Psychotherapy Blog


John Marzillier, PhD

John Marzillier MA, MSc, PhD is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist living in Oxford, England. In a long career he worked as an academic psychologist, a clinician and a private practitioner in psychotherapy. He trained in behavioural, cognitive, cognitive-analytic and psychodynamic therapies, a professional journey that he describes in his personal memoir, The Gossamer Thread. My Life as a Psychotherapist published by Karnac Books in 2010. He has retired from his psychotherapy practice to work as a writer. As well as continuing to write about psychotherapy, John writes fiction and poetry. In 2002 he was awarded a MA in Creative Writing by Bath Spa University College. A selection of his poetry can be found on He is currently writing a book on people’s responses to major trauma based on recorded interviews with trauma survivors. John’s website can be found on

Psychotherapy: Terminal or Interminable

Posted by John Marzillier, PhD on 6/3/12 - 9:01 PM
“I was okay until I met you!” she said and slammed the door of my office as she left. I have never forgotten that moment. I was shocked, not just by the vehemence, her incandescent anger, but by my complete failure to anticipate her reaction. I thought I was a good judge of character and I had got this woman badly wrong. I had invited her husband to attend the previous session and, instead of supporting her jibes and scarcely...

First Impressions in Psychotherapy

Posted by John Marzillier, PhD on 3/11/12 - 12:52 PM
A woman wrote to me, having heard me on a radio programme. She had picked up my concern that not enough attention was being paid to the quality of the therapeutic relationship (as opposed to techniques) and wondered how her 25 year-old son, who was seeking a psychotherapist, could assess that in advance of therapy when neither of them knew any therapists where they lived. The obvious answer is that he should wait until he and the therapist meet. Therapy...

Techniques, Therapeutic Relationship and the Importance of the Body

Posted by John Marzillier, PhD on 12/22/11 - 11:59 AM
Throughout my career as a psychotherapist I struggled to find the right balance between using specific techniques and the importance of establishing a safe therapeutic relationship. Toward the end I veered more to the latter as I realised, rather belatedly I admit, that people sought therapy not necessarily to get better but often just to be heard. A safe haven and a sensitive, empathic and caring individual can be enough; specific techniques can get in the way. Of course this...

Supervision of Executive Coaching

Posted by John Marzillier, PhD on 9/14/11 - 11:04 AM
Last year I was tempted out of my retirement as a psychotherapist to provide supervision to a group of colleagues working with business executives. This was not psychotherapy but coaching, and my protests that I had never done any coaching or even read very much about it were overruled: they wanted me and they had every confidence that I would do a good job. I was flattered of course, intrigued too, and the extra money was welcome. So I began....

Listening versus Hearing in Psychotherapy

Posted by John Marzillier, PhD on 7/27/11 - 1:50 PM
In my memoir, The Gossamer Thread: My Life as a Psychotherapist, I describe my treatment of ‘Angie’, a young mother with horrific fantasies of killing her two young children by stabbing them through the heart with a kitchen knife. It was back in the 1980s and I was in the process of shedding my old behaviour therapy skin, realising I needed to listen to the client more carefully before embarking on any specific intervention. My therapy was a success, or...

Treating Special Clients in Psychotherapy

Posted by John Marzillier, PhD on 4/26/11 - 10:19 AM
In the film, The King’s Speech, George VI seeks treatment for his stammer from a maverick Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, played brilliantly by Geoffrey Rush. “My patch, my rules,” is what Logue tells the King when he insists on being given special treatment. He is, after all, the King of England, used to deference and privilege. Logue accords him neither, treating him just like any other client. Or so we are led to believe. As a therapist I applaud...

Fact and Fiction in Psychology

Posted by John Marzillier, PhD on 4/6/11 - 5:48 PM
In 1992 I was a Visiting Fellow in the Psychology Department at the University of Western Australia in Perth. For two months nothing was demanded of me other than to talk to the staff and students of the Department in a learned and wise manner, which is easy to do even if you are neither. I was asked one favour which was to give a lecture to the whole department on a subject of my choosing. Can it be any...

Eysenck, Rogers and Psychotherapy Effectiveness

Posted by John Marzillier, PhD on 3/2/11 - 1:49 PM
In the 1970s I worked as a psychology lecturer in Hans Eysenck’s department at the Institute of Psychiatry, London. He was a controversial figure, quiet and introverted when met face to face, but on the academic stage a formidable and ruthless opponent. Rod Buchanan’s recent biography, Playing with Fire. The Controversial Career of Hans J Eysenck, nicely captures the complexity of the man, part prolific scientist, and part inveterate showman. Whether it was race and IQ, cancer and smoking...
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