John Rowan 1925-2018

An appreciation from his wife Sue.

John Rowan was a pioneer and 'early adopter' of not just one psychotherapeutic theory but of many. His curiosity and enthusiasm, obvious to anyone who met or worked with him, were pivotal in the role he played in embracing the human potential movement. Using his own personal development, John worked his way through many different areas of psychology and psychotherapy, adding his own take on each of them. He was passionate about sharing his knowledge, developing it in his writings, and encouraging others to take his thinking and develop it further. For John, knowledge was not 'power over' but 'power with' others. The power to learn, to change, to develop and grow; not only in ourselves but in the work we do with our clients, our supervisees and in the wider world. 

John never had a career plan. He had no burning desire to become a therapist. Having participated in a number of encounter groups in the newly-arrived London growth centres in the early 1960s, John discovered Humanistic Psychology when he was in the USA for a short time. Hugely excited by finding this movement where human beings were centre-stage and where “lab-rat” experiments so beloved of the medical model, did not feature at all, was a huge breakthrough for him. Having had exposure to social and political radical ideas  energised him and led him to seek out further ways in which these ideas could be used and developed in therapy, so that they could be shared more widely. This was the beginning of both John’s career in writing and his becoming a therapist.  

For many years, John was best known for his devotion to Humanistic Psychology. His curiosity led him to explore and discover other methods and practices which he felt complemented the humanistic and his own ideas and he brought these differing disciplines together in a way which was really quite groundbreaking for his time (and possibly still is). John’s last published piece is a chapter entitled “I-positions and the unconscious” in the Handbook of Dialogical Self Theory and Psychotherapy published in November 2018. John was touched that the book would be dedicated to him although sadly he did not live to see its publication. The chapter introduces John’s latest concept; “Carnivalisation of therapy”, inspired by the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and John hoped to develop it further. John was also part-way through his latest book on “Hegel and Psychotherapy” when he died. 

Latterly spirituality became hugely important for John and had a far-reaching influence on his life. He understood how important it was to take account of the spiritual when working with clients and came to his own spirituality via Wicca and the work of Ken Wilber, with whom he corresponded for many years and visited in Colorado. John meditated daily at around 5am for over 30 years, regardless of where he was or what else was happening in his life. He never missed a day. His connection and devotion to the goddess was at the centre of his life always. John was deeply saddened that spirituality did not receive the recognition he believe it deserved and berated his colleagues accordingly! This is now being addressed by at least one person who has committed publicly to taking action on this. John would have been so pleased. 

John is survived by his wife Sue, his first wife Neilma and their children Peri, Ross, Nicola and Shaun, and four grandchildren. 

Sue Rowan

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