Dr Mike Solomon 1967-2019

An appreciation from Liz Doherty and Sally Hodges.

Our colleague Mike Solomon, who has died aged 52, was a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Tavistock Clinic in London, working with children and young people with social, emotional and mental health difficulties. Mike Solomon was a friend, inspiration and dear colleague to a huge number of people.

Born in 1967, Mike’s school career raised many questions for him about systems and the psychological impact of education and he spent much of his career researching and innovating in the field of education. After graduating in Social and Political Sciences from Robinson College, Cambridge in 1989, he went on to complete a masters in Social Psychology with distinction from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1990 before working at the King’s Fund in health policy analysis. It was during this time that he began to recognise the many gaps in services for young people and their families, prompting him to train for a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, which he completed at University College London in 1997. His doctorate dissertation received an international award in 1998 from the Society for Community Research and Action Division 27 of the American Psychological Association for the unique way Mike collected and analysed qualitative data.

Mike worked in a number of health trusts where he embarked on a career providing care and expertise initially in the field of learning disabilities. He soon began to be interested in working with organisations and completed a masters with distinction in Consultation and the Organisation: Psychoanalytic Approaches from the University of East London in 2003. He joined the Tavistock Clinic in London in 2004 where he worked in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service working with some of London Borough of Camden’s most marginalised young people. In addition to his clinical role and duties, Mike published research papers, trained and mentored junior colleagues, and undertook various leadership roles at the Tavistock.

He thrived on finding creative ways of building relationships with young people who could not manage a traditional clinic setting – he was often to be found having a clinical ‘session’ with young people on a football pitch or at a bus stop, even accompanying parents as they did the weekly food shop. From promoting equine therapy to organising a conference on the group dynamics at play in the world of sport, Mike’s ability to apply psychological findings to wider society was a unique gift. He made a significant contribution to the fields of clinical psychology and organisational consultancy as a skilled and inspirational clinician, educator and leader whose first instinct was always to think about others – whether patients of colleagues.

Mike had a drive to make connections at many levels, individual, group, system and network. Over the course of his career he met and made so many friendships and he was driven to join people and thoughts together seeing that the sum was bigger than the parts. He recognised potential where others may have missed it and went out of his way to make connections for people in a hugely generous way. 

After receiving a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer in early 2016, Mike was determined to continue with every aspect of his life. He returned to the Tavistock part-time in a new non-clinical role, which he embraced with typical skill, determination and commitment. Just weeks before he died, Mike recorded a TEDx talk with his friend and colleague, Fiona Starr, entitled ‘Sh*t happens, what next? eight lessons in resilience’. In the 16-minute recording, Mike uses a ‘Weeble’ (the 1970s toy with a weighted hemispheric base) to illustrate his message that when times are tough, we wobble, but we don’t fall down, providing a tangible and lasting insight into ways of responding to adversity whilst facing his own extreme adversity.

When not travelling, Mike continued to swim, socialise, play the drums, and lament the fortunes of his beloved Spurs. He is survived by his wife, Hilary, his children, Rosie and Zack, his parents and brothers, Neil and Paul. He is also sorely missed by us, two of his many close friends and colleagues.

Liz Doherty and Sally Hodges

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