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Gordon, P. (1990). Thresholds Between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Papers from the Philadelphia Association by Robin Cooper and others. Published by Free Association Books, London 1989; 205 pages; £30.00 hardback.. Brit. J. Psychother., 7(1):105-106.

(1990). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 7(1):105-106

Thresholds Between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Papers from the Philadelphia Association by Robin Cooper and others. Published by Free Association Books, London 1989; 205 pages; £30.00 hardback.

Review by:
Paul Gordon

The Philadelphia Association is probably best known through R D Laing, one of its founders, and its work in providing households for people in severe mental distress, the most famous (or infamous) being Kingsley Hall in London's East End. This, however, is just a small part of this ‘Philadelphia story’ for, since its formation in 1964, the Association has also developed its own approach to psychoanalytic psychotherapy - reflected in this book of papers by Association members - and its own psychotherapy training programme which has existed since 1969.

A chapter in this book outlines, frankly it seems, the history of the Association. While acknowledging the organisation's debt to Laing, it makes it clear that Laing's role was only part of its development. Not only did many others play key roles, people like David Cooper, Aaron Esterson and Hugh Crawford, but Laing's involvement brought its own problems. The other side of the coin of his creativity was a lack of responsibility and sustained interest. That and Laing's increasing flirtation with humanistic psychology, including mass ‘rebirthings’ at the Inn on the Park on a Sunday afternoon, meant an inevitable parting of the ways.

Beyond such a history, one immediately encounters difficulties in trying to define or explain the Philadelphia Association. This is a point made by Chris Oakley on the first page of the book when he writes, ‘one comes up against a persistent indirectness. What unfolds is a lattice-work of complicated intersections’. One strand in this lattice is a highly critical view of orthodox psychoanalysis. This, Oakley says, has become ‘commonplace’, a ‘depository of faith, elaborated on occasions by pious scholasticism,

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