Frank Lowe

Frank Lowe is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and Head of Social Work in the Adolescent and Adult Directorate at the Tavistock and Portman, he is a teacher and trainer within the Directorate of Education and Training and he is the manager of the Thinking Space projects.

Frank Lowe was born in Grenada in the Caribbean and at the age of 16, joined his father the UK. He enrolled in the sixth form of a school in Wembley to take his ‘A’ levels and was shocked to find that he was the only black boy doing ‘A’ levels, even though around 20 per cent of the pupils were black. Following this Frank went on to study psychology at Warwick University.

After qualifying Frank worked in a Therapeutic Community run by the Richmond Fellowship and after 2 year years after went on to do a Masters in Social Work at the LSE. He went on to become a manager of local authority mental health and children services for over twelve years, before becoming a Social Services Inspector with the Department of Health.

Frank Lowe joined the Tavistock and Portman in 2001 as a first wave of Black clinicians that included Laverne Antrobus, Agnes Bryan and Onel Brooks. He had a specific remit to make the Tavistock and Portman’s services more accessible to young people from black and ethnic minority communities.

With the support of the Adolescent Department he developed The Tavistock-Caraf Empowerment service, which provided support to black parents and adolescents at risks of exclusion from Camden schools. With Onel Brooks and Maxine Dennis he also developed the Young Black People Consultation Service. This was based on the young people’s consultation service model, as a way of making psychotherapy more accessible to young black people.

Frank recognises that the Black and minority ethnic communities have a different attitude to mental health services for various reasons. Over time, racism, cultural insensitivity, high rates of over-representation (under sectioning or compulsory admission), more likely to be given medication than psychotherapy which has led to a lack of trust and a tendency to make contact at crisis point. Many in the black community are therefore not confident that they will be understood by mental health services.

Frank Lowe’s major contribution to the Tavistock and Portman is Thinking Space. It began in 2002, as a learning forum to explore complex, anxiety provoking and painful subjects such as race, culture and diversity. Thinking Space draws on therapeutic principles and methods to create a space where people can reflect safely with others about ‘the self ‘and ‘the other’ and learn from this experience.

Thinking Space was created to help staff learn how to talk about race and racism with the depth and sophistication that they can on other subjects.

Then in following the 2011 riots it was made available to the public and taken to Tottenham. Frank says that the Tottenham Thinking Spaces were the most powerful and challenging groups that he has ever facilitated.

The Haringey Thinking Space is a radical approach to community mental health inspired by the community therapy model developed in Brazil by Adalberto Barreto and first piloted in the UK by Victoria Lidchi (Consultant Psychologist), Janet Campbell (Community Development Worker) and Frank. What Frank learned is that accessible Thinking Spaces (therapeutic spaces) in the community is needed and can improve lives. Two independent evaluations (UEL 2015 and LSE 2018) have found that Thinking Spaces in Haringey since 2013, have helped to reduce isolation, improve self-understanding, personal functioning and increased cooperation amongst local residents.

Frank Lowe has also written several papers on working with adolescents, race, and psychotherapy and has a long-standing interest in making psychotherapy more accessible to poor and marginalised communities. He was given an award for Psychoanalysis and Diversity by the British Psychoanalytic Council in 2015 for establishing ‘Tottenham Thinking Space’.

Selected Bibliography


Frank Lowe, Thinking space: Promoting thinking about race, culture, and diversity in psychotherapy and beyond, The Tavistock Clinic Series, Karnac (2014)

Book Sections

Frank Lowe, ‘The August 2011 riots – them and us’, in: Thinking space: Promoting thinking about race, culture, and diversity in psychotherapy and beyond, The Tavistock Clinic Series, Karnac (2014)

Frank Lowe, ‘Thinking space: The model’, in: Thinking space: Promoting thinking about race, culture, and diversity in psychotherapy and beyond, The Tavistock Clinic Series, Karnac (2014)

Frank Lowe, and Linda Young, ‘The young people’s consultation services: A model of engagement’, p89-110, in: Contemporary developments in adult and young adult therapy: The work of the Tavistock and Portman Clinics, Volume 1. Tavistock Clinic Series. Karnac (2012)

Frank Lowe and Jules Pearson, ‘Therapy with black and minority ethnic people in prisons and secure mental health settings: Keeping race in mind’, p195-214, in: Psychological therapy in prisons and other secure settings, Willan, Abingdon (2010)

Frank Lowe, ‘Working with ambivalence: Making psychotherapy more accessible to young black people’, p114-129, in: Off the couch: Contemporary psychoanalytic applications, Taylor & Francis (2010)


Frank Lowe, ‘Containing Persecutory anxiety: child and adolescent mental health services and black and minority ethnic communities’ p5 -25, Journal of Social Work Practice, 20 (1) 2006

Frank Lowe, ‘Colonial object relations. Going underground black and white relationships’, p20-33, British Journal of Psychotherapy, 24 (1) (2008)

Frank Lowe, ‘The August 2011 riots: Them and us’, p279-295, Psychodynamic Practice: Individuals, Groups and Organisations, 19 (3) (2013)

Frank Lowe, ‘The 2011 riots – ‘them’ and ‘us’’, p6, New Associations, 13 (2013)

Frank Lowe, ‘Keeping leadership white: Invisible blocks to black leadership and its denial in white organizations’, p149-162, Journal of Social Work Practice, 27 (2) (2013)

Frank Lowe, ‘Thinking space’ p9, New Associations (12) (2013)