Interviewing leaders

in mental health

Interviewing leaders in mental health

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Lydia Tischler

Lydia Tischler was one of the first child psychotherapists to train with Anna Freud.  Her advocacy for children began early and in traumatic circumstances in concentration camps where she spent her teenage years caring for younger children during the Second World War.  She came to the UK as a refugee and embarked on a seventy-year career that’s been marked by courageous innovation.

“One of the ways you can mother yourself is to mother other children”, Lydia tells Jane O’Rourke in this interview. Lydia’s mother was tragically murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp. After qualifying, Lydia became the first Child Psychotherapist at the Cassel Hospital in London where mentally ill mothers and their babies were treated.  She went on to transform their treatment by establishing a family unit, saving many seriously at-risk children from being taken into care.

Her contribution to the teaching and organisation of child psychotherapy has also been significant.  She has been a key figure at the British Psychotherapy Foundation and Association of Child Psychotherapists, but her contribution to the mental health of children internationally is also impressive. For the last thirty years as co-founder of the European Federation of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, she has established adult and child therapy trainings and services in Central and Eastern Europe.

Remarkably, although she is now in her 90s, she is still supervising and teaching. Lydia began by telling Jane O’Rourke about how her early experience of loss and helping other traumatised children in the concentration camps, led her, aged only 23 to begin training as a child psychotherapist with Anna Freud.

Interview recorded 2019
Filmed & edited  by Izzy Cooper
Post-video Production Pawel Chichonski –


The Association of Child Psychotherapists welcomes the film on Lydia Tischler and talked to Ann Horne, ACP Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist about Lydia:

From the time she arrived in the UK, age 16, in Windermere in 1945, by way of Auschwitz and Theresienstadt (Terezin) , Lydia Tischler has lived a life advocating and innovating for the mental health of children and families.

Trained by Anna Freud, she was the first child psychotherapist at the Cassel Hospital where, with her future husband, she established the Family Unit which admitted whole families whose functioning had completely and dangerously broken down – ‘the family as in-patient’. In ‘retirement’, she was co-founder of the European Federation of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, ensuring that many countries of Central and Eastern Europe, in rediscovering their psychoanalytic histories, also developed child and adolescent psychoanalytic psychotherapy trainings.  And she joined the organising staff group of the British Association of Psychotherapy (now IPCAPA – Independent Psychoanalytic Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy Association at the British Psychotherapy Foundation), an enabling and loved teacher, tutor and supervisor.  It is not surprising that she is an Honoured member of the Association of Child Psychotherapists; the profession owes her much.

For the MINDinMIND viewer who is meeting her for the first time, you are fortunate! A woman of generosity and wisdom, integrity and energy, Lydia is someone we all hold near to our hearts.

Dr Janine Sternberg is a Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychotherapist who is clinical course director of the Doctorate in Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, delivered jointly by Independent Psychoanalytic Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy Association (IPCAPA) at the British Psychotherapy Foundation (BPF) and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families: 

Lydia Tischler has been a wonderful resource for the Independent training, offered by IPCAPA at the BPF (British Psychotherapy Foundation) & the Anna Freud Centre (formerly the BAP Child training) for more years than most of us can remember. She has taught theory in an inspirational way, with a direct link back to Anna Freud, and clinical seminars which are always much enjoyed. As a member of the core staff team she so often displays the capacity to see straight into the heart of an issue, and, even when not familiar with the trainee or the topic taught, offers an understanding of the problem in a way that combines depth and pragmatism. She has also been inspirational in showing the importance of creating an atmosphere of nurture, both emotional and through her delicious baking.

Dee Ingham, IPCAPA (Independent Psychoanalytic Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy Association) Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist:

It has been an enormous privilege and a gift to have been part of Lydia’s clinical practice group as an IPCAPA trainee child psychotherapist. Her remarkable insight and capacity to get to the core of the issue left many of us in awe of her clarity of mind. Above all, I have appreciated her wit and warmth which held us together throughout the turbulent currents of the clinical training. All was well when Lydia was present. She once told me that after qualifying, Anna Freud was on her shoulder. Lydia is certainly on mine.

To read a transcript of this podcast and to watch a video of the interview, please visit here.

For more podcasts from leading practitioners in child mental health visit our podcasts page.



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