Anne-Marie Sandler Obituary

Anne-Marie Sandler Obituary

Psychoanalyst who influenced generations of practitioners and had a deep understanding of the mind of a child

The analyst Anne-Marie Sandler, who has died aged 92, was the clinician’s clinician. Technically adept and unafraid of the difficult states of mind and feelings psychoanalysis could uncover, she influenced several generations of practitioners, returning them to the initial interest in the minds, hearts and longings that had led them to train in the first place. 

Her passion was how people worked – and didn’t work for themselves – and her curiosity, her genuine interest in the other, the excitement of seeing an individual come to life after suffering, was infectious. It helped move many a trainee and experienced analyst away from the reductionism, constraining theory and, in some cases, cold analysis that gripped some training institutes. 

Anne-Marie moved to London in her 20s and trained as a child analyst at the Hampstead Clinic and then in the 1960s as a psychoanalyst at the British Psychoanalytical Society – between 1990 and 1993 she was the society’s president. 

In the early 1990s I attended a course on the atypical child by Anne-Marie and Anne Alvarez at the Anna Freud Centre, of which Anne-Marie was director from 1993 until 1996. The course attracted practitioners from all backgrounds and I cannot emphasise enough how exceptional it was for analysts to be engaging with would-be music therapists and teachers of a few months training. I was so touched and astounded – given the habitual snobbishness of psychoanalysis at the time – by the care Anne-Marie took to understand the work of others and their contributions. She made beginners feel that they too had a contribution to make.

If all this makes her sound rather worthy, which she was in trumps, it would be a mistake to miss out on her playfulness and her twinkle. 

She is survived by her children, Trudy, Catherine and Paul, seven grandchildren, Patrick, Sarah, Rachel, Daniel, Zoe, Ben and Miriam, and three great-grandchildren, Milo, Rudi and Lauren.

- Susie Orbach 

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Thursday, 30 August, 2018 - 15:41