Obituary Vincent Humphries – 18th September 1948 – 4th December 2004

“ Do not go gently into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

(Dylan Thomas)

At the end of May 2004 Vincent was diagnosed with a brain tumor, secondary cancer from his battle with colon cancer in 2002. He was utterly devastated, as were his family and friends and every one who knew him. His life as he knew it ended. From then until he died six months later he fought against his illness. Vincent loved life. First and foremost he loved his wife Heather and his children Stephen and Megan. He was passionate about sport, particularly Dublin Gaelic football and Megans’ hockey. He loved music and was both amazed and proud of his son Stephen’s singing voice. He had grown up listening to Irish music on the radio and in later life took up the bodhrán. He loved nothing better than a week’s holiday somewhere in the west where he could wander into a pub and join a session. A good golfer he had just recently treated himself to a new super duper driver. Work was a very big part of his life and he got deep satisfaction from it. He was not ready to let any of this go.

Vincent’s entire working life was given to helping people. Like many young men of his generation in Ireland he entered a seminary for a short time after doing his leaving certificate. He credited this experience with teaching him how to think and for giving him an interest in philosophy. From 1970 to 1973 he studied Psychology in U.C.D and followed this with a Masters in Social Work. He chose social work rather than psychology as a profession because he was already interested in counselling and felt it offered him more possibilities. His Masters’ thesis was on fostering and when he came back to Ireland in the late seventies to work in St. Michael’s House, he helped to found the fostering respite service Break Away. He remained working in St. Michael’s, first going part-time and finally leaving in 1997 to work in private practice as a therapist in the Dublin Institute of Gestalt Therapy which he had founded in 1990.

He became interested in Family Therapy but had difficulty with the cult of personality that was a feature of some schools. In 1981 he met Netta and Marvin Kaplan at a workshop in England. They are American trained Family and Gestalt therapists now living in Israel. A year later he invited them to run a workshop in Ireland and so began a twenty-year creative working relationship that lasted until he died. In the mid-eighties he did further training in Family therapy at the Mater and in 1987 went to Israel to train in Gestalt therapy with Netta and Marvin. Though all Gestalt therapists share a core theoretical base, their particular emphasis is on the client’s self-organisation and on the therapy relationship as a process of mutual support. Vincent made this work his own over the years and gave workshops all over the country, in the process earning himself the amiable title in some quarters of the ‘gentle gestaltist’. In 1992, along with Marvin and Netta, he organised the first full training course in Ireland in this way of working. In the last ten years he has put his particular stamp on the course and the theory.

I think Vincent made a significant contribution to the development of theory and practice standards in Irish psychotherapy through his clear view of what constitutes therapy, his years of training and supervision and his published articles. He believed that at the centre of any therapy was a challenge, a challenge to the therapist and to the client to risk an authentic meeting. Vincent loved a challenge. On every course he strove to have a relationship with each person, both to meet them, and to be met. As a trainer he made himself very visible in his caring, his warmth and his anger. Over and over again I have heard people say, ‘Vincent was always there, just being himself’. He could make it look so easy. At times it was easy. I think it was in his nature to be personal. He was a man who had become comfortable with his power over the years. At other times he found this work as hard and as risky as it is for the rest of us. His struggle to reach someone, to have what he was doing understood could make him uncomfortably vulnerable, unsure of how acceptable he was in his need. It was his willingness to accept both his power and vulnerability that made him such a potent trainer and creative supervisor.

I found him wonderful to work with and along with my colleagues in the Dublin Gestalt Centre, will miss him sorely. So many words could describe him; creative, clever, warm and funny, insightful and accepting. His presence combined gentleness and strength in equal proportions. Ultimately he was modest, full of integrity and a deeply compassionate man.

Kay Ferriter has co-facilitated with Vincent on the intensive one year Gestalt Training Course since 1995. She works as a psychotherapist in private practice in The Dublin Gestalt Centre, Ranelagh.