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Patsy Turrini, MSW, LCSW (1933-2022)

Deceased August 8, 2022 | Posted August 19, 2022

Profile portrait of Patsi Turrini

Dear Colleagues,

It is with a heavy saddened heart that we share the news that our highly esteemed colleague, friend, and longtime AAPCSW member Patsy Turrini passed away. Patsy contributed to our field in many ways with humility. In 2015 Patsy was awarded the AAPCSW Professional Clinical Writing Award. You'll get a glimpse of Patsy through Joyce Edward's comments when presenting the award to Patsy.

Taken from our website: Patsy has been my dearest friend and colleague for more than 50 years. She is a talented clinician, an inspiring teacher and supervisor. Her writings are remarkable for their scope, their excellence, their originality and for the way in which they show psychoanalysis at its best. She not only has written a significant number of clinical papers on a variety of topics, but through her writings she has taken psychoanalytic theory “beyond the couch.” She has, through a manual and published papers, made developmental theory accessible to mothers and those working with them. She has also reached a wide non-professional audience. Who of those who know Patsy has not shared a psychoanalytic idea with her and heard her proclaim "That's an idea for a paper"? It is not clear to me how many therapists have been prompted to write as a result of her enthusiasm, encouragement, and support, but if they haven't it is not because of her lack of effort. I owe so much of my writing to her generous help. Her affirmation and encouragement have kept me writing, even when I was doubtful of the value of what I was doing. Indeed her affirmation and appreciation of the writings of others is noteworthy.

Patsy Turrini, MSW, LCSW, was a member of the New York School for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and held an affiliation with Derner Institute, Adelphi University. She was a Distinguished Practitioner with the National Academies of Practice (NAP). Patsy was the co-author of Separation/Individuation: Theory and Application and co-editor of Inner World of the Mother. She authored articles on loss and social work and psychoanalysis. Patsy had a private practice in Merrick, NY.

In memoriam, we are collecting tributes which will be posted on our website. Please send them to Penny Rosen: rosenpmsw@aol.com.

In deep sympathy —

Member Tributes

It has been my good fortune to be Patsy's close friend and colleague for more than fifty years. We met in a seminar with Rubin Blanck and along with our dear friend, Nathene Ruskin, went on to study together at an institute in New York, founded by Rubin and his wife Gertrude. Our friendship was forged during those rides back and forth on the Long Island Rail Road during which we discussed ego psychology, “good enough mothering,” preverbal reconstruction, and more.

Patsy loved psychoanalytic theory and continued to learn and draw upon it right up to her last days. She not only was guided by it in her clinical work but applied it “beyond the consulting room.” She founded and developed the Mother's Center based on psychoanalytic understandings and was constantly thinking about its application in other arenas.

Patsy was a talented and skillful clinician, who often worked with very challenging patients. I went back and read a chapter she wrote about her treatment of a schizophrenic man in a book she, Nathene, and I wrote. She was then working in a community mental health clinic. The patient suffered from elaborate delusions despite the use of various medications. One sees in her detailed description of the treatment, Patsy's creative application of Mahler's work.

Patsy was also a fine writer, supervisor, and teacher. She was often the first to commend others for their presentation at conferences. When she heard a colleague share an idea that she especially appreciated, I can hear her commenting, “There's a paper in that.” She was extremely encouraging and supportive of the work of others.

I have focused my thoughts here on Patsy's professional experiences, but our friendship was central in my life. I will be ever grateful for her generosity, affirmation, love of fun, wisdom, support, knowledge, and good humor through these many years.

Joyce Edward, MSW - Long Island, NY

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Patsy. Patsy was an extremely important, longtime member of NYSPP. Her contributions as teacher, supervisor, speaker, writer, and friend were invaluable. She was an inspiration to us especially with her work with mothers and passion for psychoanalytic thought and developmental theory. She will be greatly missed by all of us.

Carol Thea, LCSW, BCD - New York, NY

It is with tremendous sadness that I just learned of Patsy Turrini 's passing. Patsy was my first instructor in my psychoanalytic training at SPSR, the Society for Psychoanalytic Study and Research. There were three in our class: Dennis Gottlieb, Esther Gralnick, and me. We met weekly at Patsy's house. I sincerely cannot remember what her class was entitled! What I do remember is how exciting a teacher she was! My friend, Barbara Fendel, who was in a previous class of hers, told me that I would be learning a great deal, but I had to allow myself to let go of assumptions, be open, follow her lead, embrace her unique musings, allow myself to free associate and consider the unconscious. And that is exactly what happened. I was enthralled. What a brilliant and unique mind she had!

Shortly before my becoming a candidate, Patsy had founded the National Mothers' Centers. They had a wonderful yearly conference on Long Island organized by Patsy. She knew that my dissertation had been on transitional objects, and she asked me to speak. It was a great experience.

When I moved to NYC in 1998, she invited me to join a peer supervision group about parenting. We read pertinent articles and always had a lively discussion. Diana Siskind was in our group, and although I knew her a little bit, she became another important mentor of mine, thanks to Patsy. Patsy and I crossed paths many times, at AAPCSW conferences, in a Salman Akhtar study group, and on many other stimulating occasions.

Many know Patsy from her frequent thoughtful contributions on the AAPCSW website; from her publications; from her activism, fighting the insurance companies, helping mothers. She was caring and generous with her time and generative to new therapists. She encouraged me and many others to write. She helped me edit what I wrote and to get published.

Patsy's special friendship with Joyce Edward was beautiful to observe, as well as her close friendships to Diana Siskind, Bea Weinstein, Renee Goldman and others. She loved being a mother and was an outstanding grandmother.

There are many other stories to tell, but I await the stories of others. I will remember Patsy with extreme fondness and appreciation.

Susan Sherman, DSW, LCSW - New York, NY

Patsy had an incredible mind that seemed to expand each time she spoke. I always enjoyed hearing her freely associate as thoughts took her to new discoveries. I was fortunate to be Patsy's student and supervisee and learned a great deal from her. She always encouraged me to take courage and see where my thoughts might take me. She was gracious in her support of my writing and seemed to “kvell” when my work was published. She was wise, she was kind, and she was generous. Patsy was dedicated and devoted to our profession and strove to see it treated with respect. I will miss her extraordinary mind and loving spirit.
Naomi Schlesinger, LCSW - Smithtown, NY

The unwelcome event of Patsy Turrini's passing is a loss for me and, I'm sure, for all those who had the good fortune of knowing her. I cannot emphasize enough how important Patsy was to my professional development. I first knew her as my supervisor when I was a social work student at Smith. I valued not only her mastery of theory and technical suggestions, but also her use of self. All her suggestions, ideas and enthusiasms were imparted with care and concern for me and for my patients—she was there in the best sense during what to me was an anxious time. After I received my MSW, I enrolled in ISP (now, NYSPP), because I wanted to learn what Patsy knew. Eventually I became a colleague and always felt her support—her generosity.

Though the Blancks were her psychoanalytic gurus, she was very much her own person weaving psychoanalytic and feminist theory with social work principles. Speaking up for psychoanalytic social workers, she never missed an opportunity to say “social workers save lives.” She was passionate about helping mothers, and among her many accomplishments, she was developing a Mothers' Center that became a national model. Patsy believed that the mother of safety is the fantasied “mother of power” (In: Myths of Mighty Women, Richards and Spira, 2015). To me Patsy was the social worker of power as she created safe spaces for many. I am forever grateful to her. Hopefully, she knew this and also that I would miss her and fondly remember her.

Lucille Spira, PhD, LCSW - New York, NY

I am sorry to hear of Patsy's passing. I met her while in Gertrude Blanck's ongoing seminar in the 1970s and was always impressed by her dedication, her mind, and her warmth. Patsy's enthusiasm and spirit will be remembered by those lucky enough to have known her.

Jane Hall, LCSW - New York, NY

Yes, Patsy was a longtime member of the NYSSCSW and the Nassau chapter. Best friends with Joyce Edwards, another longtime member and substantial contributor to clinical social work in many areas. Patsy was an intelligent, thoughtful prolific contributor to clinical social work and a bit quirky in the best possible way.

Marsha Wineburgh, DSW, LCSW - New York, NY

I am so saddened by the death of Patsy. She was always helpful and encouraging to all. She will be missed.

Helene Bass-Wichelhaus, MSW, PhD, BC-TMH - New York, NY

I was so sad to hear of Patsy's death!! She was an interesting and special person.

Donna F. Tarver, LCSW - Dallas, Texas

Sorry to hear of this…

Mario Starc, MSW, PhD - Oakland, CA

Great heart, great mind, just a great human being. Patsy was an inspiration to all women and men who care about others and put their money where their mouths are. She will be missed.

Phyllis Schalet, LCSW - Great Neck, NY

My most recent memory of Patsy is at a meeting about a month ago. Though the group was ending, Patsy expressed an interest to continue to study and discuss the most current literature and perspectives on transsexuality. She was an enthusiastic learner. It seemed to have energized her. In my encounters, Patsy stands out as a presenter at AAPCSW conferences and a writer. She was straightforward about life - its pleasures and challenges. It was a joy to be around her. She seemed forever youthful. I will miss her. May her memory be a blessing.

Penny Rosen, MSW, LCSW, BCD-P - New York, NY

We are profoundly devastated to hear of the passing of our life-long member Patsy Turrini. Patsy contributed to the mental health of the nation through her writings, papers, clinical work from the early days when she established one of the first parenting centers on Long Island to her last days in her contributions to our Aging Issues Group of the NYSSCSW. She was also a valued member of The International Conference of Psychoanalytic Clinical Social Workers in addition to her contributions to AAPCSW. I can say that she was truly a social workers' social worker. With great sadness.

Helen Hinckley Krackow, LCSW, BCD - New York, NY

I am very sad to hear of the passing of our esteemed colleague, Patsy Turrini. It will take me time to realize I will not be seeing her at NYPSI for so many Neuroscience lectures and AAPCSW national conferences for her many presentations. Of a younger generation to Patsy, I looked toward her in amazement for her scholarship, productivity, and uttermost zeal for learning. I will remember her with respect and affection. May her memory be a blessing.

Janet Burak, LCSW - New York, NY

I first met Patsy many years ago on Cape Cod, during a week-long seminar with Salman Akhtar. I didn't have a car and rode my bicycle to class and occasionally Patsy, who was very friendly, would give me a lift so we had a chance to get to know each other a bit. Later, when we organized an ongoing Akhtar seminar, I would see Patsy every other month for several years. I am sorry that I didn't get to know Patsy better. One of the ways I was to follow her throughout the years after our seminar ended was through her posts on the AAPCSW listserv. Patsy impressed me as a warm person with depth of knowledge and experience. She had a solid psychoanalytic background including many years of clinical experience and involvement in numerous ongoing study groups, and she made important contributions through her research and writing. She was someone with a thirst for knowledge. Patsy was such a stalwart and enthusiastic supporter of psychoanalysis — you could sense her heartfelt dismay when basic principles of child development or some other psychoanalytic insights were dismissed or ignored in places where they could have been helpful. I was very sorry and sad to hear that Patsy had died. I extend my condolences to her family and to all the people in her life who cared about her and whom she cared for.

Carole Rosen, LCSW - New York, NY

While I did not know Patsy very well, she was very receptive to my autobiographical manuscript to the point of compensating me for her copy of my work. I feel sadness for her passing and greatly appreciate her contribution to our field. Our brief contact has left an impression on my life.

Herbert J. Weiner, MSW, PhD San Francisco, CA

I am very saddened to learn of Patsy's death. She was always so alive and responsive. Each conversation I had with her inspired and supported my thinking. Her creation of The Mothers' Center was a watershed in social work/psychoanalytic thinking that has inspired and shaped my career. The Mothers' Center was an exceptional model that demonstrated that psychoanalytic theory could and should be used for preventative mental health. She brought the work of Margaret Mahler into the public domain. She and I made a movie about the Mothers' Center model “We are mothers: It's today”. We then went to Germany with 30 other mothers' center women to visit the German national network of mothers' centers in the hope of making another film. There were so many projects we talked about doing… I will miss her terribly and regret not having made more time to be and think together.

Judith R. Smith, New York, NY