Female pioneers: Dr. Gordana Milavić on consultant child psychiatrist, Dr. Eva Frommer

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Evidence-based blogs cover case studies, experiences, policy, interviews and research by guest writers. Blogs do not necessarily represent the views of ACAMH.

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To celebrate International Women’s Day, three ACAMH luminaries shine the spotlight on the female pioneers of child and adolescent psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis, they most admire.

ACAMH’s International Development Director, Dr. Gordana Milavić, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, London, has selected German-born British consultant child psychiatrist, Dr Eva Frommer (1927-2004), best known for applying the artistic and creative methods of Rudolf Steiner to the treatment of child patients.

“I have chosen Eva Frommer because she was a true pioneer in recognising that children and young people can suffer with depressive disorders and was the first one to do research in this area.” says Gordana, who trained with Frommer at St Thomas’ Hospital in the mid-1980s.

Eva Frommer
Eva Frommer









“She encouraged me to do a short research project in what is now known to be chronic fatigue syndrome – a highly contested concept in her time where all patients suffering with it were thought to be malingering or being hysterical. Her Steiner work stemmed from the culture of her times and generation and informed the creative element to her work. Art, music, movement were part of the daily activities in the children’s day hospital.”

Gordana credits Frommer with assisting her in getting a grant to research creative therapies in relation to language and behaviour — a project that lasted five years and resulting in a Cicely Northcote Trust publication.

Frommer, although revered by the creative therapies’ world, was a controversial figure through her early use of antidepressant in children, and her association with psychiatrist William Sargant (famous for promoting electroconvulsive therapy, and insulin shock therapy).

“Her practice was at times paradoxical — antidepressants and art therapy—but one could argue that she practiced a holistic approach,” says Gordana, who points out that Frommer’s decision to prescribe antidepressant medication in very small doses to children is in line with NICE Guidelines and the prescribed choice of treatment when psychological therapies do not work.

“Frommer influenced many art therapists and creative therapists. She loved opera, music and art. On very special occasions we would go to the Tate exhibitions together during lunch breaks.”

‘Strong-headed,’ Gordana says Frommer would ‘argue to the end’ to make her way in a man’s world, as such she views her as a good advocate for women, and as someone who has influenced and championed female therapists and trainees.

Gordana Milavic
Dr. Gordana Milavić


So good to see Dr Frommer recognised here, I spent a placement year at St Thomas’s Child and Family Psychiatric unit in 1983/4, largely at the Day Hospital- an inspiring world I was so lucky to be part of and I’ve carried it all with me through my career …..such a fusion of approaches, personalising a treatment programme for each child and family ….. and warmth and relationship building as key….

Thank you Gordana for this wonderful story about dr Frommer. I was not familiar with her work and I have enjoyed reading this post

Wonderful, Gordana. That is so interesting and a great post for International Women’s Day

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