First name:
Maxwell Shaw
20th century
Field of expertise:
Social psychiatry
Place of birth:
Queenstown (ZAF)
* 01.01.1907
† 19.08.1990
Biography print

Social psychiatrist, founded the concept of the therapeutic community.


Maxwell Shaw Jones (1907-1990) was born in Queenstown, Cape Province (in present-day South Africa), as the youngest of three siblings. After his father’s death in 1912, his mother went to live in Scotland with her children. Jones entered the medical school at Edinburgh University in 1925, specialised in psychiatry and became an assistant to the professor of psychiatry Sir David Henderson. In 1936, he received a scholarship and went to the US to study psychobiology at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, where he engaged in research on the biology of schizophrenia. After his return to the UK in 1938, he worked at Maudsley Hospital, London, under Aubrey Lewis.


The concept of the therapeutic community

With the outbreak of WW2, Maudsley Hospital was closed down and its staff transferred to newly established emergency hospitals. One of them was set up at the former Mill Hill Public School in northern London, where Jones joined a team led by Paul Wood to study the causes of cardiophobia in soldiers and develop possible forms of treatment in order to restore their fitness for service (Briggs 2009: 4 f). In 1942, he introduced group therapy and methods borrowed from theatre pedagogy at Mill Hill Emergency Hospital. He left the hospital in 1945 and became the supervisor of a sixty-man team to treat mentally disturbed POWs. It was in this function that he developed the concept of the therapeutic community, which later gained international recognition. Between 1958 and 1978, Jones evaluated rehabilitation programmes around the world on behalf of the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP).


Upon recommendation of Harry Wilmer, Jones was invited to Stanford University as Visiting Commonwealth Professor of Social Psychiatry in 1959. During his year at Stanford, he and Wilmer developed a system of community-based mental health provision for the nearby city of San Mateo. When Wilmer initiated the first Democratic Therapeutic Community (DTC) in the whole of North America, Jones acted as an advisor to the project. The concept was first introduced at the California Department of Corrections and subsequently at all other state prisons. Between 1960 and 1962, Jones worked as the Director of Education and Research at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Oregon. He returned to the UK in1962 and was appointed head physician at Dingleton Hospital in Melrose, Scotland, a post that he held until his automatic retirement at the age of 65. After his retirement from the British National Health Service, he accepted a post as senior staff consultant at Fort Logan Mental Health Center near Denver, Colorado, where he also initiated a project for inmates of the local prison who were diagnosed with “schizophrenia”. In 1986, he moved to Wolville in Nova Scotia, Canada, and limited his professional activities mainly to consulting work. Maxwell Shaw Jones died in 1990, at age 83.



1959: Isaac Ray Award of the American Psychiatric Association.



Bloom, S. L. (1997): Creating Sanctuary. Toward the evolution of sane societies. New York: Routledge.

Briggs, D. (2002): A Life Well Lived. Maxwell Jones, a memoir. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Casson, J. (2000): Maxwell Jones. Dramatherapy and psychodrama. 1942-9. In: Journal of the British Association of Dramatherapists 22, (2), pp. 18-21.

Jones, M. (1944): Group Treatment with Particular Reference to Group Projection Methods. In: American Journal of Psychiatry 101, (3), pp. 292-299.

Jones, M. (1948): Emotional Catharsis and Re-Education in the Neuroses with the Help of Group Methods. In: The British Journal of Medical Psychology 21, (2), pp. 104-110.

Jones, M. (1949): Acting as an Aid to Therapy in a Neurosis Centre. In: British Medical Journal 1,(5), pp. 756-758.

Jones, M. (1952): Social Psychiatry. A study of therapeutic communities. London: Tavistock.

Jones, M. (1953): The Therapeutic Community. A new treatment method in psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.

Jones, M. (1962): Social Psychiatry in the Community, in Hospitals, and in Prisons. Springfield: Thomas.

Jones, M. (1968): Beyond the Therapeutic Community. Social learning and social psychiatry. New Haven: Yale University.

Jones, M. (1968): Social Psychiatry in Practice. The idea of the therapeutic community. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Jones, M. (1971): Small Group Psychotherapy. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Jones, M. (1976): Maturation of the Therapeutic Community. An organic approach to health and mental health. New York: Human Sciences.

Jones, M. (1982): The Process of Change. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Jones, M. (1988): Growing Old. The ultimate freedom. New York: Human Sciences.

Murto, K. (1991): Towards the Well-functioning Community. The development of Anton Makarenko and Maxwell Jones’ communities. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä.


Burkhart Brückner, Robin Pape


Referencing format
Robin Pape, Burkhart Brückner (2015): Jones, Maxwell Shaw.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:21.07.2024)