Judy Treseder Smith – Obituary

Professor Stephen Scott
Professor Stephen Scott CBE FRCPsych FMedSci, President of ACAMH. Stephen is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in the CAMHS Adoption and Fostering Service and the Conduct Problems Service at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. He is also a Professor of Child Health and Behaviour at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London and the Director of the National Academy for Parenting Research, London.

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It is with a heavy heart that I have to inform you of the passing of our past Chair, Judy Treseder Smith. Our thoughts and sympathies are with her friends and family. Professor William Yule, Emeritus Professor of Applied Child Psychology, King’s College London, has written the following obituary.

“Social Work within child mental health services developed enormously in the 1980s from case work
in family liaison to more evidence-based practice. Among the influential people who helped foster
this change was Judy Treseder who has died of Covid 19 after a few weeks in hospital.

She was born in Gosport where her mother Marie had been a nurse and her father, Richard, was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy who was on the North Atlantic Run during the war. Judy refused to be defined by the fact that she lost her sight at the age of five and a half following meningitis, which also caused a disabling scoliosis later in her life.

The fact that Judy was blind only added to her determination to get the most out of her life. She spent six months learning braille and then, as was the custom at the time, went to a residential school, Dorton House, remembered as a bleak place with no toys. Her intelligence was recognised and so she went a year early to Chorleywood College where she joined 80 girls with various degrees of sightedness. The ethos of the college was to emphasis normality and independence but paradoxically frowned on guide dogs. Judy was introduced to theatre at the Old Vic and to concerts which became a life-long passion. She shone in her studies, despite being the youngest in her form – always willing to help others but never making them feel inferior. She gained excellent O and A Levels. She spent an extra year preparing for the Oxbridge exams, becoming Head Girl.

At Oxford, she studied modern history at St Anne’s College. On top of the usual academic demands, she had to use readers to make up for the lack of braille texts. Her lack of sight did not stop her swimming in the Cherwell on punting expeditions, cycling on the back of a tandem, and youth hostelling in the Lake District. She learnt Italian to study Dante and the poetry she loved. On graduating, she studied for a Diploma in Social Administration at Barnet House. She enjoyed a placement at the Portsmouth Child Guidance Clinic to which she returned as an unqualified psychiatric social worker. The children were enthralled by her guide dog which she had newly acquired. Far from being a barrier to work with parents, her blindness encouraged them to talk much more about themselves than they might otherwise have done. Judy then enrolled on the mental health course at the London School of Economics where she was inspired by Donald Winnicott and Peter Mittler learning both about clinical interactions with children and about mental handicap.

Once again, practice placements influenced her career. Following placements at the Maudsley hospital, on qualifying she was appointed to a substantive post in the adult department. After four years, she moved to the Children’s Department where she managed the social work team for the next 13 years. Her clinical work was in a team with Lionel Hersov and Bill Yule, and it was a very happy and productive time. She enjoyed the mixture of clinical work, teaching and research. Her staff remember her warmth and wisdom as a supervisor. Always a calm and containing presence, she focussed her attention on each one making them feel special. She never forgot to ask how people were. She was never afraid to confront difficult issues. Her deep intuitive psychodynamic and systemic understanding inspired many of her supervisees to undertake further training as therapists. The inspiration she provided and her gift of friendship meant that most of the team of social workers she nurtured continued to meet for the past 35 years, with Judy joining them by Zoom until a few weeks before her death.

She moved to St Thomas’ Hospital in the West Lambeth Health Authority managing a large social work department spread over three sites. Unfortunately this took her further from the direct work with families which she treasured so after a while she moved to the Royal National Institute for the Blind where she managed a consultancy service to Local Authorities on developing services for blind and
partially sighted people. Colleagues remember her as a consummate professional with a phenomenal
memory for detailed conversations. She never allowed the pain she experienced on a daily basis to
affect her ability to listen, advise or to contribute. Her warmth and understanding always shone
through.

Judy made a huge contribution to evidence-based Social Work Practice and service development. She
participated in a number of research studies, published papers on a range of clinical issues from
fostering to school refusal. She regularly contributed to social work journals and academic texts. She
co-edited “Social Work and the Legacy of Freud) with Pearson and Yelloly (1988). She was honoured
to be invited to co-author a chapter on social work in the prestigious Rutter and Hersov textbook on
child and adolescent psychiatry (1985). Her research with Alan Rushton on late fostering was widely
acclaimed.

In 1985, Judy was Chair of ACPP (the Association for Child Psychology, Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, now the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, ACAMH). As its name implies, this is a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to improving child mental health services and Judy was only the second social worker to be appointed to this prestigious role.

She took early retirement in 1993 as the back problems related to her childhood illness became progressively worse. Eventually she was unable to walk with her guide dog. Judy had had a succession
of lovely guide dogs – Carrie, Goldie, Vi and Queenie. The dogs sat quietly during case conferences,
but presenters knew they had gone on too long when interrupted by a loud yawn. At informal social
gatherings, the dogs were a magnet for well-meaning people who had to be dissuaded from feeding
them titbits otherwise Judy might have been grounded the next day.

She remained busy in retirement with her many interests, voluntary work and travels. Judy married
Alan Smith in 1979 and shared his Labour politics. She was an avid Guardian reader and followed news
bulletins regularly. They set up home in Nunhead from where Judy travelled easily across London and
beyond. Indeed, she and Alan had many adventurous holidays all over the world.

Colleagues remember her sense of fun and humour. Her giggle and laugh were wonderful. Music,
especially opera, was a great passion. She was well known by staff at the Royal Opera House. She had
a great understanding of music and accompanying her to a concert was made even more enjoyable
by their discussions after.

Judy was determined to enjoy life. She never expressed any bitterness about her loss of sight and
would talk about it openly when asked. She liked to have people, places and situations described in
great detail and she herself loved describing what she felt when touching, for example, ceramics in an
exhibition. She opened the eyes of others to a new view of things. When she imagined people, she
thought of them through voice and a feeling around them. She was very sensitive to such feelings and
picked up on cues both in social interactions and clinical mode. She could tell from voices how people
were feeling and could hear more than people were saying. She had a fantastic memory for details of
friends’ lives and family, as well as for professional tasks.

She served several years as a Trustee of Action for Blind People and was its Chair from 2006 to 2008.
Fellow Trustees and staff recall what a superb role model she was for anyone living with sight loss and
mobility challenges. Always upbeat and positive, but challenging too, she happily shared the burdens
of leadership with the team and helped everyone remain grounded in the real issues. She was a
wonderful, intelligent, incisive and kind human being with a great depth of knowledge, humorous,
driven by clear values, tireless, dedicated and hugely brave.

She was a governor for over 15 years of Highshore special needs school in Peckham where she
influenced parents, children and teachers with her kindness and wisdom. She was also a governor of
New College, Worcester, a boarding school for visually impaired children. Following moving to Olney,
she became a much loved member of the Milton Keynes Reader Service and more recently served as
their Chair.

Being with Judy for any length of time, confirmed that she could see more than most and hear more.
Her interest in everything, her knowledgeable discussions and her sense of fun are the memories most
recalled. Once asked what she remembered best before she lost her sight, without hesitation she said
how grateful she was that she had been able to see and experience the beauty of the night sky.
She is survived by her husband, Alan and brother Hugh.”

Judith Louise Treseder Smith: Born 29.9.39; died 4.1.21

Discussion

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Please thank Prof Yule for this wonderful obituary. I first knew Judy when I was working as a trainee child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital. Judy was an inspiring teacher who managed to combine humour and rigour in both her clinical work and all interactions with members of the multidisciplinary team and trainees also across all disciplines. I have very fond memories of working with and being supervised by Judy. She set high standards for herself and expected the best of everyone- a bit daunting at times for a trainee. However for me it was her ability to hear and hold children and families in the therapeutic moment that I will never forget. Please send my love and sincerest condolences to her family

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I also found this obituary moving. Thank you Bill. Like Ann, I remember Judy from when I met her first as a trainee in the Children’s Department at The Maudsley. She was part of the backbone of the service, bright and highly respected by all there. She was remarkably intuitive and had a fine, sensitive mind. I have met her from time to time through my career, usually at a music event of some sort. She was always engaging and interested in others. It is a sad moment. Please share my condolences with her husband and family.

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I was so saddened to learn of Judy’s death. I echo all that has been said of her. She was a member of the panel that appointed me as Team Leader in the Children’s Department in 1981. Throughout my years with her i was always struck by her warmth, her sharp focus, her interest first of all in the person, and her enthusiasm to encourage new ideas. She saw that social work had an important role to play in multi-disciplinary team working. All this was grounded on her respect for others, and or respect for her.

I remember having lunch with her in the Maudsley and her asking if I had seen a TV programme the evening before. We then had a truly stimulating conversation about what she had ‘seen’ – and I no doubt had missed! She was always one of the most insightful colleagues to discuss video examples of clinical work. You cannot avoid verbs, nouns, or adjectives, to do with sight in trying to describe her as a person and her work. She saw what others so often missed. We all learnt so much from her.

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