Anne-Marie Sandler, 1925-2018

Anne Marie Sandler passed away on July 25th. We lost a pioneer in child psychoanalysis, and for most of us a friend and a mentor.

Born in December 1925 in Geneva in a family well known for her action to help Jewish to cross the border during Second World War, Anne Marie Sandler was trained in psychology at the University of Geneva, particularly with Jean Piaget; she participated in one of his researches for UNESCO on children’s developing notion of homeland and foreignness. She then moved to London, and trained in 1950 as a child analyst at the Hampstead Clinic and in 1965 as a psychoanalyst at the British Psychoanalytical Society. 

She worked at the Hampstead Clinic on a project set up in 1954 by Anna Freud for a group of congenitally blind children. Besides running a day nursery for blind children, the staff of searchers undertook the analytic treatment of these children, discussed their development with their mothers and visited them in their homes. Anne-Marie published the observations they recorded. 

She met Joseph Sandler, a widower who had a very young girl. She married him, and together, they raised a family of three children. Anna Freud chose the Sandlers to be at the head of the Hampstead Clinic – which became the Anna Freud Center –, the first child psychoanalytic center for observational research, teaching and learning, a well-known center for its rich and strict training, for the mental health clinic providing education, guidance and research. In addition to the treatment of children, simultaneous mother-and-child therapy has been developed there, with a clinic for babies and toddlers.

Together with Joseph Sandler, Anne-Marie published a number of seminal papers, in which they reviewed basic psychoanalytic concepts. “Internal Objects Revisited” (Karnac 1998) is a masterful project of integration of their contribution to psychoanalytic theory and practice over many years, an integration of drive theory with object relations theory emphasizing the centrality of emotional states for the understanding of transference and countertransference in the analytic process.

Anne-Marie emphasized the sensitive monitoring of the transference and countertransference in order to assess the level at which her patients are functioning. Her deep understanding of human nature and of “the child within” her patient was expressed in her way of practicing psychoanalysis: she stressed the part played by feelings of well-being in the regulation of mental functioning. 

In 1983 she was elected President of the European Psychoanalytic Federation. After a hard work undertaken with Raymond de Saussure to rebuild and reintegrate the German Society into the IPA, she managed to develop strong links between psychoanalytic societies.

In 1990, she was elected President of the British Psychoanalytical Society, and in 1993, she became Vice-President of the International Psychoanalytical Association. She also was the Director of the Anna Freud Centre from 1993 to 1996.

In 1997, after many difficulties, she contributed to the creation, inside the IPA, of a Committee On Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis (COCAP). This was a very important step for child analysis being recognized and developed in psychoanalytic societies all over the world. Thanks to her energy, after many arguments and fights, child analysis is now integrated in most analytic trainings. 

In 1998 she was awarded the prestigious Sigourney Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Psychoanalysis.

The Integrated Child-and-Adult Training (ITC) promoted by Virginia Ungar is in direct continuity with Anne-Marie Sandler’s ideas.

We are all deeply indebted to Anne-Marie Sandler for having constantly shared her knowledge and passion for children and their families, with many generations of psychoanalysts. We all will mourn her loss and what she has so generously given to all of us.

On behalf of the COCAP team: 
Christine Anzieu-Premmereur and Florence Guignard
August 1, 2018