Dorothy Rowe is a clinical psychologist and writer who is renowned for her work on how we create meaning, and how the meanings we create determine what we do. Her application of this understanding to the problems of mental distress has changed many people's lives for the better, and has led many mental health professionals to think more carefully about how they deal with people who are suffering. She writes regularly for newspapers and magazines, appears frequently in the media, and is the author of 16 books, the most popular of which are Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison which is in its third edition, and Beyond Fear which is in its second edition.
Dorothy was born Dorothy Conn in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, in 1930. She was educated at Newcastle Girls' High and Sydney University where she obtained a degree in psychology and a Diploma of Education. She taught for three years, married in 1956 and her son Edward was born in 1957. She returned to teaching when he was two but was offered the opportunity to train as a school counsellor (educational psychologist) and went on to become Specialist for Emotionally Disturbed Children. At the same time she completed her Diploma in Clinical Psychology. In 1965 her marriage came to an end, and in 1968 she and Edward went to England. She accepted a National Health Service post at Whiteley Wood Clinic, Sheffield, which was the clinic attached to Sheffield University Department of Psychiatry where Alec Jenner, already well known for his work on the biological basis of mood change, had recently taken up his post as Professor of Psychiatry. This began Dorothy's close scrutiny of the research into the biological basis of mental disorder. She became an Associate of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and is now Emeritus Associate of the Royal College.
Alec Jenner suggested to Dorothy that her research PhD topic should be 'Psychological aspects of regular mood change'. Quite serendipitously, the psychologist Don Bannister was busy introducing British psychologists to the work of George Kelly and Personal Construct Theory. Dorothy discovered that she had always been a personal construct psychologist without knowing it. Kelly had developed a technique called repertory grids which enabled the researcher to examine the meanings which an individual had created around a particular subject or situation. Patrick Slater, a psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, provided invaluable help to Dorothy in her research by his development of computer software which analysed grids.
In 1971 Dorothy completed her PhD, and in 1972 she went to Lincolnshire to set up and head the Lincolnshire Department of Clinical Psychology. Dorothy obtained a research grant which enabled her to continue her research. This research became the basis of her first book The Experience of Depression, now called Choosing Not Losing. Her second book The Construction of Life and Death (The Courage to Live) was published in 1982. A chance discussion with the manager of a health food shop led to her third book, Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison, now in its third edition. This book won the Mind Book of the Year Award in 1984. More books followed.
In 1986 Dorothy left the National Health Service to become self-employed. She moved to Sheffield where she lived for nine years. In 1995 she moved to London where she still lives.
In 2010 Dorothy was included in the Daily Telegraph's list of the 100 most powerful women in Britain in Business, Academia & Politics (Daily Telegraph 3/12/10). She is listed in Who's Who and the Who's Who of Australian Women.