Irma Brenman Pick Obituary 2023

It is with great sadness that I write on behalf of the British Psychoanalytical Society to inform the international psychoanalytical community of the death of our colleague Mrs. Irma Brenman Pick.  Naomi Shavit, a Fellow of our Society wrote to inform me of Irma’s death on August 3rd:

"Irma died this morning, peacefully with her immediate family and devoted carer with her. As many of you will know she’d been ever frailer in recent weeks. She even managed a last trip with her family to a hotel in the New Forest, returning less than 48 hours before she died. She was determined and pleased to have been able to make that final trip despite her frailty. The nursing and care ensured that her last days were as peaceful and comfortable as possible.”

Irma was born and raised in South Africa and graduated with distinction from the Social Science Faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where she had a brief involvement in radical student politics. Her early academic promise brought a prestigious award as the best student in her year. 

She arrived in UK with her first husband, Abe Pick in 1955. Six years later, shortly after she qualified as a psychoanalyst, and when Daniel, their son, now also a Fellow and Training Analyst of our Society, was one year old, Abe tragically died. 

She completed the Tavistock training in child psychotherapy and had gone on to train at the Institute of Psychoanalysis, where she undertook both adult and child trainings. Her analyst was Dr Hans Thorner, whose kindness and compassion, especially following the death of her first husband, made a deep impression on her. An ability to empathise with and feel compassion for patients’ struggles became a striking aspect of her own approach as an analyst.

In 1975, Irma married Eric Brenman. They taught and worked with colleagues in many parts of the world, including the USA, South Africa, Israel, Sweden, Italy and Germany.  Eric died in 2012.   Irma continued to work, latterly as supervisor, consultant and seminar leader, and she was still working until shortly before she died. She had struggled courageously with illness for some years. 

Irma was a leading Kleinian analyst, with a keen interest in bringing together colleagues from different orientations. The book of her collected papers (Authenticity in the Analytic Encounter, edited by Fakhry Davids and Naomi Shavit) was published in 2018. It includes her important paper on countertransference, with its emphasis on the need for the analyst to work through his or her emotional responses in order to help the patient.  She believed that this particular focus on the countertransference allowed for a deeper response to the patient’s real need to feel understood. Once this process was underway, it became possible to explore whether, and if so, how, the patient perceived this care on the part of the analyst. She often stressed the need to hold the patient with two hands; to acknowledge both vulnerability and destructiveness.

Irma was a Distinguished Fellow and Senior Training and Supervising Analyst of the British Society, where she occupied many positions, including being President from 1997 to 2000 and Chair of the Student Progress and Education Committees.   She was also active in the EPF and IPA and served as Chair of the IPA’s Committee on Psychoanalytic Education (COMPSED).

She leaves behind Daniel, his wife Isobel, who is also a Member of our Society, and their twin daughters, Anna and Natasha (Tash), and many, many friends. 

Her family and I, as President of the British Society, have received many messages of condolence from around the world, testifying to the enormous appreciation of Irma’s contributions and total commitment to our field, and to the warmth and passion of her personality.

She will be greatly missed by many colleagues in Britain and the world.

Dr Vic Sedlak
British Psychoanalytical Society