Remembering Lennox Thomas
We sadly share the news that pioneering psychotherapist Lennox Thomas has died.
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’.
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.
Lennox and his family with Dilek Güngör and her parents in 1995
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 – see photo above. 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.”
Baffour Ababio – remembers Lennox Thomas:
“Lennox Thomas featured at the start of my psychotherapy training; when he and Roland Littlewood interviewed me in 1996 and offered me a place on the UCL Intercultural MSc course. Lennox taught, lectured, gave and inspired me. When we spoke during the latter part of last year, he gave me something to think about. He said “and we now have to explore the frontiers of intercultural therapy”, and I could just hear and see the ‘Lennox’ laugh and smile in his voice. Yes, Lennox was a library of ideas, bequeathing a treasure trove of concepts, one being; “the proxy self”. He was generous, witty and on the mark. A special person, who has left a legacy; of the dexterity of thought, applied and delivered with aplomb. Lennox ‘Daámmirifua dueá’ (Twi phrase of condolence for an important person)”
Jale Yazar – remembers Lennox Thomas:
“I am very sorry to hear of the death of Mr Lennox Thomas. He was Principle psychoanalytic psychotherapist, fellow of UKCP, lecturer, trainer, writer, Clinical Director , One time principle psychotherapist of Nafsiyat intercultural therapy centre, Founder member of Nafsiyat intercultural therapy centre and very family and community orientated Black man , he was a larger than life person. His inputs, contribution to understanding of issues of race and culture in the psychotherapy world and institutional setting was enormous and will always be remembered. My sincere deepest condolences to his family and to all of his colleagues my thoughts are with them all.
I met Lennox first as a lecturer, during my intercultural psychotherapy training in 1991. I found his emphasising on learning from Freud’s transference, countertransference, Jung “persona”, Winnicot’ “false and true self” and Klaine projection and projective identification on understand the race and culture issues in the consulting room in therapeutic encounters was innovative. Later on, I have read his writing and attended his talks and lecture to have an opportunity to learn from him. I found all this was highly interesting, thought provoking and stimulating. He was at the frontier in writing on in social justice issues, race and culture, war trauma, gang culture, identity issues, gender issues. Later, I worked as a trainee psychotherapist when he was Clinical director of Nafsiyat . He always looked into social justice and social relationships and their impact on therapeutic relationships in his lectures and teachings that I was fortunate enough to attend and learn from. I always found Lennox Thomas views innovative, his contribution to analytic intercultural psychotherapy world is great. He was a role model with his work on racial and cultural identity in psychotherapy and on social justice for Black men. He was always highly supportive of developments of his staffs, supervisee and students. I remember when Steven Lawrence was murdered and Damilola Taylor was murdered he was in the frontier once again, taking about institutional racism in the criminal justice system. He was very supportive of intercultural therapy graduates’ forums and contributed a great deal in their meetings with his thought and contributions.
I hope that I was able to thank him enough for his contribution to my personal and professional development as a psychotherapist in my meetings with him and in my learning and my practice as a psychotherapist over the years. I thought he knew that. He was the first and one of the few only called me by my title “Doctor” which I did not use myself. I will remember him as an excellent and humorous lecturer whose life reflected his thought, as a pioneer in his writing and as a role model.
I last met Lennox at the memorial meeting of Jafer Kareem’s founder of Nafsiyat. I listened his interesting lecture and able to talk with him. He was as ever, stimulating, thought provoking and with his great sense of humour, connecting and encouraging people. My words are not enough to express my thanks to him. He was larger than life, a pioneer as a Black man in the psychotherapy world talking about differences and similarities, race and culture, social justice in therapy room. He and his work will be always remembered. I hope that he is resting in peace where he is now. My thoughts are with his family and friends and all who knew and loved him in the intercultural therapist.”
Sega Habtom – remembers Lennox Thomas:
“From the moment I learnt the news of the death of my beloved friend, I have been deeply affected. he was so much more to me than just a supervisor – I am deeply indebted to him for all the support and generosity that he showed me, his contribution to my professional and personal fulfilment that i have now.
The first time I met him, I was struck by him, he was a wonderful person in every way a person can be. with every topic we shared, he was able to debate and bring so much wisdom and knowledge to it. Furthermore, he was a real comedian – I will always remember sitting next to him during break times when he would reduce me to tears of laughter and these are memories which I shall treasure.
It is so painful to lose such a hugely significant person in my life and i am sending my deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
Adeola Muir – remembers Lennox Thomas:
“I am saddened by the news of Lennox’s passing. I am so upset. He taught me at UCL between 1995-98 on The Intercultural Therapy MSc. He was the was the most knowledgeable, humble, talented and creative psychotherapist and challenged my learning and practice to be the best that I could be. He was incredibly funny, sincere, generous of spirit, and I loved him and his colourful and flamboyant personality. He will forever live on in my work. Rest in peace Lennox.”
Antony Sigalas – remembers Lennox Thomas:
“Our professional community is mourning the loss of our dear friend and colleague Lennox Thomas. Born in Grenada, he joined his parents in the UK when he was seven years old. Initially lived in Nottingham and then moved to London where he studied and worked in social care as a qualified psychiatric social worker and later as a probation officer before his renowned career in psychotherapy. In the early days Lennox had hoped to return to the Caribbean to work, but due to the limited prospects of employment there at the time he decided to remain in the UK.
In 1983 along with a number of mental health professionals, he joined the late Jafar Kareem the founder of Nafisyat in establishing the delivery of the pioneering clinical practice of culturally sensitive psychotherapy. In later years he set up with Roland Littlewood the first Intercultural Psychotherapy MSc training in the country successfully. After Jafar’s death he remained Nafsiyat’s clinical director until 1999 when he joined the Refugee Therapy Centre and continued until his death to be fully committed, both as a clinician and a teacher, to the Racial & Gender equality practice. His last public appearance, and despite his health problems, was on Nov 24th 2019 at the SRF conference as a key note speaker and co-founding member of the organisation. He has published extensively and has been an associate member of a number of professional institutions and a fellow of UKCP.
I was lucky enough to have worked with Lennox both at Nafsiyat and the Refugee Therapy Centre and I have always remembered him being available to help and support his colleagues, always generous in sharing his knowledge, and always a joy to hear him speak in seminars and conferences. We miss you and thank you for your legacy Lennox. May you rest in peace.”
Patricia Morris – remembers Lennox Thomas:
“When the MSc in Intercultural Therapy was establishing itself, Nafsiyat’s Lennox Thomas was at the head of the clinical aspects of the degree. Indeed, to all intents and purposes he was Nafisyat. Alongside him was Roland Littlewood, Professor of Anthropology and Psychiatry in the Academic Psychiatry department of University College London. Together they designed the ambitious shape of the graduate degree in a discipline that was then at the cutting edge of the profession, a training that our early cohort was privileged to receive.
Lennox was always larger than life, both in person and personality. He had great gifts and achieved a great deal. He was one of those rare people of whom one can say, “Once met, always remembered.” He will be much mourned: it is hard to think that he has gone from this earth.”
Deri Hughes – remembers Lennox Thomas:
“Whenever I think of Lennox, either now or in the past, I am always filled with a deep sense of gratitude as well as an awareness of a warm smile inside.
Lennox first came into my life when he interviewed me for a place on the MSc in Intercultural Therapy course run by UCL in conjunction with Nafsiyat. I was to meet the Clinical Director outside the Nafsiyat offices in Finsbury Park, London. As I waited outside Nafsiyat looking down the road toward the tube station a voice behind me suddenly said “Deri Hughes?”. I turned around to see a tall black man smiling at me. He held out his hand, “Lennox Thomas” Then he smiled again and, noticing something about my reaction, he said, “You weren’t expecting me, were you?” And I suddenly heard myself say, “No”. We then went inside and began the interview by analysing my reaction to seeing Lennox and I became aware for the first time of the unconscious racism that lay within me as a white British male. I was expecting to see a white, middle-aged man in a trilby as Clinical Director. It was a touchstone moment and one that is etched on my mind. It serves as a reference point in my work with people who have been hurt by racism or who unconsciously express it, and it informs my work in supervising psychotherapists working interculturally.
Throughout the years since then Lennox firstly trained and supervised me and we have subsequently met at various conferences and CPD events. Lennox was always gracious, interested in me and my work and above all so kind. I will miss you greatly my mentor and my friend. I will never forget you and I carry your warm smile within me. Thank you.”
Yuko Nippoda – remembers Lennox Thomas
“When I heard the sad news about Lennox, I could not believe it, as I had been talking to his son the day before. He explained the details of Lennox’s long-term illness and said that Lennox was getting better. I am utterly devastated and heartbroken.
I have known Lennox since 1992. I was doing my MA in Counselling Studies and I was looking for further training and placements in London. I rang Nafsiyat and a man answered. He sounded so pleasant and I thought he was the administrator. I made an enquiry explaining my background as my initial training was humanistic and I came to the UK to explore cross-cultural issues. I tried to impress him but he said it did not matter as Nafsiyat training is psychodynamic, but he also told me to send them my CV. It was a really nice conversation on the phone. I asked who I was talking to, then he said “My name is Lennox Thomas” and after he asked me for my name. That was the lucky thing, as an administrator mostly answers the phone and I hardly saw Lennox answer the phone subsequently. I experienced a good vibe and I was really hoping to be accepted, although I wondered if they would accept me as somebody from a different modality. Then I received a letter offering me a placement and further training with Nafsiyat. If he hadn’t answered the phone, I wonder if I would have been treated as one of the many, and I might not have been accepted.
Nafsiyat had a family atmosphere. My purpose in coming to the UK was to explore cross-cultural issues as Japan is largely monocultural and it is hard to learn the subject in that environment. Lennox was the clinical director and my supervisor. But he was so approachable and his down to earth approach gave me the perfect environment to learn diversity and intercultural therapy. I just enjoyed working at Nafsiyat. My colleagues were from many different ethnic backgrounds and this was the environment that I really wanted. Lennox, my colleagues and I made jokes constantly. Learning psychodynamic was a big challenge but he really helped me and we worked closely.
When Nafsiyat was accredited as a Member Organisation of UKCP, Lennox included me as a member to be registered with UKCP. Since I started my psychotherapy training, everything was so challenging to me. I had also trained in other organisations but I always struggled studying in English and I lacked confidence. When I heard Nafsiyat selected only competent members to be registered with UKCP, I really felt my struggle had paid off and I felt recognised. That was the moment I gained confidence.
Our way home was in the same direction and he gave me a lift sometimes after work. He also invited me to Christmas dinner at his home on Christmas day one year. I had a really good time there. He also told me that he liked Japanese food and I offered to cook Japanese food for his family, but unfortunately the opportunity didn’t arise.
I stopped practising at Nafsiyat, although I am still a proud member of Nafsiyat, and Lennox also left Nafsiyat. But we kept in touch. Both of us had a long term illness and we kept bumping to each other at the hospital. We met at workshops and conferences sometimes as well.
Last year, I had a client who brought up different issues from the initial assessment, and I had never dealt with them. I tried to refer the client to somebody else but nobody was available. My supervisors had not dealt with the rare case and so I rang Lennox. He had plenty of experience in working in the area, and he supervised me for the case. He was so generous with his time and he was so conscientious to teach me how to deal with the issues. That was the last time I saw him. We exchanged messages a few times after that.
Everybody would agree that Lennox was an extremely special person, and so unique that there was nobody who was like him. I am so privileged to have known and had training from him. I lost a couple of trainers I worked closely with many years ago. Losing mentors hurts so much. However, I can feel their presence particularly when I work with my clients and they still give me strength.”