The Cassel was founded in 1919 by Sir Ernest Cassel as a private psychiatric hospital to treat civilians who had been traumatised by the First World War. 

In 1948, the Cassel became part of the NHS, under the leadership of Dr Tom Main, who remained as Medical Director until his retirement 30 years later. 

A trained psychoanalyst, Dr Main brought the concept of a therapeutic community to the Cassel.  This offered a radically different treatment approach to the traditional psychiatric hospitals of the day.

Instead of viewing patients as passively ill and staff as actively knowing what was best for them, patients were respected and regarded as active participants in the treatment process, psychotherapy and social rehabilitation as its cornerstones. 

A democratic structure was fostered in which patients played an active role in the day-to-day running of the hospital and participated in their own and other patients’ treatment in an atmosphere that encouraged open communication. Staff worked alongside patients, supporting and sometimes challenging them in their day-to-day living tasks and responsibilities.

Although the Cassel has undergone many changes over the years, these core values remain at the heart of our treatment approach:

The patients and the relationships between them are at the centre of our  therapeutic work. While interaction between staff and patients is viewed as important interaction and support between patients is considered as of equal value.

Patients come to the Cassel on a voluntary basis and are expected to take responsibility for themselves and each other to a greater degree than in an acute ward and most other mental health services.

We help manage patients’ difficulties in a thoughtful and emotionally responsive way, while challenging and encouraging enquiry into destructive behaviours.

A culture of enquiry
We foster a culture of discussion and enquiry which allows for the continuing examination of patient and staff roles and group dynamics.

Treatment at the Cassel takes a combined psychosocial and psychoanalytic approach.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy attempts to develop awareness of conscious and unconscious mental processes, and to enable patients to exercise more choice over how they live their lives. 

Patients receive formal individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy in the inpatient programme and small group psychoanalytic psychotherapy in both the inpatient and outreach programmes. 

Psychoanalytic thinking is also applied in a wider way both to how we work with patients as a team and to the organisation as a whole.

Psychosocial nursing is concerned with the emotional and social aspects of a patient’s life. Our Registered Nurses and Support Workers work alongside patients on everyday living tasks, so that difficulties in interpersonal relating can be looked at and thought about in a living situation. The focus of the work is to build real relationships where trust and honesty can develop.