Dr Antonia (Toni) Whitehead F.B.Ps.S 1939-2015

An obituary from Professor Mike Berger.

Toni completed her undergraduate degree at University College (London) and then did clinical training (Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology - Section D, Abnormal Psychology as it was in those days), at the Institute of Psychiatry and Maudsley Hospital where I first met her.

After qualifying, she spent a year working at Warlingham Park psychiatric hospital, before returning to the Institute of Psychiatry as an Assistant Lecturer. While there, she began her research career in earnest, completed her Ph.D., and then moved to the University of Oxford as a Mental Health Foundation Senior Research Fellow for three years. This was followed by a five-year stint as Lecturer and Tutor in Psychology at the University of Reading. Then, in 1979, she joined what was to become the Kingston and Esher Community NHS Trust as Head of the Psychology Service, simultaneously holding an Honorary Senior Lectureship in St. George's Hospital Medical School (University of London). She headed the Trust Psychology Service until she retired.

During this time, Toni published or was co-author of over 25 papers and book chapters. Her publications cover memory in older people, dementia, depression and sexual dysfunction in women and a number of papers concerned with clinical psychology training.

Toni's professional service career began in 1976 as Chair of the British Association for Behavioural Psychotherapy, during which time she also became a member of the Joint Professions Working Party on the Statutory Registration of Psychotherapists. This Working Party, like many others, had been formed outside of the control of the Division of Clinical Psychology and Society. Yet, without competent representation from clinical psychologists, it had the potential to force changes in clinical practice that would have disadvantaged service users and services. Developments in relation to the registration of psychotherapists and counsellors had clearly highlighted the need for clinical psychologists to provide strong representation on such committees and to do this we needed sharp, politically savvy and experienced clinical psychologists. Toni was an apt choice.

Having thus becoming initiated in "political" roles, Toni then had several periods of office concerned with other professional activities. She worked as an examiner for the BPS Diploma in Clinical Psychology, became a member of the Board of Examiners and was eventually appointed Chief Examiner. Her concern with training also led to her membership of the Committee on Training in Clinical Psychology and in 1986, she went on to chair the Working Party on National Training Needs in Clinical Psychology. The work of this group was very influential in drawing to the attention of various agencies the manpower crisis that was facing clinical psychology. Subsequent increases in funded training places no doubt owed some of its origins to the earlier efforts of Toni and her colleagues on the Working Party.

Toni held several other offices including Chair of Board of Examiners for Qualifications in Clinical Psychology, and she was a member of the Membership and Qualification Board of the BPS and the BPS Fellowships Committee. She was also a founder tutor for the Harrogate Course, a training programme for psychologists aspiring to more senior managerial roles in the NHS organised under the auspices of the NHS Training Authority and the BPS. Finally, it is worth noting her long service on the Regional Research Committee of the South West Thames Regional Health Authority, the first psychologist to be involved in this way in the Region.

A year or so before the Millennium, a number of colleagues met for lunch at Toni's semi-rural home on the outskirts of Oxford. We had worked with her, running a course for psychologists wanting to develop management skills. This New Roles in a Changing NHS team had created and sustained the course, as well as each other, for a number of years, and when it eventually had to close for lack of funding, we continued to meet periodically, taking turns to host a lunch. Toni had recently retired and it was her turn. This occasion gave us an opportunity to be with her away from her many professional roles. True to form, ‘retired’ Toni turned out to be equally wide-ranging in her interests and activities, and only slightly mellower than the Toni I knew as a trainee many years before at the Institute and even subsequently in the Psychology Department of St George’s Hospital Medical School.

She was an outstanding vegetarian cook, a cat and theatre lover, country walker, eco-friendly gardener (brambles were winning at the time), as well as managing to great effect other parts of her garden. She was an enthusiastic bird watcher and expert on local species and travelled to exotic places to extend her knowledge and sightings. Toni’s academic and research skills served her well: she developed a methodology for annual surveys of local bird populations that are still on-going and co-authored a book on The Birds of Shotover, a sanctuary near Oxford, among her other activities.

Someone meeting Toni for the first time would be unlikely to anticipate such a history of influential research, academic, clinical and professional commitment and involvement. If anything, she came across as an unassuming, warm, relaxed and frequently jovial individual with an infectious laugh. To many, she was also a loyal, caring and dear friend. No wonder she was relaxed, bubbly and thriving in retirement!

At the same time, those of us who knew and worked with her as colleague and friend recognised that under this exterior was an incredibly able and astute mind, tough when she had to be, with an out of the ordinary capacity to get things done. For much of her career as a clinical psychologist Toni had been devoted to clinical work, teaching, research and to development activities for the profession and for her colleagues. It is for these contributions in a period of over twenty years in clinical psychology, and for being Toni, that we remember her here.

Michael Berger, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London.

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