for and against admission of each candidate’

There are a number of chapters which examine boundary issues. Brief excerpts of actual cases illustrate how the community responds when a person tests the boundaries and how in turn this impacts on the person who has crossed the boundaries. What is interesting in this chapters is the concepts of the community being therapeutic and the need to avoid it becoming ‘stale’ and thereby untherapeutic. Such conceptualisations allow a different perspective on how therapy is possible.

From the various studies within the book, the therepeutic community appears to be suited to the treatment of people diagnosed with personality disorders and this is also reflected in the composition of residents in the community in some of the mentioned studies. There are various studies which look at outcome measures both in the short term (1 year) and medium term, looking at correlations with length of stay, symptoms of borderline personality and cost-effectiveness of treatment.

The Henderson Hospital has become synonymous with the term ‘therapeutic community’ which in turn invites the question of ‘why do we do the things we do, in the way that we do’. This book offers the reader both historical and ever-fresh contemporary perspectives on practice.


Perspectives on Henderson Hospital. Edited by Fiona Warren and Bridget Dolan. 2001. Henderson Hospital.


The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

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