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Hall, S. (2014). A Tribute to James Fisher. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 4(1):1.

(2014). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 4(1):1

Personal Views

A Tribute to James Fisher

Susan Hall

During my training at the British Association of Psychotherapists, I attended James Fisher's legendary seminars on Bion and later asked him whether he would supervise my non-training cases. I thought that he might not remember who I was, but he did; in his words, he did not have a good “forgettery”.

I learned so much during the two years I was in supervision with him. In contrast to the intensity of my training, he let me have the freedom to “play” in the Winnicottian sense, taking whatever material or assessments I chose. With his customary respect and sensitivity, he acquainted himself with my patients with interest, compassion, and gentle humour.

What do I remember most?

The calm sanity of his consulting room after a long drive from Cambridge.

His advice, “Find that still, quiet place in yourself and everything will come from this”.

His exhortation, “Whoa, slow down,” and then the way he would carefully mine a passage from a session to find a richness of which I had been unaware.

The deeply moving way in which he described the couple relationship as being the most intimate relationship there is.

His advice, based on his own experience, to have a metal bin in the consulting room in case the patient was sick.

The way he helped me to understand a patient's fear of a chronic illness: “He's afraid that if he admits to needing help then it will be limitless and he will end up in a wheelchair. He doesn't realise that he can say in a given situation, ‘Help me to do this’ and that will be the end of it.” It was as if James was sharing his own experience.

But above all, the value of curiosity: “Be curious;” “Help him to be curious;” “Get them to be curious about each other”.

James was always kind, even at his most challenging: kind, twinkling, clever, sensitive—but most of all, curious. It was a great privilege to have worked with him.

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