Spotlight on Phil Mollon – a Voice Against the Psychotherapy Status Quo

On 24 June 2017 Dr Phil Mollon will be returning to Brighton Therapy Partnership to present an exciting new topic entitled “When Psychotherapy is Harmful…”. In this one-day seminar Dr Mollon will explore what works and what doesn’t in therapy, and enable insight into the kind of therapy that might be most helpful for our clients. In light of his continued work with us, and his prolific publications, we thought this a great time to find out a little more about the man behind the ideas.

Phil Mollon has run multiple events with Brighton Therapy Partnership, with his latest seminar ‘When Psychotherapy is Harmful…’ taking place on 24 June 2017.

Dr Phil Mollon’s education

Dr Phil Mollon qualified in clinical psychology at Leeds University in 1976 whilst behaviourism was still in its heyday. Yet already at this early stage in his training, Phil wasn’t one to meekly sit back and accept the commonly espoused ideas of the day.

His supervisor stated that he “did not really find the concept of personality very useful” (1). Phil felt that this idea was naïve, leading him to further his studies with a more analytical approach, leading to his studies in psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic in 1985, and in psychoanalysis in 1998 [London Institute & IPA].

His PhD, obtained in 1989, from a joint arrangement between the Tavistock Clinic and Brunel University, was a psychoanalytic study of disturbances in the sense of self, including the sense of shame, about which he later went on to publish a number of papers, as well as his 2002 book “Shame and Jealousy: The Hidden Turmoils”. His published papers and book on the subject of shame remain the first major and detailed exploration of the topic within the British psychoanalytic tradition.

New ways of looking at therapy

Psychoanalytic Energy Psychotherapy

Dr Phil Mollon is currently a leading psychoanalyst, clinical psychologist, energy psychotherapist and trainer, who has published extensively on a large range of subjects including shame, ADHD, narcissism and dissociation. He has pioneered the development of Psychoanalytic Energy Psychotherapy (PEP) which combines the insights of the psychoanalytic tradition with an understanding of how emotional distress and dysfunctional patterns are encoded in the body-mind-energy system.

The work in PEP is said to be subtle and complex since there are many layers in both the psyche and the energy system, but has proven to be an exciting new development in the therapeutic world. His work today remains rooted in psychoanalysis, whilst also incorporating neurobiological, cognitive, and energetic perspectives.

A voice against the status quo

With 40 years of clinical experience, in both the NHS and private practice, Phil Mollon has explored many different approaches, always seeking better ways of helping those who are troubled with mental health problems, and he isn’t afraid to speak up when he feels the status quo isn’t in the client’s best interest. Through his website he laments how the medicalisation of therapy has been furthered through NICE guidelines:

Over the last few years, since the NICE guidelines in relation to mental health and psychological therapies have gained in influence, I have often pondered how it was that clinical psychologists, many of them seemingly intelligent and thoughtful people, have colluded with the absurdity of the medical model on which the guidelines are based. (1)

Phil is known for speaking out about inadequacies within NHS mental health services, and the rigidity of the ‘brand’ of therapy they offer.

It seems to me an obvious conclusion that a clinician wishing primarily to help his or her clients will draw upon effective components from different traditions in order to facilitate the individual’s idiosyncratic journey of emotional healing – a therapeutic approach that is commonly called ‘Integrative’. However, Integrative approaches do not feature in NICE guidelines, current ‘care pathways’, or in any NHS lists of recommended psychological treatments. In fact, they are discouraged. (2)

When psychotherapy is harmful

This insistence of his to see the bigger picture has allowed Phil to become a leading source of ‘straight talk’ in a sea of yes men. A role he has been happy to own as he has developed his latest line of thought which led him to develop his new seminar “When Psychotherapy is Harmful…”.

To this end, he has begun investigating the idea that therapy isn’t necessarily a cure for all, and that sometimes it doesn’t work for clients who experience it. He says:

Even the best forms of therapy, and the best therapists, are only able to help a proportion of patients – particularly in the case of the more severe and complex kinds of distress and personality disturbance. (3)

Despite a higher percentage of the population now having experienced therapy than ever before, those clients are mostly feeling their way in the dark, knowing that ‘talking therapies, have been proven, but remaining unaware of what they are really signing up for. Dr Mollon continues…

One of the inherently deceptive aspects of much of the current discourse about psychotherapy is the commercial ‘branding’ of different approaches. People make money out of [a] writing a manual for a ‘new’ form of therapy, [b] carrying out some research to demonstrate that it brings about some positive change in clients, [c] selling the ‘product’, in the form of the therapy itself, the training, and the supervision. (3)

Phil’s newest seminar “When Psychotherapy is Harmful…” will look both at negligent therapy and naiveté which can lead the well-meaning therapist to cause harm rather than positive change when working with clients. It’s a scary idea that as therapist we could inadvertently cause damage to a client’s psyche, but this is a truth we must feel strong enough to embrace as a whole. Phil’s training day will also look at what works in therapy and draw conclusions of how best to make psychotherapy both pragmatic and helpful to clients, to maintain the positive progress we hope to achieve with them.

Previous Delegates at Dr Phil Mollon’s training seminars have said:

Both theoretically and practically useful for my practice. Dr Mollon was an amusing and engaging speaker whose knowledge was phenomenal.

Dr Mollon was Informed, clear and very moving. This day has been of enormous personal and clinical value. The trainer was absorbing – a wonderful communicator, so knowledgeable and compassionate.

My enormous resistance to spiritual/non-visible philosophies and approaches was overcome by Phil’s demonstrations. I had a shockingly positive experience.

Fantastic. Mind-blowing. Comprehensive. Dr Mollon was thorough, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.

A warm welcome by BTP and a rich, enlightening training by Phil Mollon.

I found it very thorough in theory and feel better equipped to help clients with Autism and ADHD.

The core material was moving and enlightening.





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