The Blackthorn Trust is a supportive therapeutic environment in which people can recover, grow and develop.

Founded over 30 years ago by Dr David McGavin, we offer specialist therapies and rehabilitation at our unique facilities near Maidstone, which includes the Blackthorn Medical Centre, a large biodynamic garden, a vegetarian café and kitchen, craft studios and therapy rooms.

Our work is based on the belief that more than medication is required to affect positive change in people: namely community, meaningful work, therapeutic and peer support, and daily routine.

We are proud of how the work of Rudolf Steiner underpins all our work, and the belief that people can be ‘over-intellectualised and should pay more attention to feelings, to the imagination, to the emotions, to the body and the space it occupies, and to nature and all its rhythms.’

We work together in harmony whether we are at Blackthorn as a co-worker, a volunteer, or a member of staff, to create a safe environment to share stories, make new friends and support each other.

We use our person-centred approach to help people who are at particular points of crisis in their lives. We provide tailored programmes for people suffering with mental illness, chronic pain and type 2 diabetes.

To find out about our programmes and how to access them take a look at our referrals page


We offer a wide range of socially therapeutic workshops that provide not only routine and structure, but also a forum in which to gain confidence, develop skills and establish a sense of order and control.

Set against the beautiful backdrop of our biodynamic garden – which is also used therapeutically – our workshops provide the opportunity to spend time in a pleasing physical environment that stimulate the senses, create a connection with nature, and encourage the development of creative abilities that may have been dormant or previously undiscovered.

Our workshop leaders also act as mentors to our co-workers, helping them to get the most out of Blackthorn by ensuring that they are in the appropriate workshops, drafting in extra therapeutic help if needed, and through an on-going dialogue that supports co-workers as they navigate their way towards their goals.

Workshops currently include:
• Cooking and baking
• Working in the café and kitchen
• Garden and herb workshops
• Crafts and stained glass
• Wood work
• Art

Some of these workshops offer the opportunity to acquire a certificate in food industries skills, a course which is over-seen by our partner, Hadlow College

The items produced in the workshops are sold to the public, so the work of each individual has not only a therapeutic benefit to them, but also contributes towards sustaining the project for the future.

We also have a selection of workshops which have been created for our diabetes wellbeing project (DWELL). Find out more about them here


We offer a range of Steiner-based therapies at the Blackthorn Trust which can be drawn upon to help people to overcome the challenges they are facing. Each therapy works in a different way, and will be selected according to the needs of the individual.

Art Therapy
Anthroposophical Art Therapy seeks to strengthen and support the inherent forces of health which have been displaced by illness. It tends to harmonise imbalances by transforming deeply ingrained habits and awakening new faculties of imagination. The artistic process can bring about new insights and self-knowledge, as well as the development of new qualities like patience, confidence and a stronger sense of self. No previous experience or ability is required as the therapeutic effects lie more in the doing than the final result, and the activity itself works in subtle ways to restore inner balance and health to the physical body.

Metal Colour Light Therapy
This unique therapy, developed in Germany by Marianne Altmaier, uses panels of etched hand-crafted glass mixed with metal oxides and sulphates to improve the well-being of people suffering from a number of ailments, including chronic pain, anxiety and sleep problems.

Rythmical Massage
Rhythmical Massage Therapy can be beneficial in chronic and acute conditions. It can reach many levels of the human being which make it possible in a wide range of illnesses and difficulties, physical, psychological and developmental. It brings about change, to find new development and inner growth. This therapy is currently available as part of the pain programme only.

Biographical Counselling
Biographical Counselling aims to help people in life crises build new strength to meet the challenges that life presents them with.

It works with the past, present and future, understanding that the past and future reach far beyond one particular lifetime. In this way, the biographical counsellor helps create a space in which the richness of human life can be worked with so that new forces for growth and development can be liberated.
Through this process a person will gain a wider perspective of their own story. From this new perspective they are then able to see the repetition of patterns, the transformative movements, as well as the forgotten talents, and crisis then becomes an opportunity for learning and growth.

Eurythmy Therapy
Eurythmy therapy is an active movement therapy, though well able to accommodate people’s disabilities, as it may be carried out standing, sitting and even in bed. Eurythmy offers a chance to learn the benefits of moving in a mindful manner to restore inner balance and calm. Using rhymes, poetry and music, the individual will experience how rhythm works to dispel anxiety and promote well-being. Participating in this movement helps to establish harmony in the totality of our being and in our relationship to the world.

Self-Awareness Group
This 6 week therapeutic course offers a supportive environment in which to learn new ways to manage life’s challenges. It explores key themes, such as personal empowerment, the importance of boundaries, problem-solving and decision making, and helpful thinking. Participants are given the opportunity to develop new tools to help manage stress and anxiety, and to build self-esteem.


The aim of Workways coaching is to use creative techniques to guide people towards their meaningful endeavours – whether that is work or otherwise – and to support them with small practical steps that will help turn dreams into reality.

Story telling
Workways sessions always begin with an open conversation which often reveals forgotten dreams, unacknowledged talents, and other aptitudes that have been born out of the Blackthorn experience. Together, we examine the role these themes have played in the person’s life so far, the experience they have gathered, what additional experience might be missing, and how we can ultimately turn that into a story that will make sense on a CV.

Bridging the skills and confidence gap
If people have little or no professional experience, or they have had a long break from employment, we may devise mini projects that will allow them to demonstrate their capabilities and build their self-confidence. This might involve daring to do a placement in the Blackthorn cafe to learn customer service skills, volunteering for another organisation, or it may be more abstract – tapping into creative skills by making or drawing something, for example. Often these endeavours unlock the door to a new world of possibilities. The overarching principle is to treat everything as an experiment where failure simply indicates a need to try something else.

Overcoming obstacles
We inevitably encounter obstacles along the way. If basic foundations such as housing and benefits are not secure it becomes almost impossible to focus on taking on new challenges. At this point we have a wide network of support services on-hand that we can refer people to.

Getting results
To-date, we have helped people to return to work, find new careers, volunteer in the community, set up businesses, and create structure and a social life to keep isolation at bay.


This is an activity-based group programme to enjoy
– 10 interactive group sessions to learn with others and through experience
– 2 personal career guidance meetings to help explore career ideas
– Key worker support to help make step-by-step progress
– Friendly informal atmosphere, small groups, time to chat and share experiences

Aims of the course
Build career resilience – work on building attributes to help to survive adversity in a career
Invest in career happiness – explore ways to develop the enjoyment and well-being gained from taking part in learning and work
Work towards career growth – make personal progress towards learning or work

European Union Social Fund