Waiting Times project: a medical humanities project involving adolescent psychotherapy

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust is involved in the multi-site interdisciplinary research study “Waiting Times”, led by Exeter University and Birkbeck, University of London.

waiting times project

Waiting Times brings together an interdisciplinary team to investigate waiting as a cultural and psychosocial concept, and an embodied and historical experience, in order to analyse and understand the relationship between time and care. Working across Medical Humanities and Psychosocial Studies, the project uncovers the history, cultural representation, and psychosocial organisation of delayed and impeded time, from 1860 to the present.

This research attends both to the agonies and the unexpected possibilities found within waiting and underpins focused investigations of ‘watchful waiting’ in current general practice, psychotherapy, and end of life care. It asks which ideas of time are at work within healthcare, developing new models of durational temporality to conceptualise how waiting might operate as a form of careful attention, historically and in the present.

By contextualising these healthcare practices within broader social organisations of time, the project opens up the meanings, difficulties, and potentialities of waiting in current times. Through academic publications and extensive public engagement, ‘Waiting Times’ is working to reframe current debates about waiting in and for healthcare and enable a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the relation between waiting, care, and changing experiences of time.

I am contributing to the Waiting Times research team as Senior Research Fellow, based at the Tavistock. The Tavistock’s particular involvement is with “The psychic life of time”: a key strand of the project examining adolescent development and mental health care in relation to the concepts of time and waiting. We are particularly interested, one the one hand, in adolescent psychotherapy – where we hope to think about questions such as how one manages to sit with risk during ongoing psychotherapy, and the particular impact of waiting during time-limited psychotherapy such as STPP – and, on the other, in considerations of emotional development and waiting for young people attending the Gender Identity Development Service.

The project is running from September 2017 to August 2022.

Dr Jocelyn Catty,
Research Lead, Child Psychotherapy Doctoral Training (M80), Tavistock Centre
Senior Research Fellow, Waiting Times Project

Read about the Psychic Life of Time on the Exeter university website.