Obituary: Glyn Seaborn Jones

Rosalind Bieber
Thursday 29 July 1999 00:02
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GLYN SEABORN JONES was one of the leading figures in the world of humanistic psychotherapy in the 1970s, and the first to introduce Arthur Janov's primal scream therapy to Europe.

His neighbours in Muswell Hill, north London, will remember the time that his house was surrounded by policemen after bloodcurdling screams were heard coming from his primal scream workshop. They will also remember him as the eccentric running around Highgate Woods stripped to the waist, weights in each hand.

He became known to the wider public when working with the broadcaster Mavis Nicholson in the late 1970s, for three series of Predicaments for Thames Television. This was the first time ordinary members of the public were invited into the television studio to discuss their anxieties, worries and phobias, with Seaborn Jones as the consultant psychotherapist.

He was a loner and followed his own instincts in the development of his psychotherapeutic methods. He never abandoned his central belief in the Freudian unconscious and in Melanie Klein's understanding of the infantile world. These beliefs he incorporated into his own work, together with an eagerness to explore the new thinking emerging from California in the early 1970s - the "humanistic" or "growth" movement.

Later in life Seaborn Jones became more and more convinced of the value not only of uncovering infantile and pre-birth traumas, but also of "good womb bliss" and the therapeutic value of achieving this in therapy.

He was renowned for his capacity to make group and individual therapy stimulating and profound, sometimes frightening and often fun. He would demonstrate how to voice rage (he had seriously considered an acting career) - this could be alarming to some, but most people were inspired to copy him and they were, temporarily at least, freed of certain inhibitions.

His 1968 book Treatment or Torture explores the philosophical basis of psychodynamics. David Stafford- Clark, writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, reported, "Treatment or Torture stands out in the reviewer's estimation by coming comfortably close to being a masterpiece."

Seaborn Jones was born in 1919 and grew up in straitened circumstances in Shropshire, the only child of a Welsh father and English mother. His father had been gassed in the First World War and having contracted TB, was unable to work - he spent his life in an open-sided shed at the bottom of the garden, the belief at the time being that cold was the only treatment for TB. Seaborn Jones's mother was a primary-school teacher and struggled through great poverty to keep a home going.

From this background he gained a scholarship to read Classics at Oxford. His studies were interrupted by the Second World War. After serving in the RAF, he returned to the university in 1945 to read PPE, studying with the philosopher A.J. Ayer. Towards the end of his studies, Ayer asked him to take over the chair in philosophy at New York University which Ayer held from 1948, but Seaborn Jones turned down the offer, as he was finding his own group therapy in a closed analytic research group at the Tavistock Clinic in London too valuable to abandon. The group lasted for 11 years.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Seaborn Jones gave tutorial classes in Philosophy, Psychology and English Literature for London and Cambridge universities. He also wrote book reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman. In 1970 he was elected to the British Association for Psychotherapy (which became the British Association of Psychotherapists).

He was still seeing patients weeks before his death, and whilst in hospital was reading new books on therapy. His philosophy of life to some seemed bleak, but he was fearless and serene about his own dying.

Rosalind Bieber

Glyn Seaborn Jones, psychotherapist: born 28 January 1919; married (one son); died London 2 July 1999.

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