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Remembering Lennox Thomas

Publication date: June 29, 2020

We were saddened to learn of the death of Lennox Thomas. Lennox was Clinical Director of Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy Centre and set up an MSc in Intercultural Therapy before going on to found the Refugee Therapy Centre. He was awarded a UKCP Honorary Fellowship for his distinguished contribution to the field of psychotherapy in 2008. Here his colleagues at Nafsiyat remember him.

Lennox Thomas, originally from Grenada, qualified and worked as a social worker and probation officer with adults, children and families. He then went on to train as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and was a registered psychotherapist with the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

Lennox was part of Nafsiyat since 1982. He was there during the time when Jafar Kareem and the team were developing the Intercultural psychotherapy model. At the time, models of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy focused almost exclusively on the internal world, paying little attention to the social, political and economic issues affecting many Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) patients in the UK. In 1992 Nafsiyat published its original text on Intercultural Therapy and Lennox contributed a chapter ‘Racism and Psychotherapy: Working with Racism in the Consulting Room – An Analytic View’. In this chapter he went straight to the heart of the work, spelling out the relationship between therapist and patient and explicitly addressing their race as central to the therapeutic work. These ideas were groundbreaking; racism was not an issue that was discussed in psychoanalysis. This important development brought race and difference into the consulting room. It addressed their importance in the transference and the conscious and unconscious thoughts of patients and therapists in response to the structural racism in society.

It was following Jafar Kareem’s unfortunate death in 1992 that Lennox became the Clinical Director at Nafsiyat. He led the organisation and promoted the Intercultural model through supervision consultancy and training. Lennox saw many patients through his time and as a skilled clinician he explored the interplay between the internal and external world and the challenges this brought to the analytic work.

He was very interested in working with the patients who wanted to come to Nafsiyat to think about their experiences of being a minority in the UK, and all that this entailed. Nafsiyat was one of the few places at the time where discussions about the impact of racism on mental health was being discussed. The clinicians were hearing many stories from patients but also from professionals who were working in the community. Many BAMER student therapists also found their courses difficult as the issue of race and difference was rarely addressed. Lennox always had a passion about bringing more BAMER therapists into the profession, and worked tirelessly on this, by offering training supervision and placement opportunities to therapists from BAMER communities.

In 1995 Lennox wrote about cases that he had seen at Nafsiyat in his chapter ‘Psychotherapy in the Context of Race and Culture: An Intercultural Therapeutic Approach’. In this chapter, he introduced the concept of the ‘proxy self’, which he described as the false self that a Black child develops to communicate with white professionals, in particular, white psychotherapists. He described how a therapists’ awareness of this concept could offer their client a better therapeutic experience. In 1995 with University College London (UCL), as part of Lennox’s work to train and support BAMER psychotherapists, Nafsiyat set up an MSc in Intercultural Psychotherapy. Lennox became the co-director and an honorary lecturer on the course, where he taught and supported many professionals to train as Intercultural psychoanalytic psychotherapists.

Lennox left Nafsiyat in 1999 and continued the work of the Nafsiyat Refugee Project by founding a new organisation, The Refugee Therapy Centre, where he worked as a Consultant Psychotherapist. Lennox also continued his work on separation, loss and attachment at Nafsiyat by remaining on the Advisory Committee for the organisation, Supporting Relationships and Families. In 2009, Lennox was awarded the honorary fellowship award by the UKCP, which recognised his substantial and outstanding contribution to the profession of psychotherapy.

He remained connected to Nafsiyat and most recently contributed a chapter to the book ‘Intercultural Therapy Challenges, Insights and Developments’ published in 2019. His chapter was entitled ‘Intercultural Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Generationally Transmitted Trauma’.

Gita Patel – remembers Lennox Thomas

“I met Lennox when he first interviewed me for the post of Refugee Project Manager in 1995, I had recently qualified as a counsellor and it was my first therapeutic post. I had of course read Lennox’s chapter in the Nafsiyat book and found it quite liberating that a therapist could talk so openly about race dynamics. At the interview I found Lennox to be a very engaging and charismatic man, not afraid to express his opinions even in the interview setting which immediately made me feel relaxed and more able to put forward my own ideas about the Project. Of course, I was delighted to be offered the post.

For the next 4 years, I worked closely with Lennox as the Clinical Director. He was always available to think through the challenges of the work and was a very supportive manager, supervisor and mentor during those times. He also encouraged me to present the work of Nafsiyat to outside organisations and conferences. Giving the whole organisation a status and reputation to be proud of. We had to face a lot of challenges from mainstream therapy organisations, who often felt threatened by Nafsiyat which was a small charity. Lennox would say our organisation may be small in size, but our ideas are big and need to be heard and integrated into psychoanalytic thinking. With this in mind, we spread the work of Nafsiyat both nationally and internationally.

With Lennox’s encouragement I went to train as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist on the Nafsiyat/UCL MSc in Intercultural Psychotherapy. As a lecturer, Lennox taught me so much. Not only about psychoanalytic theory but also how my own cultural background and experiences of race, racism and other social and cultural issues could be a valuable tool in my psychoanalytic work, rather than an added obstacle or burden. I still value and use all the ideas taught on that course and will never forget the innovative thinking and support and encouragement that Lennox provided. He did all this with humour and charm that made working with him and being taught by him an engaging and enjoyable experience.”

Dilek Güngör – remembers Lennox Thomas

“I met Lennox Thomas in 1992 when I was working as an interpreter and a counsellor in South London Health Authority. He came to facilitate a workshop and a seminar on “intercultural psychotherapy, and how to work with interpreters within the therapeutic setting”.  At the time, I was planning to do Group Psychotherapy training at Goldsmiths University. He was modest, engaging, encouraging, witty and charming. I remember thinking: “He is brilliant with groups; can I be like him as a group psychotherapist?”

I was also later delighted to read Lennox’s work first in, “Intercultural Therapy, Themes and Interpretations and Practice” book. At the end of the workshop, he asked me, if I would consider a placement at Nafsiyat as a trainee of group psychotherapy.  I was privileged and felt over the moon.

Lennox was a clinical director at Nafsiyat for some time and devoted his life and energies to the community, Black and ethnic minorities, and to intercultural psychotherapy. He was my first clinical supervisor. When I completed the course, he invited me to his room and said, “Dilek, now you will be a paid group psychotherapist”.  I was delighted with the offer and since then I have been at Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy Centre working part-time as a group analyst, as well as working with individuals and couples. He was inspirational, encouraging and passionate in whatever he did.

One day, my son visited me at Nafsiyat, around lunch time. Lennox offered fish and chips for him. My teenage son was excited to meet him, and he still remembers the taste of the food.  He is in his 40s now and heard the sad news. He was saddened and told me actually he remembers the taste of the interesting free associative conversation.

In 1995, when my parents came to visit me from Turkey, Lennox and his family, Judith, children; Harriet, Elliot and Clara (they were toddlers at the time) visited my home in Brixton. At the time, I was unable to go to Turkey. Lennox always had special way of supporting his junior colleagues, like me. My mother cooked traditional Turkish food and we had a lovely time. My parents didn’t speak English, Lennox and his family didn’t speak Turkish but they both had a wonderful connection and communication via Turkish food which was representing intercultural friendship.  Lennox and his family lived in my parents’ memory, until they passed away. Now Lennox and his family will continue to live in our memory. I will cherish his work and good memories of our professional and personal relationship.”

Lennox was in the process of renewing his professional membership of Nafsiyat and this is how he answered a question about his Intercultural Therapy:

As an original member of Nafsiyat, intercultural ideas were in development. I worked, taught and supervised alongside Jafar Kareem since the centre opened. I worked at Nafsiyat as a volunteer for a couple of years from 1982 until we received funding. I last worked at the centre in 1999, leaving as Clinical Director.  My work on ICT is published in three of the Nafsiyat edited books and I wrote the curriculum for the MSc at UCL. I have published other works on other aspects of intercultural Psychotherapy and psychoanalytic psychotherapy and feel deep connection to Nafsiyat.”

In his own words, until his death, Lennox had a deep connection with Nafsiyat. He is irreplaceable and we will miss him dearly. Every communication with him was a learning experience for us. We will keep him in mind and we will miss him as a supportive colleague, friend, campaigner for Intercultural Therapy and for his work with BAMER clients. His legacy lives on at Nafsiyat through his writings, his ideas and through all the numerous professionals that he has taught, supervised and mentored throughout his professional career.

He is survived by his children Harriet, Clara and Elliot.

 

Comments

  • Sherna Ghyara Chatterjee says:

    Lennox was unique. Very much his own man, he was director of Nafsiyat where I trained and then my tutor on the wonderful course partnered with UCL and Nafsiyat. He supervised me early in my career and he encouraged me to think independently and to steer a path that paid little heed to the ‘norms’ and instead pursue my own cultural understanding. He was challenging and kind. When I was a trustee of The Prisoners of Conscience charity he provided group therapy to victims of torture who were beneficiaries of grants. His no nonsense approach was exactly what was needed and he was effective in that setting.
    A real trailblazer he was authentic often ready to puncture sham and artifice.
    Thankfully Nafsiyat remains, but I wish the course had survived too. It was so well researched and so very needed especially now.

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