A Community of Heart Profile: Philip Dutton



In times of disasters, we need our Lutz Bessas, Frankie Klaffs, Ricky Greenwalds, Toddy Sochaczewskys, Robert Tinkers, Sandra Wilsons and our Philip Duttons who look after the welfare of our children.

The past weeks have been filled with enough disasters to fill many life times. We need to feel our grief, gather up our strength and get ready for the long aftermath that trauma leaves in its wake. We do well to follow our teachers who have experience in the essential healing that we need after large-scale disasters. Philip Dutton is one of these teachers.

Philip Dutton has been working with trauma since his earliest days as a Clinical Psychologist. How did he get here?

Philip was so eager to jump into his life in Longton, England that he was born 2 months early! At age 7, he contracted Tuberculosis and his parents moved their family to the seaside resort of Blackpool where he spent the rest of his childhood. Despite his illness, Philip does not remember any major anxiety about it – perhaps it was because after he had his monthly x-ray and blood test, he would be rewarded with a spicy meat and potato pie, along with the devotion of his parents. As he grew older and his education progressed, he decided on a 3-year Commercial Industrial Photography course. This first love of photography would lead him to his second love: Psychology.

In 1970, he took on the job of Medical Photographer at the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. Two years later, he moved to the University Hospital of Wales. By 1976, he had moved again to head a department but he felt he had reached a plateau, the low pay, lack of creativity and stress of constant working to deadline motivated him to think about a new profession. At his work, he had met a few Clinical Psychologists and thought them very interesting. With his usual pluck, he wrote to 5 universities asking to be admitted to their program. He was accepted at the University of Bradford where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree with Honors in Psychology in 1978. On completion of University, Philip began an external postgraduate degree in Scotland under the auspices of The British Psychological Society. After working in settings for 3 years with adults, “regular” children, and children with learning disabilities, he received his Diploma in Child Psychology. For his dissertation, he wrote on the topic of Toddler Diarrhea which resulted in 6 publications in peer refereed journals. Later, the book, “Superkids: Practical Child Management” grew out of his experiences as a Clinical Psychologist for the National Health Service (NHS) and on the Maternity Unit with problems such as multiple bereavement, excessive pain, hyperemesis, pseudocyesis and psychological conditions which might later affect parenting such as fear of harming a baby or phobia of children. Modern therapists, it seems, never wish to be “the bad guys” and tell parents what they should do. Philip discovered, however, that the key to child management was to create an environment of security for the child through limit setting. When this occurs, the child’s bodily systems regulate themselves. However, he found that what prevented parents from learning his method was trauma that one or both parents had experienced.

The first 20 years of his work as a Clinical Psychologist with the NHS in Scotland was one of great discoveries and autonomy for him. He worked at the Falkirk & District Royal Infirmary as a true independent scientist practitioner. He was able to make hypotheses, test them out and see what worked or did not.

Philip has had a range of skills that he has brought to his jobs. During this time that he was with the NHS, he provided clinical service to children and their families, including maternity services in the Falkirk district, which had an estimated population of 280,000 and a child population of 75,000. He was involved with staff development and provided service to the staff. Over the years, he developed special interests in illness, chronic pain, terminal illness and oncology, He provided Specialist Consultation in maternity and trauma. He lectured at Edinburgh University for 10 years on the subjects of psychosomatic disorders, bereavement and trauma. He did research on Psychosomatic Disorders and service evaluations. He was an External Assessor in Consultant Grade interviews in England. He served as an expert witness for custody cases for the Court system in Scotland. If that was not enough, he has carried out psychological/legal assessments for P.T.S.D. in adult and child cases and routinely provided assessments for the Reporter to the Children’s Panel and other Government bodies. As Chair of Forth Valley Health Board’s Psychology Advisory Committee, he was on the selection team for admission to the University of Edinburgh’s Clinical Psychology course and he has been part of a British Psychological Society team that evaluated university courses in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. In the early days of his 25 years of interest in computers, he was able to advise several departments concerning their use and has written programs for clinical use.

Philip’s interest in EMDR arose after the terrible tragedy of Dunblane on March 13, 1996 where a gunman walked into a local school and killed 16 children and their teacher. He was trained at a HAP- sponsored training in Belfast, Ireland later that year. He completed Part 2 in 1997 and he became an avid user of EMDR in his practice. He bombarded one of his facilitators, David Grand, with over 500 emails with his questions (which David answered) as he began his EMDR journey to expertise. He became a facilitator in 1998 and has facilitated throughout Europe. He is sought out for his expertise in children and was part of the International Humanitarian Assistance Program’s team that trained Turkish therapists and worked with survivors of the earthquake there in 1999.

In December 2002, due to his experience in Dunblane and Turkey, Isabel Fernandez invited Philip to San Giuliano di Puglia in Molise, Italy following the earthquake that demolished a school there. During the second day on site, there had been so many disruptions by the helpers that the whole project was in danger of collapsing. Thanks to Philip and his brilliant interpreter, Juliet Berry, they helped the staff understand the nature and effects of trauma on children. As a result, they were allowed to continue their work with the children. During his trip to Italy, necessity created the opportunity for Philip to stretch his psychotherapeutic capabilities. He developed many interesting techniques to work effectively with EMDR in a disaster situation. One of his major findings was how to create an “interactive safe place” to ensure that a child is so sure about the safe place that he/she will have no problem in moving into the EMDR trauma work. Later, in February 2003, he was called back for a second successful consultation.

Recently, Philip was interviewed on Scottish Television and National Radio regarding the terrible tragedy that took place in School Number One in Beslan, Russia. One of the many important statements he made was “We kind of measure tragedy in the numbers who’ve died and without any disrespect to those who have died, we’d better measure it in how many survivors we have and how much trauma we’ve gone through.” He noted that the First Minister of Scotland opened Scottish Parliament with the statement that Scotland should return some of the expertise that they had learned in the wake of the Dunblane tragedy. Philip has written to him, “I think we have the capability to assist those children now and it would be a shame if we didn’t give it to them.” His offer to assist colleagues and survivors in Beslan has been forwarded by the Scottish Office to the Russian Authorities.

Along with all of us, Philip was deeply troubled by the effects of the Tsunami in Southeast Asia. On his website, he has responded to the survivors by offering “a free assessment combined with one intensive treatment appointment (up to four hours) with the ‘treatment of choice’ for PTSD” which of course is EMDR. His offer includes a report to their doctor so that further treatment or follow–up can be carried out. The website also states: “Professionals and volunteer aid workers returning from working with survivors are also included in this offer. Participants will be given the opportunity without obligation, to make a donation to the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program which trains therapists in major disaster areas.”

Currently, he is writing a treatment manual on how to treat children soon after a disaster and hopes to have it available soon. Philip relates that, according to the most recent data, there is reason to believe that giving assistance to children as quickly as possible results in a better outcome.

Philip is the Regional coordinator for Scotland for the EMDR UK & Ireland Association and runs regular supervision, consultation and training updates for practitioners for adults and children. He has presented Specialty Workshops in “Using EMDR with Children Following Disasters” in Houston, Texas and was an invited speaker at the Third European Conference on EMDR in Rome (2003) where he presented on “EMDR as an early treatment with survivors of mass catastrophes” and “Innovative techniques for EMDR with single session phobia resolution.” He has presented at two EMDRIA conferences with Frankie Klaff on “EMDR after Disasters, the Long and the Short of it” (2004) and “EMDR in the Play Room: Creative Processing” (2000).

Philip retired from his job with the NHS in 2004 and now owns a private practice that he calls “Synapse.” He has a fascinating web-site that shows his interest in the trauma world but, also, his fascination with the world through a photographer’s eye (www.synapse2000.co.uk or www.health- psychology.co.uk ). He is a consultant for “Moving Minds Ltd”, a company started by Dr Manda Holmshaw that specializes in the use of EMDR for trauma and other related issues (www.moving- minds.org/team.htm). David Blore and Richard Mitchell are other EMDR colleagues who are consultants for this group.

He is married with two children. Recently, he has returned to photography again after a hiatus of 10 years. He attributes this to his discovery of digital photography. Also, he is an amateur radio enthusiast.

When asked what he would like to tell the EMDR community, he responded with the following:

“Thank you for being there. Two things beginning with “E” have made immeasurable changes to my life: EMDR and E-mail! EMDR: I believe that I was a good therapist before EMDR but receiving this gift was like receiving a whole new workshop full of tools and I began to see everything from a new perspective. Then there is the wonderful camaraderie that was never present before in my profession. EMDR and the friendships I have made also assisted me in dark times. Email gave me the chance to be recognized on an international scale and brought invitations to communicate internationally. The more I teach the more I learn and the scale is exponential. For these things I am truly grateful.”

For people starting out on their adventure with EMDR, I would say learn the basics well, read Francine’s book and work with populations you know, but be sure to get supervision and discuss your cases. Patients or clients can only learn to trust you if you trust yourself. Be thorough and recognize all forms of trauma. Recognize especially that trauma through bullying (school or workplace) begins with intolerance – teach and set an example of tolerance and acceptance.”

In these troubled times, it is good to know that our friend and colleague, Philip Dutton, is amongst us.


“A Community of Heart Profile: Philip Dutton,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 26, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/7650.

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