Gilded sign illustrating Tavistock Relationships' rich experience of couple therapy and marriage guidance

Pioneers of Psychotherapy Research to Support Family and Couple Relationships

Tavistock Relationships was founded in 1948 as the Family Discussion Bureau. It has been known by several names over the years and prior to 2005 it was called The Tavistock Marital Studies Institute.

The Family Discussion Bureau was formed by social workers from the Family Welfare Association (now Family Action) and psychoanalysts at The Tavistock Clinic who shared an ambition to study the dynamics of family life. Social workers at that time were alarmed by the increasing incidence of family breakdown and following post war disruption it was becoming clear that supplying their client's material requirements alone was not meeting their pressing emotional needs.

Three women in particular played a major role in the formation of the organisation, Alison Lyons, Lily Pincus and Enid Balint. Realising that they needed a deeper understanding of the psychological forces underlying marital difficulties, they turned to psychoanalysis to develop a substantial theory of relationships which could inform new therapeutic and preventative interventions.

Early Studies on Marriage and Emotional Support

The early publications of these pioneers, which often arose out of action research, were very influential, particularly in the social work community which then had a long standing interest in marriage. Bannister et al.'s (1955) Social Casework in Marital Problems was followed by Pincus et al.'s Marriage: Studies in Emotional Growth in 1960 and further publications in the following decades such as Intrusiveness and Intimacy (Ed. Fisher, J. and Ruszczynski, S. 1995) and Adult Attachment and Couple Psychotherapy: The Secure Base (Ed. Clulow, C. 2001) cemented the organisation's reputation as a "the most important institution in the world for the psychoanalytic study of marriage*".

A Strong Tradition of Practice, Research and Training

Although the organisation was never formally part of the Tavistock Clinic, (Now the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust) it shared a core methodology, and until 2009, shared the same building. Tavistock Relationships' parent body, The Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology is the founding organisation that set up The Tavistock Clinic in 1920.

Since its inception in 1948, the organisation has had a core belief in the importance of developing practice, research and training as inter-linked activities which inform each other and it remains committed to this approach to this day. Most recently the development of our mentalization based therapy for inter-parental conflict has demonstrated this approach. Began in 2007 as a small clinical project for "Parents in Conflict", the organisation is now engaged in a randomised control trial of the manualised intervention (Hertzmann & Abse 2010). Alongside this research, training in the MBT-Parenting Together intervention is being offered to a wide range of practitioners.

Expansion in Clinical and Training Activities

In 2005, the organisation took on the training and clinical activities of London Marriage Guidance leading to a large expansion in its clinical delivery. Since that time, trainings in relationship counselling, couple psychotherapy and psychosexual therapy have grown to become a core part of the organisation's activity.

In 2009, following expansion, Tavistock Relationships moved out of the Tavistock Centre building in Hampstead into new premises in central London from where it currently operates a wide range of clinical, training, research and policy activities.

* Dr David Scharff (1993) in Psychotherapy with Couples (Ed. Ruszczynski, S.)