This reports summarises research that began in March 2014 and was completed in October 2015 by an
experienced inter-disciplinary research team from the Centre for Social Justice and Change and Psycho-Social
Research Group, School of Social Sciences, the University of East London (UEL) and included Dr Yang Li from
the Centre for Geo-Information Studies, UEL, in the first phase of the study.
Tottenham ‘Thinking Space’ (TTS) was a pilot therapeutic initiative based in local communities and delivered
by the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust and funded by the London Borough of Haringey
Directorate of Public Health. TTS aimed to improve mental health and enable and empower local
TTS was situated within a mental health policy agenda that encourages people to help themselves and aims
to develop confident communities. On the one hand TTS was well-suited to this agenda, but, on the other,
participants were resistant to, and were trying to free themselves from labelling that implied ‘mental health
A total of 243 meetings were held and 351 people attended 1,716 times. The majority of participants
attended four times or less, and 33 people attended between 5 and 10 times and 39 people attended over
Attendees reflected the ethnic diversity of Tottenham; 29 different ethnic groups attended. The opportunity
to meet with people from different cultural backgrounds in a safe space was highly valued by attendees.
Similarly, participants valued the wide age range represented and felt that they benefited from listening to
The majority of participants were women (72%) and they were instrumental in initiating further Thinking
Spaces, topic specific meetings, the summer programme of activities for mothers and young children and
training to meet their needs.
The community development worker had a key role in implementing the initiative and sustaining its growth
throughout the pilot period.
We observed that TTS attracted those whose life experiences were marked by personal struggle and trauma.
Many participants felt safe enough to disclose mental health difficulties and a sense of hopelessness.
Participants also came seeking a stronger sense of community in their local area.
We found that the therapeutic method was put in place by high quality facilitators and health and personal
outcomes for participants were consistent with those predicted by the underpinning psychoanalytical and
Outcomes included a reduction in anxieties and improved personal and social functioning; approximately
two thirds of those who completed a questionnaire felt better understood, felt more motivated and more
hopeful for the future.
The overwhelming majority of survey respondents also felt good about contributing to their community, said
that they were more able to cooperate with others and accepting of other cultures, and had made new
Participants typically had a better understanding of their current situation and how to take positive action;
of those who completed a questionnaire, over half felt more confident to seek support for a personal issue
and to contact services.