During the late 40s and 1950s the Tavistock Clinic produced some of its most influential work. Bion initially continued to work on group dynamics, before his analysis under Melanie Klein led him back to working with individuals and developing concepts such as ‘containment’. Bowlby gradually developed ‘Attachment Theory’. This was supported by research from Mary Ainsworth, Mary Boston and James Robertson, particularly his production of the famous film A Two Year Old Goes to Hospital, which after several decades of campaigning changed the way that children’s departments operated, not just in the NHS, but around the world. Before the film, visits to children in hospital had been limited to an hour a day on Saturdays and Sundays, but in 1954 daily visits were introduced. At the same time the Clinic began to look at marital relations.

Within the clinic HV Dicks and Mary Luff developed marital services and externally Alison Lyons, Lily Pincus and Enid Balint developed the Family Discussion Bureau (later renamed the Institute of Marital Studies and now known as Tavistock Relationships), which became part of the ‘Tavistock family’ joining the TIHR in 1957.

In 1948 John Bowlby invited Esther Bick to develop a training course in child psychotherapy for the Children’s department and that led to one of the single most important developments to come out of the Tavistock Clinic: Infant Observation. In the training that she developed Esther Bick wanted to give students practical experience of infants, so she placed students in families as observers.

The first Tavistock Child Psychotherapy course which began in 1948 and was made up of an unusually talented cohort of students that included Martha Harris, Frances Tustin and Isca Wittenburg, who not only took part in the course but contributed to it. The results of this work were eventually formalised in Esther Bick’s landmark paper on Infant Observation in 1964 and subsequently led to several Tavistock textbooks on the subject: (Miller, Rustin, Rustin and Shuttleworth (1989), Reid (1997), Piontelli (1996) Briggs (2002), Sternberg (2005), Urwin (2012), Adamo and Rustin (2019).

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