Leading Figures

Tim Carey - Centre for Remote Health and Central Australian Mental Health Service, Alice Springs

Tim Carey

Early Years

Tim Carey began his professional career as a preschool teacher. After preschool teaching he returned to teacher’s college and undertook training in special education. A large focus of this training was behaviour management and applied behaviour analysis. This training really grabbed Tim’s imagination – particularly the idea that unusual and complex behaviour could be understood in terms of simple relationships and basic principles.

After immersing himself in behavioural knowledge he worked in special schools and then in regular primary schools as a behaviour management specialist. Along the way, he began to realise that the behaviourist principles didn’t explain situations as accurately as he first thought. He engaged in training in Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, William Glasser’s Reality Therapy and Choice Theory (it was called Control Theory in those days), as well as Family Therapy and Neurolinguistic Programming. Initially each of these seemed to explain a little bit more than the one before.

Discovering Perceptual Control Theory

It was through William Glasser’s work that Tim initially found out about Perceptual Control Theory (PCT). Tim has found PCT to be unparalleled if an accurate and precise explanation of human activity is your priority.

Countercontrol in the classroom

During his PhD studies Tim began applying his learning of PCT where he could. His research project added a PCT twist to the Skinnerian topic of countercontrol thanks to the guidance of his associate supervisor Tom Bourbon. This work was highly relevant and interesting to Tim because he was also working in schools helping educators think about school discipline from the perspective of perceptual control.

Psychotherapy - Method of Levels

At the same time, Tim was applying the principles of PCT in the therapeutic work he was doing. During this work he was being closely mentored by Bill Powers. They would regularly discuss tapes of Tim’s sessions and Bill would suggest ways to improve. The therapy being developed was the Method of Levels (MOL) which Bill had begun to speculate about and formulate many years before.

Although completing a PhD was rewarding and learning PCT was enthralling, the most amazing thing that happened to Tim during this time was marrying Margaret. Margaret had interests in behaviour management as well, had become a registered psychologist, and was a keen and astute student of PCT.

Once Tim’s doctoral studies were complete he and Margaret travelled to Scotland where he worked as a Clinical Psychologist for 5 years. During this time he used MOL exclusively in his clinical practice while continuing to receive interested comments from Bill in something very much like a team effort. Tim collected data during this time and began to evaluate his practice and write papers about his experience. He was fortunate to be joined by some amazing colleagues in Richard and Gillian Mullan, and Chris and Margaret Spratt. Later, Tim discovered Warren Mansell at the University of Manchester and they began working together too. Warren’s colleague Sara Tai also became involved and a growing band of PCTers began to emerge.

Where is Tim at the moment?

After almost 5 fantastic years in Scotland, Tim and Margaret experienced the profound joy of welcoming their son, Jack, into the world. With a change in family circumstances it was time to return home and Tim took up a position at the University of Canberra as course convenor of the postgraduate clinical psychology program. There he could continue learning about PCT and MOL and teach these ideas to others as well as developing a program of research to contribute to the growing body of evidence for this remarkable field. After almost three years at the University of Canberra the opportunity to work in the outback was to incredible to resist and Tim, Margaret, and Jack moved to the centre of Australia. Out here Tim is still finding ways to learn more about PCT and MOL and the ways they can be applied in different settings. He has the chance to conduct research, provide clinical services, and conduct training and supervision. He also is able to spend time exploring the stunningly beautiful landscape of Central Australia and learn about the unique Aboriginal cultural groups that reside there.

So far it’s been quite a trip but Tim has a sneaky suspicion that the journey is only just beginning.

Key Publications and Links

Click here for Tim’s University web page

Carey, T. A. (2008). Hold that thought! A short introduction to the Method of Levels. Chapel Hill, NC: newview Publications.

Carey, T. A. (2008). Perceptual Control Theory and the Method of Levels: Further contributions to a transdiagnostic perspective. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 1(3), 237-255.

Carey, T. A., Carey, M., Stalker, K., Mullan, R. J., Murray, L., & Spratt, M. (2007). Psychological change from the inside looking out: A qualitative investigation. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 7(3), 178-185.

Carey, T. A., & Mullan, R. J. (2007). Patients taking the lead: A naturalistic investigation of a patient led approach to treatment in primary care. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 20(1), 27-40.

Carey, T. A. (2006). The Method of Levels: How to do psychotherapy without getting in the way. Hayward, CA: Living Control Systems Publishing.

Carey, T. A., & Bourbon, W. T. (2006). Is countercontrol the key to understanding chronic behaviour problems? Intervention in School and Clinic, 42(1), 5-13.