Paul Gordon

For many years I worked as a researcher/campaigner in civil liberties and anti-racism, but I was always interested in what made people who they were, do what they did, think what they thought, feel what they felt – what ‘made them tick’.

My first involvement with psychotherapy was with the Institute of Psychotherapy Social Studies, which tried to situate the individual within her or his social and political context, and it was there I came across people such as David Smail and Peter Lomas.

A long-standing interest in philosophy took me then to the Philadelphia Association, where I found the thinking of people like Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Emmanuel Levinas hugely rewarding.

To me, people’s problems are not ‘in’ them in any meaningful sense. The difficulties in living that we can find so debilitating, arise from our experience, whether as physical beings who suffer, or from our emotional experiences at the hands of others, particularly in our early years, and which are often repeated as we get older.

Therapy, to me, is a conversation, although it is a conversation about one person. Often it is only through talking to another person that we can come to know what it is that we really think or feel; where we might find what TS Eliot called ‘speech for that unspoken’. Nothing, however troubling or bewildering it may seem, cannot be made sense of, if given the right kind of time and attention.

Like many therapists, I’ve always seen some people for low fees. And I benefitted from this myself; I’ve always been grateful to my first therapist who saw me for very little money throughout my training. I’ve also found myself seeing people for nothing, when even the little is too much. This can be a almost a dirty secret among therapists, as though we are colluding with the person’s defences, so strong is the view that payment is somehow necessary.

I currently work privately with individuals and couples from my home in north west London and as a house therapist to one of the Philadelphia Association’s community houses.