Hamish Canham

Child psychotherapist
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The Independent Online

Hamish Canham, psychotherapist: born London 20 September 1962; married 1996 Hazel Shotter (one son, one daughter); died London 5 July 2003.

Hamish Canham was one of the outstanding child psychotherapists at the Tavistock Clinic in London, the centre for psychoanalytic treatment and training. At 40 years of age, he had already achieved a great deal in his clinical work, his teaching and in wide-ranging publications, but he had a significant future ahead of him.

Canham had been working at the Tavistock Clinic since qualifying in 1994. As a trainee, he had shown exceptional talent and he developed his skills as a teacher and supervisor. He loved his work and was also convinced of the usefulness of the psychoanalytic approach in non-clinical settings: he was energetic in his dissemination of ideas through courses for allied professionals in the public sector.

He co-ran a well-established course for teachers before moving on to develop an innovative course in group work. Latterly, he became the organising tutor of the Tavistock's child psychotherapy training - the first man to hold that position.

Hamish Canham was born in Queen Charlotte's Hospital in London in 1962. He attended primary schools in north London before going on to Gordonstoun and then to Manchester University, where he read Psychology. On leaving university, he worked for some years as a residential social worker in homes for children in the care of the local authority. As a qualified child psychotherapist, he remained committed to the most disadvantaged sector of the population. Some of his most influential publications focus on the emotional experience of children growing up in residential care and those in foster homes or adoptive families.

Those of us who worked closely with him at the Tavistock Clinic will remember a very tall man, with boyish features that made him look younger than his age, striding along the corridors with small child patients who always looked comfortable and secure in his presence. He had an unusual capacity to make meaningful contact with troubled children and there are many children, parents and carers who have reason to be grateful for his intuitive and insightful interventions.

Canham retained a passionate interest in art and literature and became ever more excited about the potential for looking at great works through a psychoanalytic lens. A recent project was the co-editorship, with the poet Carole Satyamurti, of a book of essays, Acquainted With the Night: psychoanalysis and the poetic imagination. He was very proud of this book, and was pleased to know that it would be published later this summer.

One of his greatest pleasures as a Tavistock teacher of psychoanalytic theory and practice was his termly trip to Bologna in Italy, where he worked with a small group of enthusiastic students. He loved the teaching but he also relished the opportunity to look at Italian art and architecture and, not least, to enjoy Italian food and wine.

Hamish Canham was brave in the face of a swift and cruel cancer. He never stopped thinking about the impact of his illness on others, notably of course on his much-loved wife and two small children. He took care to take his leave of patients, students and colleagues and, to the end, was interested in their activities and in their perspective on the world. The way in which he lived his last months was a tribute to his belief in the necessity of reflecting on one's feelings and using one's mind to the full.

Biddy Youell