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David Malan, was the son of an English father in the Indian Civil Service and an American mother. He spent the first eight years of his life in India. His father then died from pneumonia, and he moved to England and boarding school.

His early love at school was ancient languages, Latin and Greek, but he later developed an interest in Chemistry which he then studied at University in Oxford.

On graduating he did war research for SOE for a year (the British equivalent of the American OSS), being a member of a team who devised a new type of incendiary bomb. Apparently a million of these were ordered but were never used, because of the Japanese surrender.

After the War he worked for Courtaulds as a research chemist for a year.

During this time, he entered a short lived therapy with Hilda Stekel, Wilhelm Stekel’s widow, who carried on her husband’s tradition of intuitive brief psychotherapy based on dreams.

In 1947 he began a training analysis and a medical training at the same time. His first analyst was Michael Balint, whom he later left for Winnicott.

After medical qualification, he worked first as a Casualty Officer, then at the Maudsley, and finally at the Tavistock Clinic, where he stayed for the rest of his professional career.

There Balint invited him to be a founding member of his Workshop on Brief Psychotherapy. This gave him the oppurtunity to write a thesis for the Oxford postgraduate degree of DM. In this he was able to bring his scientific training to bear on isssues in psychodynamic therapy .

in 1974, Habib Davanloo visited him and they began a long and close friendship, lasting over twelve years and Malan became very familiar with his ideas

About this time he began work on his book Individual Psychotherapy and the Science of Psychodynamics. This was published in 1979 and has sold over 30,000 copies, including translations into seven different languages.

One of the most influential concepts introduced in the book were the Malan triangles which can be made the basis of almost every intervention that the therapist makes.

In recent years Malan has continued his work collaborating with Patricia Coughlin Della Selva, one of Davanloo’s trainees. Together they have written a book entitled "Lives Transformed" which show how modifications of Davanloos technique can contribute to significant change in a limited number of sessions

See also Malan triangles


Malan, D. (1999) Individual Psychotherapy and the Science of Psychodynamics (2nd edn). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Malan, D.& Della Selva, P C.((2006) Lives Transformed: How Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Works.ISBN: 1855753782

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