Psychiatrist in the Chair: The Official Biography of Anthony Clare


Brendan Kelly & Muiris Houston 

19 October 2020

The first biography of the much-loved Irish psychiatrist, writer and broadcaster Anthony Clare (1942-2007). Featuring exclusive interviews with Clare’s friends, family and celebrity interviewees, and previously unpublished images from Clare’s personal papers.


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Born in Dublin in 1942, Anthony Clare was the best-known psychiatrist of his generation. His BBC Radio 4 show, In the Psychiatrist’s Chair, which ran from 1982 to 2001, brought him international fame and changed the nature of broadcast interviews forever. Famous interviewees included Stephen Fry, Anthony Hopkins, Spike Milligan, Maya Angelou and Jimmy Savile, each of whom yielded to Clare’s inimitable, gentle yet probing style.

Clare made unique contributions to the demystification and practice of psychiatry, most notably through his classic book Psychiatry in Dissent: Controversial Issues in Thought and Practice (1976). This book, the first, official biography of this much-loved figure, examines the man behind these achievements: the debater and the doctor, the writer and the broadcaster, the public figure and the family man. Using extensive public and family records, we ask: Who was Anthony Clare, really? What drove him? And what is to be learned from his life, his career, and his unique, sometimes controversial legacy to our understanding of the mind? This is the remarkable story of a remarkable person.


  1. Introduction: Who Was Anthony Clare?
  2. Background and Education (1942-66)
  3. The Making of a Psychiatrist (1966-1976)
  4. Writer: Psychiatry in Dissent (1976)
  5. Psychiatrist, Scientist, Professor (1976-89)
  6. Broadcaster: In the Psychiatrist’s Chair (1982-2001)
  7. Return to Ireland (1989)
  8. Work, Life and the Crisis in Masculinity (1989-2007)
  9. The Psychiatrist in the Chair

About The Authors:

Brendan Kelly is a Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry and author of Hearing Voices: The History of Psychiatry in Ireland (Irish Academic Press, 2016) and Coping with Coronavirus (Merrion Press, 2020).

Muiris Houston is a medical writer and health strategist, a specialist in occupational medicine, Adjunct Professor of Narrative Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, and writer-in-residence at Evidence Synthesis Ireland, at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is a columnist with the  Medical Independent and The Irish Times. Muiris is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the University of Sydney. He is an honorary fellow of the faculty of pathology of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland.

Praise for Psychiatrist in the Chair

The remarkable story of a remarkable man. Anthony Clare was a very special human being … A fascinating book.’
Gyles Brandreth

Joanna Lumley

I have read [Psychiatrist in the Chair] with immense enjoyment and was fascinated by aspects of Anthony’s life, which I would not otherwise have known
Ann Widdecombe

Amazing, intriguing, astonishing and surprising … this book is simply mind-blowing
Uri Geller

What the book does, admirably, is give a truer picture of the man the tabloids dubbed Shrink to the Stars. Prof Jim Lucey, one of his successors at St Patrick’s and someone equally devoted to a compassionate treatment of mental illness, called Clare a “social psychiatrist”. Or, as the authors of this book put it, he was concerned with people – understanding the realities of their suffering and how it affected their lives. He wasn’t afraid to let his own vulnerabilities help him understand theirs.  4 stars out of 5
Olivia O’Leary, The Irish Times

‘…an excellent biography. It simultaneously illuminates the life and sparkling career of Prof Anthony Clare and places psychiatry and psychiatric discourse in an appropriate cultural context that will educate and inform specialist and general readers alike.’
George Winters, The Medical Independent 

‘Psychiatrist in the Chair provides an interesting perspective through which we can view not just the Irish mental health system but the relationship the Irish public has with mental health. Clare’s input and doggedness about change is undeniable and left a clear mark on the field. The insight that this biography provides into this key figure makes for essential reading now, at a time when we find ourselves reassessing what it means to connect with others and how much that connection contributes to our mental health.
Emma Flynn, Irish Examiner

A valuable addition to our knowledge of and understanding of a fascinating and complex man
RTÉ Culture

This book explores his life in the same depth that Clare himself would have expected as one of our greatest broadcasters
Kim Bielenberg, Irish Independent 

This book is a great read and is based not only on the extensive publications of Clare, but also on numerous interviews conducted by the authors with his family, friends, and colleagues … absolutely riveting.’
Prof. Pierce Grace, Irish Medical Times

These pages brilliantly capture the Anthony Clare I knew. They are a celebration of the quality he embodied more than anyone I have ever met: intellectual curiosity. In our era of “fake news” this book is a call to arms. It is an exhortation to intellectual rigour.’
John Scally, Doctrine & Life

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