Hugh Jenkins

Hugh Athens

Hugh Jenkins PhD BA BPhil DipFT MIFT

Hugh has lived and worked in Mali, France, and Zambia, giving him a unique experience of different cultural mores, and the absolute nature of the relative

Hugh was Chair of the British Association for Family Therapy (1982-5); Director of the Institute of Family Therapy (1987-96).  In 1996 he was awarded the Medal of the Hungarian Family Therapy Association in recognition of his contribution to the field in Hungary.  He is a founder member of the European Family Therapy Association, and was responsible for the book programme for Eastern Europe for the International Family Therapy Association.  He served on the UK Committee of the Association for Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

He is or has been a visiting lecturer for a number of training institutions, including: Istituto di Terapia Familiare di Firenze, Shinui Institute for Systemic Practice, Tel Aviv; BUCSAKI, Budapest; Stuttgarter Institut für Systemische Therapie, Stuttgart; Family Resource and Training Centre, Singapore.  He is a board member of Dianoia, Institute of Family Therapy and Systemic Practice, Timisoara.

Hugh was a Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, London, and Director of its Family and Couples Therapy programme for three years, teaching on the programmes until retiring in 2011.  He has published over fifty professional papers and chapters in the UK, Europe, and US.

He has consulted to and published and taught about working with family businesses in the UK, Budapest, Prato, Timisoara, Barcelona, and Singapore, and was a Visiting Fellow at The Business School, Bournemouth University.

Asked what is his passion now, Hugh says:  “To paint and explore the uncertainties of watercolour, which have many parallels with therapy.  In both instances we have to live with the uncertain, the unspoken, the unknown known; to find form in the yet to be formed, and to accept that sometimes the greatest effects come from our mistakes, that we cannot replicate exactly, because each moment is unique.  When painting or therapy become formulaic we would do better to stop and care for ourselves a while before facing again those different kinds of ‘white paper’ in which lies the unexplored.  My Dean of Studies said to me in at the end of my first year at university in 1966; ‘Hugh you are too self-sufficient’, but it took me over thirty years to begin to understand those wise words.  I sometimes think that my patients have also been trying to teach me this too.”

Hugh maintains a small practice as therapist and supervisor.

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 Workshop outline

Talking with the patient: but is this therapy?

Hugh Jenkins PhD

Workshop length: Two hours

In this workshop I ask: “What is therapy?”  While there can be no definitive answer here, there may be some important lessons for us to learn, not least what therapy is not!  I will let C.G Jung be my guide:

‘… one can get along for quite a time with an inadequate theory, but not with inadequate therapeutic methods.’ [1]

My focus will primarily be on therapeutic methods and some of the underlying thinking.  To this end, there will be a brief introduction to key concepts that relate to differernt therapeutic orientations.  These are:

  • psychodynamic theory;
  • systemic models;
  • transgenerational perspectives;
  • gendered temporal ways of thinking;
  • a schema of different levels of abstraction from behaviour, emotions, feelings, meanings, through to beliefs.

While this may seem a lot of material, it can be simplified in a way that allows the mental health practitioner, of whatever professional background, to connect with the patient in an effective way.  The skills proposed are useful in making a diagnosis as well as in on-going treatment.

The concepts described above will be demonstrated through a live interview.  This will help demonstrate important aspects of the nature of this unique relationship, and introduce some simple skills to enable the clinician to develop their own spontaneity.

If we can meet these demands, then in Patrick Casement’s words, we will learn to ‘do therapy by the patient – not by the book’. [2]

[1] Jung, 1931, in Chodorow, J., (1997) Jung on Active Imagination.  London.  Routledge.  p. 85

[2] Casement, P. (1985) On Learning from the Patient.  London.  Routledge.


Timeless time and change in psychotherapy


Hugh Jenkins PhD

National Congress of Psychiatry Trainees


12 September 2015

This plenary presentation examines some ways in which time can seem to disappear or be suspended in treatment.  It may be that in these instants the patient becomes more open to change, and through a temporal understanding the therapist can help facilitate this other-time experience.  This may happen in the therapy room, through suggestion, or ritualised homework assignments.  My view is that in these moments therapist and patient occupy the same temporal moment, what anthropologists would call ‘sacred’ or ‘sublime’ space and time.  In these ‘nows’ we may become part of ‘the artless art’, beyond striving to achieve, something we know; something we cannot force into existence.


I will draw on ideas about time from philosophy and anthropology with reference to Sigmund Freud and Mara Selvini Palazzoli’s work and my own practice.  These ideas are relevant in all healing approaches and not dependent on a specific therapeutic model since they as much about the encounter as technique.  Both are important.