Tribute to Dr David Henderson

  • Date

    Wed 29 Nov 23

Dr David Henderson

Tributes are being paid to Dr David Henderson from the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies who died at the beginning of November.

Head of the Department Dr Jessica Battersby said: “David was a loved and valued colleague in the department, joining us in 2019, and taking up a key role in PhD supervision, Professional Doctorate contributions and the core team for MA Jungian and Post-Jungian Studies. His much-loved Psyche seminar series and work in comparative psychoanalysis had a big role in the intellectual life of PPS and communities beyond.

“This is a huge loss to the Department and to the wider Jungian and Psychoanalytic communities of which David was a figure who loomed large. David’s unwavering commitment to his subject, his colleagues, and his students is an inspiration to us all.

"David’s recent nomination for Excellent Educator by the very the students he cared for so much, is a testament to his decades-long commitment to the advancement of knowledge and the practice of teaching, training, and supervision.

“We are sending thoughts of strength and warm wishes to David’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

David’s family have set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for the Ron Johnson Ward at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital where David was cared for so kindly and attentively over the last two months of his life.

Please email Debbie Stewart from the Department for details of the service in London or the link for viewing the service online plus the JustGiving page information.

If you would like to add a tribute below this story please email:


"Remembering a dear colleague, even though David joined the Department in 2019, his links to the Department go much further back, as an alumni of our MA Jungian and Post-Jungian Studies and through his work at Middlesex (which was the must attend conference for our PhD students for a number of years). He will be missed and I will remember his thoughtful contributions at our staff meetings for many years to come."
Debbie Stewart, Department Manager

"When I first contemplated psychosocial studies after working in publishing, and after literature degrees, I was nervous - I had no therapy training, nor had I ever personally experienced the process. I remember David invited me to his flat (I wonder if Jeri will remember me?) - and he sat, talking, drawing me on. Giving me support. I'd applied to both UCL and to Essex for postgraduate work - he gave me some pointers about each programme. At Essex (he wasn't there yet), I did much research at the British Library where I would always see him at work - we nodded at each other across the tables and computers. Then when I started organising conferences with colleagues , David would always show up with a terrific talk - eye-opening and special; different - and delivered with a great sense of someone who was also a listener - that's what a great teacher is like. He was at nearly all our conferences - he attended, as a wholly important 'outsider', many of our feminisms meetings, and, lately our classics and depth psychology conferences too - and, then, his seminars were invaluable for me during his time at Essex - too short, too short. A few weeks ago, it seems, no time at all, I wrote him asking him to send his paper for our upcoming book, and he said , not right now, I'm ill - but then I noticed he'd put a note that January he'd be about again - and then it all ended. How did this happen? Like others here, I am so sad, and will be for a long while - his passing has coloured my days. I hope Jeri and the family will begin to recover; he was a wonderful communicator and a caring man. I will miss him too."
Leslie Gardner, Fellow in Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex

"I’m so sorry to hear of David’s passing. He was a main tutor and supervisor within my training in the 90s with the Assoc of Independent Psychotherapists, which he co-founded. He had a great breadth of knowledge, humour and a talent for thinking outside the box/frame. My condolences to David’s family, friends and colleagues."
Malcolm Davy-Barnes

"David and I were working together co-supervising a PhD student here at Middlesex. Every session with him was a lesson for me too – his quiet and generous wisdom was an inspiration and I feel privileged to have worked with him. He will be deeply missed."
Dr Tansy Spinks, Senior Lecturer, Fine Art, Middlesex University

"I first met David in October 1998 when he arrived at Essex as a student on the first ever presentation of our MA Jungian and Post-Jungian Studies. He immediately struck me as someone with great depth and independence of mind, who shared his insightful and often challenging perspectives on the course content with a striking mix of modesty and fearlessness. That was not long after I had begun as an academic teacher, and to be honest, I was somewhat in awe of him.

"It came as no surprise to learn, in snippets, that David had had an intriguing background, including having been born and brought up in Africa, having lived in the US, and having spent time in a monastic community, and that he had founded and was a core group member of a London psychotherapy training organisation, the Association of Independent Psychotherapists (AIP). Nor was it a surprise that, after he graduated, David soon obtained an academic position first as a senior lecturer in counselling and psychotherapy at the University of Central Lancashire (2002-4) and later as a senior lecturer in psychoanalysis at Middlesex University (2008-2019).

"Throughout these years, I continued to see David around at conferences and other events, and was very pleased, indeed honoured, when he asked me to be an external supervisor for the latter stages of his PhD (2012), during which time I was privileged to learn close-up about his profound interest in and insight into apophatic thought, the topic of what became his seminal monograph, Apophatic Elements in the Theory and Practice of Psychoanalysis: Pseudo-Dionysius and C. G. Jung (Routledge, 2014). Shortly after, when Christian McMillan and I were looking for someone to join as an external co-investigator in a grant bid we were making to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a project on Jung and Deleuze in relation to holism, David seemed the perfect choice, and his involvement as a seasoned senior clinician as well as an academic with just the right interests was almost certainly decisive in the bid’s success. That project was the first time I had worked with David as a colleague for a prolonged period (2016-18), and, as I had expected, he was a delight to work with: conscientious, creative, accommodating, and fun. I was therefore delighted when, in 2019, David successfully applied for a lectureship in Jungian Studies in our department and became—what in the hearts of many of us he remains—a permanent colleague.

"His energy in establishing what was probably the department’s most active research group, in comparative psychoanalysis, seemed to me phenomenal, with concurrent high-level seminar series on ‘Psyche’, ‘Psychoanalysis and the Mind-Body Problem’, and ‘Jung and Bion’—the latter leading to a successful conference this September, which, sadly, David was prevented from attending by his last illness.

"This energy as well as his unflagging intellectual curiosity, his wisdom, his humour, and his grounded and grounding presence will be missed tremendously by so many of us."
Roderick Main, Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex

"I only really got to know David in recent years after he joined the team at Essex. Before that I had met him occasionally at conferences and although I had found his self-containment a little intimidating there was something about him I warmed to. I also very much admired his contributions to the Jungian field.

"When we were colleagues, I came to understand him rather better and over these years the warmth of my feeling for him grew and grew. I also became aware of how respected and loved he was by the students who came know him as a teacher, though I never knew him to court either admiration or affection.

"His going is particularly painful because I can’t help feeling that he had much more to contribute. The only way I can express it is that the David-shaped hole he leaves is very palpable. This is because, as only those who have met him will attest, he was so very fully himself. His writings revolved around the unsayable, and it is appropriately impossible to translate into words the warmth and originality of his presence. I will miss him very much."
Mark Saban PhD, Director, MA in Jungian and Post-Jungian Studies, Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex

"I recall David's arrival at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, in the late nineties, when he joined the Jungian Masters program. I never taught him in the two years he was with us but somehow I, like many others, was aware of his engaging, sometimes formidable, presence. You always seemed to know when he was about.

"After he graduated, he invited me to give a paper at a London conference that he had organised on the question: 'Can Psychotherapy Ever Do Harm?' Typically, David  left the speakers with a wide scope for serious, original or parodical presentations. It was a memorable day.

"He returned to us in later years as a Senior Lecturer and took over teaching the next generation of Jungian students, where he quickly established his 'archetypal' role as a challenging thinker.

"More recently, during lockdown, he advertised an online twelve-week seminar based around Ernest Becker's well-received book: The Denial of Death.  As this happened to be an overriding interest area of mine, I felt compelled to join. There were around a dozen of us who registered for this exacting course; from doctoral students, to professional colleagues, to myself, the only member of staff. The book, the author and David's tutelage, entirely lived up to my expectations. I am tempted to reference this seminar as an 'ironic' tribute to David's passing, for it offered up many examples of his dry commentary on life and his efforts to provoke us into a new level of inverse thinking on the subject of death. I thought at the time that possibly only David could have provoked such novel ways of approaching this most elusive of subjects. Today, I might muse, that it's David's turn to learn first-hand. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have him back again for another twelve sessions on the subject."
David Millar, Honorary Senior Lecturer, PPS 


"How sad to hear of David's death. I did two periods of psychoanalysis with him in the 80s and was extremely angry at times to the point when he asked me to stop it. I had thought of contacting him to say that I am practising as a therapist now. I really appreciated his depth and presence and his humour. Sometimes he was very quiet and I could have done with more words and would try and get him talking. A really good and wise soul."
Clare Dyas