A diverse group of women graduates outside a university building.

Congratulations to our 2023 graduates

A day of joy and celebration

On Friday 23 June we were delighted to celebrate our 2023 graduation at the People’s Palace at Queen Mary’s University. It was a sunny and joyous occasion for all – tremendous congratulations to our graduates.

Blue skies greeted our graduands and there was buzz in the air of excitement, anticipation and celebration before the ceremony. Our Dean of Postgraduate Studies, Elisa Reyes-Simpson, opened the ceremony, while Michael Holland, our Trust CEO, delivered the welcome address – marking his first graduation ceremony at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. The graduands were also congratulated by Richard Harty, Dean of School, School of Education and Communities at the University of East London, and Dr Annecy Lax, Dean of Partnerships at the University of Essex, who welcomed graduates to their respective alumni communities.

As well as marking the achievements of our graduates, we also celebrated the life’s work of our honorary doctorates, two very special, long-serving former members of staff at our Trust: Dilys Daws and Frank Lowe.

Sara Rance, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist, delivered the citation for Dilys Daws, speaking first to her considerable professional achievements: “Many generations of child psychotherapists have been inspired by her teaching, supervision and writing … Dilys’s reach has extended well beyond her own profession and she’s done more than anyone to create an environment in which the multidisciplinary field of infant mental health has blossomed in the UK.” Sara went on to describe the personal qualities that enabled these achievements: “In my recent discussions about her with colleagues the words ‘wisdom’ and ‘compassion’ came up repeatedly, her wicked sense of humour also. Grounded and utterly reliable, she gathers others alongside her, harnessing their particular talents.” She also shared Dilys’s approach as a clinician: “she works from the infant’s level and is wonderfully adept at seeing the world from the baby’s viewpoint … at the same time she attends to the adults’ needs, interested in what is stirred up for them as they become parents.”

In her response, Dilys shared her appreciation for the Trust and her colleagues, “I’m at the end of my career, some of you at the beginning, others have retrained, but what we all have in common is how lucky we all are to have been trained at the Tavistock. My colleagues have been an anchor for my career and life over the last 60 years.” Dilys shared that her most important takeaway from teaching other professions may be “not to rush to give advice but to give others time to think” and explained why she believes in the importance of investing in infant mental health: “Starting at the very beginning can make a huge difference to a child’s life”. Dilys ended her response with her hopes for the careers of our graduates: “I hope you will all change the world for the better, as child psychotherapists and others supporting children and their parents and guardians, and that you will play your part in protecting and furthering our cherished professions”.

Next, we heard from Steve Bambrough who delivered the citation for Frank Lowe. Steve spoke to Frank’s career and time at the Trust, as well as his written work, and particularly his work on ‘Thinking Space’. Thinking Space started as a monthly learning forum for staff and trainees at the Tavistock Clinic to think about race, culture, and diversity in the self and other. Steve described how Frank “took therapy into some of the most marginalised and financially impoverished areas of London – such as Broadwater Farm and Northumberland Park in Tottenham”, and that these Thinking Spaces “provided a therapeutic space for local people to meet, share and reflect on their difficulties and think together about how best to address them. It developed self-understanding, relationships and skills that helped reduce self-defeating behaviours and promote growth”. Steve shared how, “The importance of this work cannot be overestimated in these times when people, politicians, government and media feel unconstrained and given permission to express their hatred of the other.” Steve praised Frank’s particular talent for opening discourse: “His gentle uncommon wisdom and experience challenges our complacent assumptions about race, about difference, and how we work and think together to challenge the hatred of difference which we see in our society and political discourse all too often.”

Frank opened his response by crediting all those involved in delivering Thinking Space, particularly David Armstrong, who encouraged him to take Thinking Space to the community in Tottenham. He reflected that race is often difficult to talk about. Frank shared the impact Thinking Space had in Tottenham and how a number of participants ended up training as facilitators: “People developed relationships, it was like a therapeutic space, and we never had any complaints within a community setting that people went from the Thinking Space and spread what was said in the confidential space to other people that were not part of the Thinking Space. It’s something we were really anxious about, anyone from an area can come in and be part of a Thinking Space, so it was really moving that it never had that problem.” Frank reflected on his hopes for the future of the initiative, “I do hope that it continues at some time in the future, because it is a great need to provide to people, especially those who are not able to afford to pay for psychotherapy on their own, and for those who do not trust opening up within the organisations that provide support.”

The speeches were rounded up by Enister Ngala, a graduate from our MA in Systemic Psychotherapy, who delivered a very moving vote of thanks on behalf of our graduates. Enister spoke to the interconnectedness of people and credited all those behind the graduates’ success: tutors, families, friends and mentors. She described the African concept of ‘Ubuntu’, the “profound sense that we are human thorough the humanity of others, that if we accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and support of others. It is the recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye, that there is a oneness to humanity, that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us”. Enister also shared the experience of being out of her comfort zone and the growth and change that came from her studies: “It’s been a huge transformational process. Sometimes it felt bumpy, beautiful, rich, nuanced, and expansive. My hope is that we all came out on the other side transformed in some way from this life-changing experience”. She concluded her remarks by paraphrasing ‘May The Light Of Your Soul Guide You’ by John O’Donohue, and wishes for her colleagues as they go forward:

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those who work with you…

To those who see and receive your work…

May you be present in what you do…

May the day never burden…

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.

May your soul calm, console and renew you.

We wish all our graduates the very best as they embark on exciting new chapters, and we hope that you will stay in touch with us through our Tavistock and Portman Alumni Society.

What’s next?

All our long-course graduates are warmly invited to join our Tavistock and Portman Alumni Society – a place for our graduates to connect, share and stay up to date with the Tavistock and Portman.

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