Frank Lake

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Frank Lake (6 June 1914 – 10 May 1982) was one of the pioneers of pastoral counselling in the United Kingdom. In 1962, he founded the Clinical Theology Association with the primary aim to make clergy more effective in understanding and accepting the psychological origins of their parishioners’ personal difficulties. However, the training seminars in pastoral counselling, which he began in 1958, eventually enlisted professional and lay people in various fields from various denominations. Many thousands of people attended the seminars.


Lake was born on 6 June 1914 in Aughton, Lancashire.[1] His parents were committed Christians. His father, John Lake, was both a stockbroker in Liverpool and the organist and choirmaster in their parish. His mother, Mary, had trained as a teacher. Lake was the eldest of three sons.

Lake studied medicine at Edinburgh University, graduating with degrees in medicine and surgery in 1937. With missionary work in mind, he trained in parasitology at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and took up an appointment with the Church Mission Society to serve in India. During World War II he was recruited into the Indian Medical Service, from which he emerged with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1945. His fiancée, Sylvia Smith, joined him in 1944 and they were married in Poona, where the eldest of their three children, David, was born. In 1946 Lake was posted to the parasitology department of the Vellore Medical Centre.

Lake changed directions from parasitology to psychiatry after he was appointed as superintendent of the Christian Medical College in Madras. When setting up a psychiatric unit there, he became concerned with ‘a variety of imponderable emotional factors which I had never been taught to think about seriously before’.[citation needed] In the early 1950s, he undertook retraining as a psychiatrist, first at The Lawn, Lincoln, then at Scalebor Park Hospital in Burley, Yorkshire. His allegiance was to the Object-relations school of psychoanalysis.[2] He believed that the first trimester of embryonal development was the most important part of a person's life.[3][4] He was encouraged by the exploration of prenatal and perinatal influences of Fodor, Peerbolte, Mott, Donald Winnicott and Swartley. He was critical of Freud's about-face having first backed Rank's emphasis on the birth trauma.[5]

Lake was a contemporary of Stanislav Grof and both were researching the abreactive qualities of LSD. LSD 25 was invented by a Swiss pharmaceutical company in 1943 had been sent to a number of psychiatric research clinics for study. He witnessed frequent abreactions of birth trauma in his patients and this was to guide his research for the rest of his life. He said:

I was assured by neurologists that the nervous system of the baby was such that it was out of the question that any memory to do with birth could be reliably recorded as fact. I relayed my incredulity to my patients, and, as always happens in such cases, they tended thereafter to suppress what I was evidently unprepared, for so-called scientific reasons, to believe. But then a number of cases emerged in which the reliving of specific birth injuries, of forceps delivery, of the cord round the neck, of the stretched brachial plexus, and various other dramatic episodes were so vivid, so unmistakable in their origin, and afterwards confirmed by the mother or other reliable informants, that my suspicion was shaken... At the end of the sixties the value of Reichian and bio-energetic techniques broke upon us, and we discovered that deeper breathing alone was a sufficient catalyst for primal recapitulation and assimilation. Nothing more 'chemical' than that was necessary, so we stopped using LSD. Clinical Theology, xx, quoted in Maret, op. cit.

Lake's LSD research was conducted from 1954 to 1970. In the later decade he evaluated many new techniques including transactional analysis, gestalt therapy, and Re-evaluation Counseling.

Lake died from pancreatic cancer in May 1982.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dr. Frank Lake (1914-1982)", Bridge Pastoral Foundation, accessed 4 March 2015
  2. ^ Biography at [1] 14 May 2007
  3. ^ Maret SM 'Frank Lake's "Maternal-Fetal Distress Syndrome"' - An Analysis - Dissertation of Stephen M. Maret, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology Caldwell University retrieved from [2] retrieved 14 May 2007
  4. ^ Lake F Primary Sources retrieved from [3] retrieved 14 May 2007
  5. ^ House S. H. 'Primal integration therapy - school of Lake' The International journal of prenatal and perinatal psychology and medicine ISSN 0943-5417, 1999, vol. 11, no4, pp. 437-457, retrieved from [4] on 15 May 2007. Journal link "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 June 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
  6. ^


  • Geoffrey Victor Whitfield, The Prenatal Psychology of Frank Lake and the Origins of Sin and Human Dysfunction (Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2007).
  • Frank Lake. Clinical Theology - A Theological and Psychiatric Basis for Clinical Pastoral Care (Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2007).