Psy­chol­o­gist and aca­demic who founded the Refugee Ther­apy Cen­tre in Lon­don

The Guardian - Journal - - Obituaries -

The psy­chol­o­gist and psy­chother­a­pist Josephine Klein, who has died aged 92, had a pas­sion­ate con­cern for so­cial jus­tice. It un­der­pinned a va­ri­ety of her ini­tia­tives as a re­searcher, writer and prac­ti­tioner. Two books came out of a pe­riod in the re­search sec­tion of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Boys’ Clubs in the late 1940s and a sub­se­quent doc­tor­ate: The Study of Groups (1956) and Work­ing With Groups: The So­cial Psy­chol­ogy of Dis­cus­sion and De­ci­sion (1961). They pi­o­neered a the­o­ret­i­cal foun­da­tion by draw­ing crit­i­cally on what was be­ing done else­where in so­ci­ol­ogy, psy­chol­ogy and psy­cho­anal­y­sis, and of­fered guid­ance on in­ter­ven­tions in a va­ri­ety of set­tings – ther­a­peu­tic, youth and com­mu­nity work.

In her book Sam­ples from

English Cul­tures (1965), Josephine doc­u­mented so­cial change and noted who was miss­ing out. She ex­plored what binds and di­vides so­cial struc­tures, for ex­am­ple class and re­li­gion. Her anal­y­sis of child-rear­ing prac­tices in­formed the de­vel­op­ment of in­ter­ven­tions in schools, with par­ents and in youth work.

In the mid-1960s, Josephine put the­ory into prac­tice when she and oth­ers set up the Arch­way ven­ture in Brighton, East Sus­sex, ini­tially for the mods, rock­ers and flower peo­ple drawn to the sea­side town. Some local peo­ple viewed them with hos­til­ity, but Arch­way ad­dressed their vul­ner­a­bil­ity and need for sup­port. It of­fered cof­fee, some­one to talk to and a place to sleep, and marked a new kind of youth work, which also ex­tended to chil­dren es­cap­ing phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse.

This ex­pe­ri­ence con­vinced Josephine of the need for bet­ter train­ing, so in 1970 she founded a ground­break­ing youth and com­mu­nity work course at Gold­smiths’ Col­lege (now Gold­smiths, Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don). There and else­where she dis­played an ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity to ap­pear non-judg­men­tal, while hav­ing clear stan­dards and val­ues con­cern­ing how peo­ple should treat each other. She also re­tained an in­de­pen­dence of thought in the face of ortho­doxy and re­sis­tance to change.

In the early 70s she trained as an an­a­lytic psy­chother­a­pist, and out of this work came her books Our Need for Oth­ers and Its Roots in In­fancy (1987); Doubts and Cer­tain­ties in the Prac­tice of Psy­chother­apy (1995) and Ja­cob’s Lad­der (2003), a con­sid­er­a­tion of mys­ti­cism.

They drew on ap­proaches seen as in­com­pat­i­ble, syn­the­sis­ing them into new ways of work­ing with pa­tients and as­sess­ing what psy­chother­a­pists needed to un­der­stand. Josephine broke con­ven­tions as to who was taught, what and how they were taught, in both youth and com­mu­nity work and psy­chother­apy.

As a child she had been a refugee, and in 1999 she founded the Refugee Ther­apy Cen­tre in Lon­don, with Aida Ala­yarian and oth­ers. There they es­tab­lished a course to en­able refugees to be­come coun­sel­lors, in line with Josephine’s con­cep­tion that ther­a­pists and coun­sel­lors should share lan­guage, cul­ture and ex­pe­ri­ence with their pa­tients and help them bet­ter to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety.

Born in Düs­sel­dorf, Ger­many, Josephine was the daugh­ter of

Si­mon Klein, a sales­man, and his Dutch wife Marie (nee Nor­den). The fam­ily were of Jewish ori­gin but largely sec­u­lar. They were liv­ing in Am­s­ter­dam at the time of the

Nazi in­va­sion in May 1940, and fled shortly after­wards, in an open boat. Af­ter six days at sea with lit­tle fresh wa­ter, they were picked up by the Royal Navy de­stroyer HMS Mal­colm, and Josephine never for­got the warmth of the cap­tain and crew. Many of her rel­a­tives who did not flee did not sur­vive.

The fam­ily moved to Ch­ester in the hope of trav­el­ling to the US by ship from Liver­pool, but were un­able to do so. Josephine did well at the Queen’s school, Ch­ester, which, to­gether with some local peo­ple, pro­vided the sup­port nec­es­sary for her to go to uni­ver­sity. In four years, she gained two degrees, si­mul­ta­ne­ously, a BA in French at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don and a first in so­ci­ol­ogy at LSE.

Af­ter her pe­riod in youth work, Josephine was a lec­turer in so­cial stud­ies at Birm­ing­ham Uni­ver­sity (1949-62), then had three years as a re­search fel­low at Nuffield Col­lege, Ox­ford, and went on to Sus­sex Uni­ver­sity, as reader in so­cial re­la­tions (1965-70). For the next four years she was di­rec­tor of the course at Gold­smiths’, and then un­der­took 30 years’ pri­vate prac­tice as a psy­chother­a­pist. Even af­ter that she con­tin­ued to su­per­vise trainee psy­chother­a­pists.

Friends and col­leagues val­ued her wisdom and warmth on walks and at con­certs, shar­ing highs and lows in other peo­ple’s lives and help­ing them over­come ad­ver­sity.

She is sur­vived by two nieces and a nephew.

John Ever­s­ley and Ge­off Filkin

Klein ex­plored what binds and di­vides so­cial struc­tures, for ex­am­ple class and re­li­gion

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