Obituary: Herbert Phillipson

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The Independent Online
Herbert Phillipson, clinical psychologist, born Darton Yorkshire 16 March 1911, Senior Psychologist Tavistock Clinic 1945-74, married 1940 Mildred Atkinson (one son, one daughter), died Stamford 30 August 1992.

The development of clinical psychology as a discipline in its own right, with its current range of contributions to consultancy in many fields beyond those of diagnosis and therapy, owes much to Herbert Phillipson.

When appointed Senior Psychologist at the Tavistock Clinic in 1945, he had already built a reputation for himself and for his profession on the War Office Selection Boards (Officers) to which he had been seconded after being commissioned from the Royal Artillery. The methodology and series of activities originated and designed by Dr Wilfred Bion and his colleagues - drawn from the Tavistock Clinic and other relevant bodies by the Adjutant General, Sir Ronald Adam - further provided him with the opportunity of creating new ways of reviewing the information derived from the practical observational experiences employed. In addition, to draw those inferences, in collaboration with others, which could materially assist in deciding 'officer quality' and potential competence in the field.

The psychoanalytic orientation of the Tavistock Clinic provided him still further with the chance of adding that dynamic dimension to both teaching methods and experiential practice. He applied the principle of 'continuous learning' to himself and imbued his students with both that precept and the critical importance of inter-relating external environmental faces and events with those of the inner world.

Over the years his courses attracted a series of talented students who themselves, since, have paid tribute to his endeavours by the contributions they are making in a wide variety of fields, such as organisational research and consultancy, counselling, group development, selection, appraisal and training, as well as in the mainstream of clinical psychology itself.

Besides being expert in the use and teaching of the well known Rorschach Test (commonly known as the 'Inkblots Test'), he will be especially remembered as the creator of the 'Object Relations Test' which, through its method of presentation, as well as by its nature, offers the individual undergoing it the opportunity of deriving insight and understanding in the course of the process.

'Phil' (as he was called by his friends and colleagues) was deeply concerned with the communities of which he was a member. After retirement in 1974, this applied as much to his local village Castle Bytham in Lincolnshire as it did earlier to the clinic and the institute.

He was always called upon for advice and was always ready to help in any way he could. Throughout his career, as well as in local affairs, he had the support of Mildred, his wife, who shared his interests, and with whom, and their son and daughter, he had an equally fulfilling family life.

He also continued his contact with and interest in the various 'Tavistocks' through his membership of the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology, where his experience and consultative skills were always made available. He was one of those unassuming, warm, yet forthright people who exercise powers of leadership and leadership without any apparent effort - an exemplar for us all.

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