Consultancy and training
Main Publications
Spielrein biography

This page gives details of books and key articles by John Launer. It also lists his series of articles for 'Work Based Learning in Primary Care', 'Primary Care Mental Health', 'QJM' and 'Postgraduate Medical Journal' (with links).


Narrative-Based Primary Care: a practical guide (also available in Japanese translation) *New edition due for publication by Routledge in 2018.

This is a core text of narrative based medicine applied to primary care. Drawing on ideas from narrative studies and family therapy, it provides a theoretical framework and practical skills for dealing with individual consultations, family work, clinical supervision and teamwork, offering a comprehensive narrative-based approach to the whole range of work in primary care. For more information or to order direct from the publisher, click the title above.

Supervision and Support in Primary Care (edited with Jonathan Burton)

Based on a series of conferences on supervision in primary care, run by the Tavistock Clinic and the London Deanery, this book provides practical information and guidance on the nature and purpose of supervision in a primary care setting. For further information or to order direct from the publisher, click the title above

Reflecting on Reality: Psychotherapists at work in primary care (edited with Sue Blake and Dilys Daws)This book has been written by practising psychotherapists, all connected with the Tavistock Clinic, and with a wide range of experience of working in primary care. It examines how therapists, GPs and other primary care professionals can all learn from each other through clinical collaboration. For further information or to order direct from the publisher, click the title above. 

How Not to Be a Doctor, and other essays (*due for reissue in 2017)

How Not to Be a Doctor offers a selection of John Launer's essays from QJM . The essays cover a wide range of topics including medical humanities, literature, politics, psychoanalysis, teaching, and the importance of keeping medicine human. Originally published by Royal Society of Medicine Press, it was named as a Book of the Year by the British Medical Association. For further information or to order direct, click the title above.

Clinical Uncertainty in Primary Care: The Challenge of Collaborative Engagement' (edited with Lucia Sommers)

This book examines the whole range of uncertainty in primary care, from the technical to the existential. It makes the case for collaborative peer group supervision as a way of engaging with clinical uncertainty through dialogue and mutual learning. Chapters cover the Balint movement, Practice Inquiry, Narrative-Based Supervision, Problem-Based Small Group Learning, and other models of peer group work from different countries. There is a foreword by Renee Fox, and other distinguished contributors include Trish Greenhalgh, Colin Coles, Charlotte Tulinius and Henry Jablonski. For further information, or to order, click the title above.

Sex versus Survival: The Life and Ideas of Sabina Spielrein (*softback edition due for publication in June 2017)

UK edition   US edition

Dr Sabina Spielrein was a Russian psychoanalyst who lived from 1885 to 1942. She is mainly famous on account of her affair with Carl Jung, and for her role in the  rift between Jung and Sigmund Freud. However, Spielrein was an original thinker in her own right. She proposed a theory of human sexuality based on the idea that human beings are torn between sexual desire and the drive to survive as individuals. Her ideas anticipated many of the themes of modern evolutionary psychology and child development. This book tells the story of Spielrein's life, together with a presentation of her ideas. For further information, click on the UK or US edition above.


A fuller chronological list appears on the CV web page. For convenience, articles are listed below under:

1. Key articles

2. Book chapters

3. Series of articles on reflective practice and clinical supervision in Workbased Learning in Primary Care

4. Series of articles on a narrative approach to mental health in Primary Care Mental Health

5. 'Coda' series from QJM (including links to individual articles)

6. 'On Reflection' series from Postgraduate Medical Journal (including links to individual articles).

7. Links to journals including British Journal of General Practice, Journal of Family Therapy, Primary Care Mental Health and Workbased Learning in Primary Care.

1. Key articles:

Launer J.  A social constructionist approach to family medicine. Family Systems Medicine 1996; 13: 379-389.

Launer J. 'You're the doctor, Doctor!': is social constructionism a helpful stance in general practice consultations? Journal of Family Therapy 1996; 18: 255-267.

Launer, J. and Lindsey, C. Training for systemic general practice: a new approach from the Tavistock Clinic. British Journal of General Practice 1997: 47:543-456.

Launer, J. A narrative approach to mental health in general practice. British Medical Journal  1999; 318: 117-119.

Launer, J.  Whatever happened to biology? Reconnecting family therapy with its evolutionary origins. Journal of Family Therapy 2001; 23: 155-70

Launer J. Narrative based medicine: a passing fad or a giant leap for general practice?  British Journal of General Practice 2003; 53:91-92.

Launer J. Practice, supervision, consultancy and appraisal, a continuum of learning. British Journal of General Practice 2003; 53: 658-62

Launer J.  Inattention to primary care: a form of institutional discrimination?  Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry  2004; 9: 613-616

Launer J. New Stories for Old: Narrative-based primary care in the United Kingdom. Families, Systems and Health 2006; 24: 336-344

Launer J. Moving on from Balint: Embracing clinical supervision. British Journal of General Practice 2007; 57: 182-183.

Ahluwalia S and Launer J. Training for complexity and professional judgement: Beyond communication skills plus evidence. Education for Primary Care 2012; 23: 317-319.

Launer J. Managing Bullying, Harassment and Undermining: A Guide to Good Practice in Postgraduate Medical Education in London. Faculty Development, Health Education England, London, 2013.

Ahluwalia S and Launer J.Complexity and uncertainty in health care. Education for Primary Care 2014; 25: 181-183

Gill D, Griffin A and Launer J. Fostering professionalism in the workplace: the role of workplace discussion groups. PMJ 2014; 90: 56-70.

Launer J. Sex and sexuality: an evolutionary view. Psychoanalytic Inquiry 2014; 34: 831-846 http://goo.gl/ykVXNJ

Launer J. Carl Jung's relationship with Sabina Spielrein: a reassessment. International Journal of Jungian Studies 2015; 7: 179-193 http://goo.gl/0hKsGf

Swanepoel A, Sieff DS, Music G, Launer J, Reiss M, Wren B. How evolution can help us understand child development and behaviour. BJPsych Advances 2016; 22: 36-43.

2. Book Chapters

Launer, J. Narrative in mental health in primary care. Chapter 10 in: Greenhalgh, T. and Hurwitz, B. (eds.) Narrative based medicine. London: BMA, 1998.

Launer, J. Working with different models: adapting to the context. Chapter 9 in: Lees, J. (ed.) Clinical counselling in primary care. London: Routledge, 1999.

Launer, J. The practice as an organisation. Chapter 9 in: Elder, A. and Holmes, J. (Eds.)  Mental health in primary care: a new  approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002

Launer J . Narratives in primary care. In: A Vetere and E Dowling (eds.) Narrative Approaches to Therapy with Children and Families. London: Brunner Routledge, 2005 

Launer J. Postmodernising medical careers: assessment in an age of uncertainty. In N Jackson, A Jamieson and A Khan (eds.) Assessment in Medical Education and Training: a practical guide. Oxford: Radcliffe, 2006.

Launer J. Supervision, Mentoring and Coaching. In: T. Swanwick (ed.), Understanding Medical Education: Evidence, Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition. London, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Ahluwalia S, Launer J. Developing professionalism through general practice training. In: S. Ahluwalia and A. Tavolbie (eds.) General Practice Specialty Training: Making it happen, 2nd edition. Royal College of General Practitioners, 2016. 

3. Series in Workbased Learning in Primary Care

Launer J. Reflective practice.  Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2003; 1: 55-57.
Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: to delve or not to delve.  Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2003;1: 147-9
Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: finding meaning in medicine.  Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2004; 2: 72-4

Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervisionRedefining supervision  Workbased Learning in Primary Care  2004; 2: 160-2

Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: developing supervision skills.  Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2004; 2: 264-6

Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervisionTraining educators in clinical supervision. Workbased Learning in Primary Care  2004; 2: 366-9

Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: Short workshops for GP educators. Workbased Learning in Primary Care  2004; 3:58-60

Launer J.  Reflective practice and clinical supervision: Demonstrating clinical supervision to GP educators. Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2005; 3:158-60

Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervisionTeaching supervision in small groups. Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2005;  3: 263-6

Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: supervision, knowledge and performance.  Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2005;  3: 355-7

Launer J and Halpern H. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: an approach to promoting clinical supervision among general practitioners. Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2006; 4:69-72.
Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: emotion and interpretation in supervision. Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2006; 4:171-3.

Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: making sense of supervision,mentoring and coaching. Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2006; 4: 268-270.
Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: neutrality and honesty. Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2006; 4:384-386
Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: teaching supervision skills to GP appraisers. Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2007; 5 : 51-54.
Launer J. Reflective practice and clinical supervision: good practice in GP appraisals. Workbased Learning in Primary Care 2007; 5: 115-118.

4. Series in Primary Care Mental Health

Launer J. Introducing narrative thinking.   Primary Care Mental Health 2003;  1: 63-4  

Launer J.  Taking a narrative stance in the consultation.  Primary Care Mental Health 2003; 1: 111- 112.
Launer J.  New narratives for old: the art of asking questions  Primary Care Mental Health 2004;2: 67-8

Launer J. The narrative consultation in action. Primary Care Mental Health 2004; 2: 123-124.

Launer J. A narrative-based approach to depression. Primary Care Mental Health 2004; 2: 175-6

Launer J. Tracking stories and challenging them. Primary Care Mental Health  2005; 3: 67-68.

 Launer J. Uncertainty and not knowing: making space for multiple stories.  Primary Care Mental Health 2005; 3: 155-156

5. Coda articles from QJM can be accessed at: http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/archive/ or through the individual links below

January 2002 The condition of music


February 2002 The professor of cheese http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/2/133

March 2002 Darwin’s dangerous idea http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/3/195

April 2002 What’s in a name? http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/4/261

PublicationsMay 2002 A house divided http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/5/337

June 2002 Seeing double http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/6/417

July 2002 The art of questioning http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/7/489

August 2002 Rhythms of life http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/8/555

September 2002 Hot water http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/9/641

October 2002 Interpreting illness http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/10/711

November 2002 Plus ça change http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/11/767

December 2002 Close encounters http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/95/12/839
January 2003 All doctors are liars http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/1/85

February 2003 Mentioned in passing http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/2/177

March 2003 The National Illness Service http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/3/241

April 2003 Doing the rounds http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/4/321

May 2003 All Greek to me http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/5/387

June 2003 It takes two http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/6/461

July 2003 Welsh blood http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/7/547

August 2003 Uniqueness and conformity http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/8/615

September 2003 The wrong trousers http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/9/693

October 2003 The refugee’s tale http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/10/781

November 2003 Folk illness and medical models http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/11/875

December 2003 Minding the body http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/96/12/955

January 2004 Escaping the loop http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/1/59

February 2004 Cultural nepotism http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/2/111

March 2004 Dr Scrooge’s casebook http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/3/183

April 2004 Rhyming couplet http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/4/245

May 2004 Yellow nose sign http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/5/313J

June 2004 The itch http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/6/383

July 2004 A magical mystery tour http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/7/461

August 2004 Impaled on the invisible http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/8/553

September 2004 Fathers and sons http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/9/635

October 2004 Of cheese and choice http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/10/703

November 2004 Unspeakable http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/11/771

December 2004 Modern medicine http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/12/831

January 2005 The medics of Myddfai http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/1/73

February 2005 Secrets of the willow http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/2/157

March 2005 Let’s talk about sex http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/3/239

April 2005 Dialogue and diagnosis http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/4/321

May 2005 Breaking the news http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/5/385

June 2005 Anna O and the ‘talking cure’ http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/6/465

July 2005 Bigger picture, lighter touch http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/7/545

August 2005 Diaspora and coincidence http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/8/623

September 2005 Careers advice http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/9/709

October 2005 The many faces of David http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/10/777

November 2005 Stressing the other http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/11/843

December 2005 Mysteries of the male http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/98/12/919

January 2006 Crusades and mirages http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/1/67

February 2006 How not to be a doctor http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/2/125

March 2006 Personal services http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/3/199

April 2006 The descent of man http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/4/275

May 2006 Weasel words http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/5/353

June 2006 Sexual politics http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/6/429

July 2006 A hitch-hiker’s guide to the past http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/7/495

August 2006 The enduring asylum http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/8/563

September 2006 Do not disturb http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/9/641

October 2006 Maps and meanings http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/10/721

November 2006 Burning your relatives http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/11/809

December 2006 Organizational health http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/99/12/883

January 2007 Transported http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/1/63

February 2007 Passing on http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/2/149

April 2007 Only obeying orders http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/4/251

May 2007 Impact factor http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/5/315

June 2007 A suitable case for treatment http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/6/393

July 2007 Hansen’s disease http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/7/467

August 2007 The art of not listening http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/8/537

September 2007 Personal risk http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/9/597

October 2007 The problem with sex. http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/10/669

November 2007 The illusion of compassion. http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/11/741

December 2007. From the depths. http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/12/803

January 2008. End of the road.  http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/101/1/61

6. On Reflection articles from the Postgraduate Medical Journal can be accessed though the links below:

Conversations inviting change (January 2008):

Medical kitsch (February 2008):

Rise and fall (March 2008):

A day out with Darwin (April 2008):

The facts of death (May 2008):http://pmj.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/84/991/279?ijkey=ewLTLbVFZv81srq&keytype=ref

Disappointment-ology (June 2008):

Care pathways (July 2008):

Thinking in three dimensions (August 2008):

Learning humanity (September 2008):

The magic of medicine (October 2008):

Making meaning (November 2008):

On kindness (December 2008):

Death by negligence (January 2009):

Capable but insane (February 2009):

Why narrative (March 2009):

The foreknowledge of extinction (April 2009):

Power and powerlessness (May 2009):

Super Vision (June 2009):

Who owns truth? (July 2009):

In our name (August 2009):

Medically unexplored stories (September 2009):

The three second consultation (October 2009):

A beginner’s guide to sex (November 2009):

Young at heart (December 2009):

Double binds and strange loops (January 2010)http://pmj.bmj.com/content/86/1011/63.full?sid=02ce68b8-9b9a-456c-84d0-06490b490d72

The many faces of professionalism (February 2010)

Home truths from abroad (March 2010)

Right on cue (May 2010).

The big picture (June 2010)

On the record. 2010 (July 2010)

Taking risks seriously (August 2010)

Making time for partnership (September 2010)

Unconscious incompetence (October 2010)

Supervision as therapy (November 2010)

What is an emergency  (December 2010)
Why do men have nipples (January 2011)

Family matters (June 2011)

Three kinds of reflection (July 2011)

What is good supervision? (August 2011, with Sue Hogarth)

A Twilight Adventure (September 2011)

Selfish genes and reproductive fitness (October 2011):

The genius of Sabina Spielrein (November 2011)

The end of health (December 2011)http://pmj.bmj.com/content/early/2011/11/09/postgradmedj-2011-130540.full

Monument to the Discoveries (January 2012)

Narrative diagnosis (PMJ Feburary 2012)

Supervision quartets (March 2012)

Dumpling soup (April 2012)

Being wrong (May 2012)

Waiting rooms and the unconscious (June 2012)

Close readings (July 2012)

The birch field (August 2012):

Spams and spamnals (September 2012)

Brief encounter (October 2012)

Odyssey (November 2012)

Therapeutic dialogue (December 2012)

Brainfulness (January 2013)

On redundancy (February 2013)

Doctors as victims (March 2013)
In praise of deaneries (April 2013)
Bullying in the health service (May 2013)

Meet your microbiome (June 2013)
Developing your faculties (July 2013)
Opium (August 2013)
First Australians (September 2013):
The end of the NHS (October 2013)

The age of Twitter (November 2013)

What’s wrong with ward rounds? (December 2013)
Meetings with teams (January 2014)
Good questions (February 2014)
Rediscovering the unconscious mind (March 2014).

Darwin for doctors (April 2014)
Medicine as poetry (May 2014)

When will we learn to love complaints? (June 2014)

Do diseases really exist? (July 2014)

Patient choice and narrative ethics (August 2014)

Of human bondage (September 2014)

In praise of libraries (October 2014)  
The science of compassion (November 2014) http://pmj.bmj.com/content/90/1069/669.full

The breathtakingly simple facts of life (December 2014)

Creative subversion (January 2015)


Monkey business (February 2015)

Concentric conversations (March 2015)

Medicine under capitalism (April 2015)

Memories of the workhouse (May 2015)

What’s the point of reflective writing? (June 2015)

Setting the facts straight on Wikipedia (July 2015)

Collaborative learning groups (August 2015)http://pmj.bmj.com/content/91/1078/473.full?keytype=ref&ijkey=woqDMULIdsVK8V1

Why should doctors look at art September 2015)http://pmj.bmj.com/content/91/1079/536.full

In celebration of medical essayists (October 2015)http://pmj.bmj.com/content/91/1080/608.full

Guidelines and Mindlines (November 2015) http://pmj.bmj.com/content/91/1081/663.full

Resilience: For and against (December 2015)http://pmj.bmj.com/content/91/1082/721.full

The case of Emma Eckstein (January 2016)

Clinical gist (February 2016)

Epigenetics for dummies (March 2016)

Clinical case discussion: using a reflecting team (April 2016)

Rudeness and respect in the health service (May 2016) http://pmj.bmj.com/content/92/1087/307.full

The hospital drawings of Barbara Hepworth (June 2016) http://pmj.bmj.com/content/92/1088/367.full

Reinventing palliative care (July 2016) http://pmj.bmj.com/content/92/1089/427.full

Coaching and health (August 2016)

A life on the wild side (September 2016)

Giving feedback (October 2016)

Humour in health care (November 2016)


The career of William Osler (December 2016)


Is there a crisis in clinical consultations? (January 2017) http://pmj.bmj.com/content/93/1095/58.full

7. Links to other journals. Enter 'Launer' in author field of journal search page. Access may be restricted by subscription or Athens password.

Editorials and other articles in the British Journal of General Practice can be accessed at: http://www.rcgp.org.uk/college_publications/bjgp.aspx

Articles from Doctor magazine can be accessed at:www.doctorportal.co.uk

Articles in Education for Primary Care and John Launer's column From my diary can be accessed at: http://www.radcliffe-oxford.com/journals/J02_Education_for_Primary_Care/

Articles in the Journal of Family Therapy can be accessed at: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=0163-4445&site=1

Articles in Primary Care Mental Health including the series A narrative-based approach to mental health can be accessed at: http://www.radcliffe-oxford.com/journals/J14_Primary_Care_Mental_Health/default.htm

Articles in Workbased Learning in Primary Care and John Launer's column Reflective Practice and Clinical Supervision can be accessed at: http://www.radcliffe-oxford.com/journals/J16_Work_Based_Learning_in_Primary_Care/default.htm#Work%20Based%20Learning%20in%20Primary%20Care