Obituary: Martin Jenkins

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The Independent Online
Martin Jenkins was a much-loved psychotherapist, whose main professional life was with the Arbours Association, a London-based mental-health charity. He had a particular interest and skill in the psychoanalytic treatment of borderline and psychotic patients. He also worked with less seriously disturbed patients, and had a private psychotherapy practice. He enjoyed teaching, lect- uring, and supervising other psychotherapists.

He had come to Arbours to do psychotherapy with severely disturbed individuals. His first job there was as a resident therapist at the Crisis Centre, where he lived and worked with people in extreme distress, some of them psychotic. He then became the association's co-ordinator, involving overseeing and administering all the Arbours activities. At the Crisis Centre he was a leader of therapeutic teams and later associate director; he also taught in the Arbours training programme. Eventually he became a member of the Arbours management. No job was too large - or too small - for him. Everything he did he did well, and everyone he worked with liked and respected him.

Jenkins was outstanding in his theoretical understanding of patients and his therapy with them. His attention to details of psychotic thinking was meticulous and his responses to psychotic people were imaginative. With other Arbours psycho-therapists he founded a workshop to discuss understanding and treating borderline patients. He was editing, with his colleagues, an anthology about the psychoanalytic treatment of borderline psychotic conditions in the residential setting of the Crisis Centre.

In his last public lecture, in October 1995, at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution in London, he talked about the "concept of two selves" in patients. He tried to understand patients' allusions to feelings that "states of mind or emotion" sometimes took them over - "to the detriment of their own goals and ambitions".

Martin Jenkins was born and grew up in Rush Green near Romford, Essex. His parents were Welsh-speakers from Aberdare, and he spent many childhood holidays with his family in Wales. As an adult he used to go back to Wales often. He was educated at Horn- church Grammar School in Essex and Nottingham University, where he studied psychology. He graduated in 1977.

After university he spent two years at the Richmond Fellowship, a mental- health charity, where he worked with families of disturbed people. From there he went to Arbours, and in 1980, aged 23, entered the Arbours training programme for psychotherapists.

From an early age he loved music, especially singing. As a child, he used to sing in the car all the way to Wales and back. As an adult, hs used to sing on car journeys, wherever he went: old pop songs, folk-songs, anything that could be sung, especially if another person could sing along in harmony. Membership of the Crouch End Festival Chorus gave him regular opportunity to express his love of singing, and his enthusiasm about the chorus led some of his friends to join it. He once said that the most important thing for him was being together with people making music. He also liked playing the piano.

He enjoyed poetry and words. He had spent some teenage holidays with pen-pals in France and still spoke French fluently. In 1988 in Lyon he delivered a lecture in French. "Fragmentation et reconstruction", on his work at the Crisis Centre. He also spoke Russian. He thrived in the company of people and parties. He loved party dancing - and was good at it. His impish sense of humour delighted all his friends and colleagues. He was drawn to natural beauty, which was part of his attraction to Wales, and was a keen gardener.

After 16 years with Arbours, he decided to leave London and take on new challenges. In mid-March he moved to Newcastle, where he became a consultant psychotherapist at the Newcastle City Health NHS Trust. He had established himself there as a valued professional.

That he died so soon afterwards, abruptly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in his sleep, at the age of only 39, astonished and dismayed all who knew him. He would have enjoyed the send-off he got at his funeral on 18 April, the music, the poetry, the warmth, and the conviviality.

Martin Jenkins, psychotherapist: born Rush Green, Essex 11 July 1956; died Newcastle 1 April 1996.

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