Dorothy Rowe obituary

Psychologist who believed in listening to patients, and could express complex ideas with brilliant simplicity

Dorothy Rowe, who has died aged 88, was one of the earliest figures in psychology to build a bridge between the sometimes arcane world of clinical practice and the general public. Coming to prominence in the 1980s, particularly with her book Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison, she made a career around the principle of listening to the patient in matters of mental illness rather than simply seeing them as problems to be solved – often by drugs or ECT, what Dorothy called “the equivalent of blood-letting”.

Dorothy’s thinking centred on the idea that depression was not so much an illness as a crisis of meaning that could be addressed by rethinking the ideas that underpinned the so-called illness. This crisis was not necessarily to be found in childhood, or trauma – as Freud might have suggested – but simply in the necessity for all of us to build our own subjective mental models, which we then might insist were absolute reality, however high the price might be psychologically. She was highly sceptical of drugs such as Prozac, which she considered little better than placebos. For Dorothy, every case was different, and required careful attention.

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