• A Uneasy Dwelling: The story of the Philadelphia Association community houses

A Uneasy Dwelling: The story of the Philadelphia Association community houses

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ISBN 978 1 906254 24 7 (2010)
Cover Price: £14.00
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Providing places of asylum has been at the heart of the Philadelphia Association’s endeavours for more than forty years. Hundreds of men and women, whether formally designated ‘mentally ill’, or experiencing serious emotional distress to the point where they can no longer cope, have found in the PA’s community houses a haven, a place where, in the company of others, they are allowed to go through whatever they have to go through, in their own time and in their own way, free from the well-meaning interventions of psychiatry or family.

Despite the longevity and the radically different nature of the project, surprisingly little has been written about the work. This book is an attempt to correct that. It is in part a history of the houses as well as an account of how the houses work today and an exploration of their underpinning ethos.

• The Philadelphia Association has helped hundreds of people suffering emotional distress over the last 40 years.
• It is most closely associated with one of its founders, the famous R.D. Laing.
• The Philadelphia Association safe houses have been and are an inspiration to many service providers.
• Despite its longevity and radical approach, little has been written about the association’s history until now.


1. Kingsley Hall: ‘Something was shown there’

2. The community network, 1970-2006

3. The story of a House 1: Portland Road

4. The story of a House 2: Freegrove Road

5. Hospitality, Dwelling and Home

6. Ordinary living: The PA houses today

7. Against all Odds: Some concluding remarks


I didn't expect to find An Uneasy Dwelling, an historical account of the Philadelphia Association's community houses, quite so gripping. Paul Gordon writes eloquently yet with an honesty that at times shocked me - our current culture is so dominated by people whose main aim is to sell their wares that writing like this is astonishingly rare. The book corrects some of the myths about Kingsley Hall - made famous by R.D. Laing and residents such as Mary Barnes - and describes in detail some of the subsequent PA community households which had support from less well-known house therapists such as Hugh Crawford, Robin Cooper and Paul Gordon himself. The philosophies behind the houses are beautifully explained and illustrated with moving descriptions of the experiences of house residents and therapists alike. For example, the importance of allowing people, and them having time, to `find their own way' - even going through psychotic breakdowns (`freak outs') without being drugged and with support exclusively from others in the shared house. The practicalities, such as how people join an established household, how they live together, the ways people spend their day, the regular house meetings between residents and house therapists, the management of crises, the wrangles with local authorities and neighbours, and the funding of the houses are described in a straight forward but often very moving way. In thinking about the complexities of communal living, what is a home, and how people find different ways of being in the world, the experience and wisdom of many PA members is drawn upon, which makes this an important book given that, post Laing, there has been a paucity of records and publications detailing the thoughts and practices of this organisation........ Dr Guy Holmes, reviewed on Amazon

Paul Gordon

Paul Gordon has been working as a psychotherapist in different settings for 25 years. He works in private practice and as a therapist to one of the Philadelphia Association community households. He lives in London with his wife and two children. As well as his two PCCS titles, he is also the author of Face to Face: Therapy as ethics (1999), co-editor of Between Psychotherapy and Philosphy: Essays from the Philadelphia Association (2004).  His most recent book is Vagabond Witness: Victor Serge and the politics of hope (2013).

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Paul Gordon