Dr Joseph H. Berke

About Dr Joseph H. Berke

Dr Joseph H. Berke was a pioneer of the medication free therapeutic community. He dedicated his life to working alongside people who some thought had no hope of recovery.

Berke proved that a different way is possible, and people need a safe space to explore their suffering and grow through trauma. He was against pathologising people, and reducing their complexities and difficult stories to psychiatric labels.

Areas of interest

  • Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy
  • Psychodynamic Approach to Psychosis
  • Therapeutic Communities
  •  Transpersonal psychology
  • Jewish mystical tradition: Kabbalah and Chassidism.
  • www.jhberke.co.uk

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Remembering Joseph Berke

Author and psychoanalyst Dr Joseph H Berke was a pioneer of a psychotherapeutic approach to psychosis. He was pivotal in setting up landmark therapeutic communities that ran on the belief that people need a safe place to explore their suffering.

Berke believed that people – including those presenting with psychosis and experiences that might attract a label of schizophrenia or psychotic disorder – can and do get better. That’s still pretty radical, and we’re delighted Joe joined us at our Gatherings.

Joseph Berke studied at Columbia College of Columbia University and graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.  He moved to London to train with existential psychoanalyst, Dr. R.D.Laing, and assisted in establishing the Kingsley Hall therapeutic Community, where he helped Mary Barnes, a nurse who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, to emerge from madness. Mary later became a famous artist, writer and mystic, and the book they wrote together (Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness) was adapted as a stage play by David Edgar. Joseph Berke collaborated on a number of projects with R. D. Laing including the Dialectics of Liberation international conference in London,15-30 July 1967 which Berke was the principal organiser of.

In 1970 Joseph Berke cofounded the Arbours Housing Association In London in order to provide personal, psychotherapeutic care and shelter for people in emotional distress. Later he founded, and was the director of, the Arbours Crisis Centre.

Joe described the Arbours treatment approach:

“Most of what takes place in the name of psychiatric treatment is a form of shutting people up. At the Arbours we take it that a person’s suffering, a person’s weird experiences or strange behaviour, is a cry for help and an attempt to be understood. So the way we help people is by allowing them to reach us with their suffering. “

Jospeh Berke was the author of many papers and books on psychotherapy, social psychiatry, psychosis and therapeutic communities as well as religion and spirituality.

He was married to the psychotherapist, Shree Berke, and had two children from his first marriage.

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