Cathja – Thames Rehabilitation Barge

Here are Pamela, Ben, Alex and Carl (the boss) on the wharf where Cathja is moored in Isleworth, Middlesex
Here are Pamela, Ben, Alex and Carl (the boss) on the wharf where Cathja is moored in Isleworth, Middlesex, and in the photograph below some of the regular workers on the barge are having a tea break

Cathja at work 2015

Cathja is a reclaimed Dutch barge that has had a new role for the past 10 years.  It serves as a rehabilitation centre for people with long-standing mental illness. It follows the principles of nidotherapy in that it (i) allows people to choose what they wish to do on the barge (much of its present work is concerned with wood-carving and art but there is scope for much more), (ii) it does not direct people to services or treat symptoms and allows the environment to serve as the therapist, (iii) it represents the essence of collaboration as the staff are there to help people do want they want and to answer questions, but otherwise avoid the interference that clogs up so many people’s lives when they are mentally unwell.

The second photograph shows some of the people who come regularly to work on the barge. They include Marcus, who has attended regularly for many years and who said to me, in a way that made me feel he absolutely meant it, ‘coming to the barge has saved my life; but for the barge I would not be here now’.

You can learn more about Cathja (Patron: Lord Nic Rea) by looking at the link ( or by contacting Carl and his colleagues on

We are sad to report the death of Lord Rea in June 2020 at the age of 91. He was a great supporter of nidotherapy and chaired one of our early workshops. He was a champion of the NHS and a former GP. When he was ‘placed’ in the House of Lords – he was one of the last hereditary peers and only succeeded to the peerage reluctantly when his brother died – he became the Lords doctor, attending to the medical needs of a body with its fair share of decrepitude and chronic illnes. When elections took place for a minority of hereditary peers to retain their seats he achieved the highest vote.