Jack Rachman 1934-2021

David Clark, Paul Salkovskis and Roz Shafran with a tribute.

They broke the mould with Jack Rachman. Kind, modest, funny, brilliant, impish, polymath… so many facets, and not enough words to do him justice.  

As a founding editor of Behaviour Research and Therapy and its 'colonel in chief' for nearly 40 years he had an immense beneficial influence on the development of cognitive behaviour therapy. As an avid fan of horse racing, he had a knack of spotting an idea or finding whose influence he felt could run and run. David Clark’s oft cited 1986 article outlining a cognitive theory of panic came about because Jack had heard David talk on the topic and insisted it was written down. Something similar can be said about Paul Salkovskis’ influential 1985 paper outlining a cognitive theory of OCD and Anke Ehlers’ 2000 paper on PTSD. Many others will have similar stories to tell about his encouragement of the publications that shaped their careers.

Jack Rachman's research on OCD and other anxiety disorders was ground breaking from the late 1960s right up to the present day. Talking with him one never got the feeling that he was resting on his many laurels. He was always thinking afresh and introduced new perspectives (such as the recent idea of mental contamination) throughout his life. He also quietly delighted in giving others credit that was really his due. His modesty, allied to his impish sense of humour, meant that he could achieve the rare skill of advancing a useful position while at the same time acknowledging its limitations. Under his synonym of J Durac he wrote an immensely funny review in BRAT of an early edition of his Anxiety book in which he castigated its author for a lack of knowledge about cognitive perspectives and hoped the author would do better in the next edition. In the next decades he certainly did!!! This was just one of his many articles gently poking fun at the world of psychology.

Jack’s curiosity was insatiable – both within and beyond psychology. He was a voracious reader who walked slowly and thought deeply. ‘What about this?’ was a phrase often heard by his team. Such curiosity, combined with astute clinical observation, gave rise to an endless stream of new ideas for research, innovative clinical interventions or a combination. His clinical style was inimitable, with those he saw finding in him a concerned friend who supported them in both understanding and progressing. The experiments devised in his research more often than not became key behavioural experiments for his clients. He embodied the scientist-practitioner and his therapeutic skills were a privilege to behold.

A kind, generous person with very wide interests and an abiding love of family, he also applied his psychological skills to teaching people to enjoy wine in another of his J Durac publications: Wine: A Matter of Taste. We are sure many of people will want to raise a glass in his honour.  

There is an online remembrance book for anyone that would like to contribute their memories of Jack: https://www.kudoboard.com/boards/ZqRMx4Vg

See also his 2003 Eysenck Memorial Lecture.

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