Extract: Psychiatrist in the Chair: The Official Biography of Anthony Clare by Brendan Kelly & Muiris Houston

Psychiatrist in the Chair: The Official Biography of Anthony Clare by Brendan Kelly & Muiris Houston. This book, the first, official biography of this much-loved figure, examines the man behind these achievements: the debater and the doctor, the writer and the broadcaster, the public figure and the family man.

Using extensive public and family records, and new interviews with family, friends and colleagues, the authors ask: Who was Anthony Clare, really? Was there just one Anthony Clare, or many? What drove him? And what is to be learned from his life, his career, and his unique, sometimes controversial legacy to our understanding of the mind? this is the remarkable story of a remarkable person who made unique contributions to the demystification and practice of psychiatry, most notably through his classic book Psychiatry in Dissent (1976).

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We were kindly given an exclusive extract to share by Midas PR and Merrion Press.

In the Psychiatrist’s Chair was produced by Michael Ember (1932–
2017) who came from Hungary to the United Kingdom in 1956 and
made multiple talk-radio programmes for the BBC. In the early
1970s, Ember devised Stop the Week, a light-hearted programme that
Clare appeared on and that ran for eighteen years, until 1992. Ember
also revived Start the Week, devised Midweek and, with Clare, cocreated In the Psychiatrist’s Chair, which was probably Ember’s most
iconic work.


In the Psychiatrist’s Chair was originally to be titled What Makes
you Tick? and its aim was to reveal the real person behind the façade
of celebrity. Ember had studied psychology and criminology at the
University of London and shared with Clare a deep curiosity about
human motivation and behaviour.

Ember retired from the BBC in1992 but he and his wife Liz established an independent company to continue producing In the Psychiatrist’s Chair beyond that point.


Clare described the idea for the series as a joint one that grew
out of discussions between Clare and Michael Ember over several
years. In addition, Judith Jackson, who worked in the biochemistry
department at the Maudsley expressed an interest in knowing about the inner lives of well-known people: did these apparently successful
and celebrated people suffer like ordinary mortals?

Ember had noted articles and book reviews that Clare wrote for the Spectator and New Society, and was, of course, familiar with Clare’s involvement in Stop the Week, Thicker than Water and Let’s Talk About Me, the latter being a fascinating exploration of the burgeoning boom in self-exploration and experiential psychotherapy in California, and a joint enterprise with BBC producer Sally Thompson.


The format of In the Psychiatrist’s Chair was that Clare would
interview guests in considerable depth and without haste, in an effort
to explore their childhoods, self-image and current motivations. The
format was not entirely new: Clare was keenly aware of Face to Face,
a series of television interviews by John Freeman that ran on the BBC
from 1959 to 1962 and enjoyed considerable success.

Clare was also aware that reactions to such in-depth and sometimes emotional interviews were decidedly mixed, with some regarding them as tasteless violations and others seeing them as vindicating the whole idea of in-depth interviewing, to which Clare was clearly attracted.


By 1982, Clare felt that the time had come for a new series, on the
basis that the public was now more knowledgeable about psychology,
relationships, emotions and human behaviour.

Greater openness about people’s inner lives meant that – in effect – the unconscious had shrunk since the time of Freud. The key task now, Clare argued, was not revealing the repressed and the forgotten, but processing and understanding what was already known.

The purpose of the new series, he said, was to cast light on the sources of each guest’s life and values. What motivates them? What sustains them through difficulties and crises? What fuels the notions of excellence that so many high achievers appear to demonstrate? Above all, why do they do what they do? And how?


In pursuing these themes over the following years, Clare was
unfailingly courteous and supportive with his guests, listening for the
most part, rather than interrogating. He was also endlessly curious,
often robust and, at times, remarkably and controversially persistent.
Guests, chosen by Clare and Ember together, could expect a warm but
penetrating conversation with the versatile, tenacious psychiatrist in
the chair.

You can get a copy of the book which is out now via Merrion Press, here.

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