Joan Kirk (1945–2016)

An appreciation.

Joan Kirk died peacefully at home on Saturday 16 January, with her husband Keith Hawton and her daughters Jane and Kate by her side.

Joan was an innovative clinical psychologist, who after studying at Liverpool, and training at Edinburgh, spent the rest of her career from 1971 at the Warneford Hospital in Oxford. She completed a DPhil on the behavioural treatment of phobias and then became a pioneer of cognitive behaviour therapy, co-editing, and a definitive textbook on CBT that is still in print: Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Psychiatric Problems (1989). She developed and led what became a large department of adult mental health psychologists, inspiring and supporting all those with whom she came into contact with her endless energy, enthusiasm, wisdom and professional generosity.

She had an uncanny ability to recognise the special skills and talents of the psychologists in her department, and worked both to help them realise their potential and to create opportunities for those skills and talents to be used. She and her colleagues were also foundational to clinical training in Oxford, and she became Registrar for the BPS Diploma. Her contribution to clinical psychology nationally was recognised by her election as a Fellow of the Society.

Joan’s energy and foresight were crucial to the establishment of the innovative Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre (OCTC), offering specialist therapy clinics and training, which were recognised at both national and international levels. After her retirement in 2004, she continued to support OCTC, actively contributing to the teaching, workshops and research, which remain the heart of the organisation.

In her spare time Joan loved walking, trekking for example in the Himalayas, New Zealand and China. She also walked throughout the UK, with her binoculars always at hand to identify birds spied on the way. Joan was a great lover of music, from opera to rock and saw many rock stars live in concert, with the Rolling Stones and Roxy Music being special favourites. As well as extensive travel abroad, every year Joan spent holidays on the Scottish Isle of Colonsay, where walking, love of wildlife, swimming in the icy sea and eating the local oysters were all shared with her beloved family and many friends.

Despite a diagnosis of multiple system atrophy, which in the last few years gradually robbed her of the ability to do most of the things that she loved, Joan remained determined to maintain her friendships and as much of her vitality and interests as she could muster, right to the end of her life. She brought joy to everyone and everything with which she was associated. Right up to her untimely death, this aspect of her shone through. Even when she could barely talk, she could smile and laugh in her inimitable way at her own and others’ jokes.

Like everything else she tackled, she coped with her illness with fortitude. Joan’s funeral was held in the local church in South Leigh near Witney. This remarkable woman will be sorely missed.

Nicky Boughton
Gillian Butler

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