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Ruszczynski, S. (2016). A brief introduction to the history of the Portman Clinic. J. Child Psychother., 42(3):262-265.

(2016). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 42(3):262-265


A brief introduction to the history of the Portman Clinic

Stanley Ruszczynski

The Portman Clinic is an NHS outpatient psychotherapy clinic, part of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, London. It offers assessment and psychotherapeutic treatment to children, adolescents (and their parents/carers) and adults who are disturbed by their delinquency, criminality or violence, or whose sexual behaviour is disturbing or damaging to themselves or others. On the basis of this clinical experience, the Portman offers teaching and training, and clinical and organisational consultancy to clinicians, their supervisors and managers, working with similar patients/clients in mental health, social care and criminal justice settings.

In 1960, when writing about the beginnings of the Portman Clinic, one of its founders, psychoanalyst Edward Glover, stressed that in relation to its patients,

The first concern of the [Portman Clinic] was to make a thorough examination [of their situation, circumstances and presenting problem] … and the second to arrive at a provisional diagnosis. The diagnosis should be sound enough to permit of a satisfactory recommendation of disposal; the examination should be comprehensive enough not only to exclude diagnostic error but to permit of subsequent … research.

(Glover, 1960: 48)

From its very inception, the Portman Clinic has had as its purpose assessment, treatment and research. In addition, it now offers a range of teaching and training programmes, contributes to service development and offers clinical and institutional consultancy to colleagues, their supervisors and managers working with similar patients and clients.

Glover also wrote that because delinquency and crime are social phenomena, they appropriately attract the attention of a variety of disciplines including social workers, probation officers, youth offender workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and sometimes lawmakers. However, in his view, ‘the most fundamental approach to crime, pathological or otherwise, is that of psycho-analysis’ (Glover, 1960: xii). He goes on to say,

… so long as the existence and power of unconscious motives is disregarded, we cannot learn any more about crime than an apparent commonsense dictates … However speculative and uncontrolled some psychoanalytic views on crime may be, they do at least promise to uncover the fundamental flight from reality that leads to pathological and possibly all forms of criminal conduct.


[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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