Token economy programmes are becoming an increasingly familiar sight in British psychiatric hospitals, yet many remain inflexible and prone to breakdown after a period in operation. This paper describes the evolution of a token economy for female chronic schizophrenic patients, where the nursing staff with minimal ‘psychological’ support and in dealing with a programme free of research constraints, aimed to increase the therapeutic potential of the system.

The major developments arose from the need: (i) to extinguish the emergence of undesirable behaviour; (2) to develop a more individualized approach to treating patients' problems; (3) to keep consistent adequate records; (4) to re-establish contact with the community and (5) to cater for patients' varied responses to treatment.