Intended for healthcare professionals


Michael Gelder: pioneered behavioural therapies in psychotherapy

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 03 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1935
  1. Anne Taylor
  1. Falmouth, UK
  1. annetaylor.writer{at}

Michael Gelder (b 1929; q University College Hospital, London, 1953, MA, DM Oxon, FRCP, FRCPsych (Hon), FMedSci, DPM), died from prostate cancer on 30 March 2018. Eminent psychiatrist Michael Gelder was a manifestation of the oft cited quote: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t mind who gets the credit.” He was recognised as the father of behavioural therapy for the treatment of anxiety disorders, and his groundbreaking work formed the foundation for a transformation of the modern psychotherapeutic treatment landscape.

Gelder established, and for 27 years led, a world class research and teaching department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, attracting talented clinicians and scientists to work with him. Many of his students became leaders in the psychiatric and research communities responsible for national policy and treatment protocols. Thanks to Gelder’s research legacy it is recognised that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is an effective alternative to drugs in a wide range of anxiety disorders. CBT interventions have now benefited enormous numbers of people across the globe.

With his extensive knowledge and formal persona—he always dressed in a grey suit and tie, even …

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