ESRC-funded PhD studentship Donald W. Winnicott and the history of child and adolescent mental health services

donald-winnicottDeadline: 15 February 2015

Have you completed or are you close to completing a Master’s degree in History of Medicine, Modern History, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology of Health or Medicine, or a related field? Are you interested in the history of psychiatry in the second half of the twentieth century? Are you looking for a funded PhD project?

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship on Donald W. Winnicott and the impact that the work of this pioneering paediatrician and psychoanalyst had on child and adolescent mental health services in Britain since the Second World War. The studentship will commence in September 2015, and is tenable for three years’ full-time study.

History of CAMHS
Psychiatric, psychological and psychotherapeutic services for children and adolescents have changed radically in Britain in the decades since the Second World War. Before the 1940s, only a handful of pioneering, psychoanalytically trained practitioners specialised on the treatment of children in clinical settings. A somewhat a larger number of children came into contact with Child Guidance clinics, usually run by local educational authorities. In the decades following the launch of National Health Service in 1948 child psychiatry and Child Guidance were transformed into a complex network of services, which since the 1990s have been generally referred to as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). With this project we hope to start unpacking some of the assumptions and approaches built into CAMHS from its post-war inception, helping us to better understand how these have informed the framework and delivery of such services today.

Donald Winnicott
We are especially interested in the ways in which psychodynamic approaches continued to shape practices in a context increasingly dominated by biomedical concepts. We specifically wish to study those associated with the work of Donald W. Winnicott, a paediatrician who trained as a psychoanalyst. Winnicott promoted principles based on psychodynamic understanding of intimate relationships from infancy as essential for optimal every-day and specialist child care, therapeutic plans and educational provision. He advocated the use of ordinary language to engage with children’s maturational processes and those providing their care [the “Facilitating Environment”] to optimise health and development. Winnicott frequently recorded radio programmes and, as an early exponent of the public broadcasting role of child health and welfare specialists, was particularly visible to a broad public.

There is significant scope for the student undertaking this project to develop their own thematic and empirical interests
Among the relevant topics that might be covered are: the impact of Winnicottian (and other psychodynamic) approaches on child and adolescent psychiatry; tensions between psychodynamic approaches and biomedically informed concepts; the growing role of psychoactive drugs; reforms of CAMHS and the importance placed upon the practitioner-patient relationship as an essential tool for assessment and therapy.

The project is funded through the North West Doctoral Training Centre (NWDTC), the largest Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded DTC in England, which includes Lancaster University, the University of Liverpool and the University of Manchester. This is a CASE award, which means that we have a non-academic partner for the project, the Squiggle Foundation, an organisation dedicated to studying and disseminating the work of Donald Winnicott.

The PhD studentship will be held at the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM), which is internationally recognised for its work on the history of modern and contemporary science, technology and medicine. The student will be jointly supervised by Dr Carsten Timmermann (CHSTM, University of Manchester) and Dr Celia Roberts (Sociology, Lancaster University). Dr Adrian Sutton, the Director of the Squiggle Foundation will take an active part in the supervision of the student.

The studentship will cover university fees at UK/EU rates, and provide a living allowance subject to the ESRC’s residency requirements.

Candidates should have a strong Master’s degree in History or Social Studies of Medicine, Science and Technology Studies, or a related subject.

To apply, please send the following to Dr Carsten Timmermann,, by 15 February 2015:

a CV,
a sample of writing
a covering letter outlining reasons for application
Potential applicants are encouraged to email Dr Timmermann at the same address for further information and informal discussion.


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