How psychoanalysis can be applied to our understanding of disability

The publication of The Clinic of Disability: Psychoanalytical Approaches affords English speaking readers access to what we refer to as “French disability studies”, which are relatively unknown outside France. Our aim is to promote French psychoanalytical thinking in English speaking countries and pave the way for dialogue with our counterparts internationally.

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A Guide for Clinicians

I first heard Dr. Habib Davanloo speak when I was a fellow in psychosomatic medicine at Harvard Medical School. It was autumn 2004, and working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital offered me a multitude of rich experiences; most of which focused purely on biological illnesses such as delirium. The psychodynamic realm was not one that I frequented during my work hours as a trainee. As such, I looked forward to hearing Dr. Davanloo, Professor Emeritus at McGill University, speak at his annual Metapsychology meeting in Montreal.

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Sleeping Beauty’s Mother

Though I have written a book explorating fat and our culture, the fat complex that grips us, how the war on obesity is fought in the clinical setting, and how being fat is an ongoing traumatic experience, it is not the end of the story. Nearly every turn in the road turns up a new wrinkle in fat acceptance and dealing with weight bias for me. While I have been able to come to terms with my body, still I wished for my daughter that she not have to contend with being fat, not because I feel fat is bad but because I know how hard it is to be out of step with the culture.

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Suicide Examined, by Antonia Murphy

Posted on Mar 07, 2017

Out of this World


A friend asked me recently, apropos of my book,  “How long has this been in the making ?” I answered, “30 years fermenting and 18 months thereabouts actually writing it!” In truth this work has been a long time in coming to fruition, drawn as it is from life experience, years of clinical work, and training other clinicians working with suicidality. Now felt like the right time to write.

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Frequently Asked Questions


The therapeutic community is trying hard to ignore two elephants sitting in its midst. Their presence is discomforting. In more considered moments we know they are there, but, broadly speaking, many of us hope they will go away.

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Alan Corbett

Posted on Jan 19, 2017

Dr. Alan Corbett: A Man Enormously Loved

By Professor Brett Kahr


Christmas of 2016 proved to be a very heavy-hearted one for literally hundreds, if not thousands, of mental health professionals around the world, who have had to mourn the loss of our dear, dear friend Alan Corbett, who has died at far too early an age.

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How Imagination Can Maintain Physical and Mental Health


Many would not believe it, but you can accomplish a great deal with inner pictures. The power of the imagination can be harnessed to improve performance in sport or at work. It is also used very successfully to treat mental health problems and can even provide support with serious illnesses such as cancer.

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How images and symbols can create profound and illuminating insights


“I’ve been to see lots of therapists in the past and none of them have ever helped me.”  This was the opening statement of my new client Melissa, a successful accountant in her late forties who came to visit my practice one afternoon.

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Psychological and Behavioural Assessment and Treatment Strategies for People with Sleeping Problems and Insomnia


Teaching the World to Sleep was written on the back of a presentation delivered to a group of around 120 psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and others in London in December 2014.  This presentation had been delivered many times over the previous decade, mostly to healthcare professionals and, on occasion, to members of the public and other interested parties.  At the event in London in December 2014 there was, sitting in the audience, an associate editor from Karnac. After the event Rod Tweedy, editor-in-chief at Karnac, contacted me and suggested that I might consider translating the presentation that his associate had heard into a book for Karnac to publish.  I roughed-out an outline for the book and, in due course, contracts were signed and the work was commissioned by Karnac in February 2015. Writing took one-year and the final manuscript went to publication in November 2016, after some great support from Rod Tweedy, Constance Godolvin, Cecily Blench, Kate Pearce, Oliver Rathbone and the rest of the team at Karnac.

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Regressing to move forwards


My search for healing began many years ago, when I was experiencing unhappiness and extreme anxiety with panic attacks. I entered into a therapeutic relationship which at the time was supportive and useful and helped me through some difficult times.  Some years later I trained in psychotherapy, partly to understand myself, and entered into therapy again. This time the work was at greater depth and began to address the source of my pain, my early infancy and the relationships in my family. During my training I came to understand my object relations and the failed dependency I had experienced in infancy and so continued to search for. Fortunately for me, my therapist was open to wherever I wanted to go and was not afraid of my developing dependency. This relationship and my response to it has healed me. My personal interest and my need to develop my practice to aid clients with similar difficulties led to my research into this area, and to my book – Better Late Than Never.

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The Objectified Body as a Transitional Object in Anorexia and Body Dysmorphic Disorders

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False Bodies, True Selves: Moving Beyond Appearance-Focused Identity Struggles and Returning the the True Self is a book embedded in Donald Winnicott’s idea of the false self and true Self. Winnicott, an English paediatrician and psychoanalyst writing in the 1950s and 60s, described the development of a false self within the mother-infant relationship when the infant’s spontaneous impulses are met with non-acceptance.

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Living in the Breath: Breathing as a tool for professionals in health care, interpersonal work, teaching and guidance


When introducing people to the breathing school method, I have often started by describing my professional background and the history of psychophysical breathing therapy, because I believe these explain why I use breathing as an important tool and pathway in my psychotherapeutic work.

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David Smail: Clinical Psychologist, Sociologist, Philosopher, and Political Critic

David Smail, clinical psychologist, who has died aged 76

As Karnac Books republish four key works by the pioneering clinical psychologist, his son Alastair reflects on his achievement.

When my father died just over a year ago, the family was unsure what to do with his books. He had said he would like them published on the internet for free; either that or left alone. We did not have the capacity to post them on the internet, although David had put many articles and an internet publication on his website: The reaction to his death, as for example inThe Guardian obituary persuaded us that we needed to do something.

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A New Therapy for Politics?


Andrew’s new book, A New Therapy for Politics?, will be published by Karnac this year. Here he trails some of the ideas that are developed in the book.

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Where the Waters Meet: Convergence and Complementarity in Therapy and Theology


In 1957 the art critic Carlton Lake (1915-2006) enjoyed a remarkably frank interview with Pablo Picasso.  Jacqueline Roque, the woman in Picasso’s life at that time, was present.  Lake recalls this particular conversation: 

Just then my eye was caught by an unframed canvas standing on a shelf above Jacqueline’s head and to the right. It was a portrait of a girl – Jacqueline, I would have said – in tones of green and black and white. She was shown in profile, looking off to the left, and Picasso had given the face a mildly geometrical stylization built up of triangular forms which emphasized the linear treatment but at the same time preserved the likeness. I pointed to the painting. “How would you explain to a person whose training made him look on that as deformation, rather than formation, why you had done it that way?” I asked him.

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The Gossamer Thread: My Life as a Psychotherapist


Years ago I started writing a novel in which a recently retired psychoanalyst is interviewed by a young post-graduate psychologist about his life and experiences. I wrote 25,000 words before I realised that I was writing about my own experiences. This then morphed into my memoir.

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Healing Intelligence: The Spirit in Psychotherapy – Working with Darkness and Light

The origin of this book lay in a conference, while I was doing my training, in which some notable psychotherapists were giving an overview of the principles guiding their practice. The question of what is healing in psychotherapy did not arise, so I asked how they believed healing worked. None were inclined to reply until one remarked: “That is the $64.000 question and if I had the answer to it I would retire to the hills of Hollywood.” General laughter followed. Clearly, healing was not on the agenda for serious analysts. Individuation, yes, but healing, well … not quite. This was a more “alternative” topic – image rather than substance. It was certainly mysterious. The matter, however, remained, not just as a personal struggle but increasingly, in my view, a crucial issue in psychotherapy.
 In my early practice I was reasonably skilled at exploring the negativity and darkness in the psyche, having spent years investigating plenty of my own. However, it was much longer before I could work with the light in the psyche and to realize that darkness and light have to be worked with together to facilitate a healing outcome. Thus, I learnt to value the healing intelligence that can manifest as light in the inner world, to cherish and enjoy the light of inner awareness, to recognise the potency of healing energy, to listen, evoke, cooperate and work with it, to appreciate the higher powers of illuminative intuition and even, albeit infrequently, transcendental love. 

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The Impossibility of Knowing: Dilemmas of a Psychotherapist


Brett Kahr came to hear my paper on Absence (Chapter 8) given at the London Centre for Psychotherapy in June 2009 and, following this, encouraged me to think about producing a book, based on the many papers I have written and published over the years. He made the first contact with Oliver Rathbone on my behalf, and so smoothed the path through to Karnac Books, who generously offered to publish.

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You are Good Enough


In modern culture love  has a  prominent position.  Television dramas, songs and novels as well as popular magazines all focus on love in its many forms. Is love the answer to suffering?  Sigmund Freud noted the importance of love in the healing of the human psyche and his concerns around the erotic nature of love distanced this  relationship with his patients. 

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A Psychoanalytically-informed approach to helping and supporting people with disabilities

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This book represents a life-times work with people with learning disabilities, from a number of perspectives, but chiefly as a psychotherapist. From early experience of a long-stay hospital to community supported living, I have been struck by the resilience of people with learning disabilities, their response to being heard, but, more sadly, to the degree of trauma they have suffered. Sometimes this has been at the hands of family, but more frequently by the system that is designed to support them. It is good to see that they have more visibility now and better services but there are still too many instances of cruelty and neglect, abandonment and loss.

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Healing Between the Lines: How doing and being go hand-in-hand

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My book (I feel inclined to say “my first book”), Being With and Saying Goodbye, has just been published and is on the shelves. This is an exciting, but teetering, position from which to reflect; I am still asking myself if the book is any good. True, Karnac Books invested in it and I still bask in the extremely positive comments of the book’s endorsers. The only criticism I have received so far has been that the book may reflect an unrealistic hope, and that the first chapter might give the impression that the whole is about Zen Buddhism.

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Symptom as symbol: the metaphors of the soul’s true story

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Many psychotherapists and general medical practitioners subscribe to the popular understanding that psychotherapy is a treatment for those suffering from mental health problems. They earnestly believe that psychotherapy might offer some relief and insight to those patients who are suffering from problems that do not respond well to mainstream biologically based medical treatments. They value the fact that its effectiveness can be demonstrated by an evidence base, and consider it to be an important addition to the repertoire of mainstream medicine. 

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