Elisabeth Duncan became a member of the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists in February 1983 after presenting a paper at the Conference that year. She went on to serve the Association in many ways that made an impact on its life and development.
Elisabeth’s wisdom, insight and acumen were of great service to the Association in her roles as a member of Council and of the committees on which she served. These included membership committees and committees set up to clarify and specify requirements for supervision and supervisors.
She was Treasurer for the Association from 1994 to 1998. She managed the Association’s money wisely and efficiently and by recommending a realistic membership fee secured its financial stability for some years to come. An astute investment of conference funds one year secured a substantial sum, which became the basis of the current Education Fund.
Elisabeth’s contribution to psychotherapy and its development is, however, broader than her direct work with the Association. Much of it precedes her membership. First there was her groundbreaking work in the Dunedin Women’s Prison. Professor of Psychological Medicine, Wallace Ironside, recognised her calibre and potential and persuaded her to become a prison visitor. He gave her training, supervision and support in this difficult and challenging work.
Subsequently she became a founder member and director of the then Marriage Guidance Council. While she was Director she actively facilitated the development of counsellors and the spread of psychological understandings across agencies in the city. In the 1970s and 1980s she recruited people from many different disciplines to be involved as trainers, supervisors and resource people for Marriage Guidance. In 1981 she and Professor of Psychiatry Basil James, then President of NZAP, raised the possibility of Marriage Guidance Counsellors joining the Association. Many of the people who joined in the following years were people whose professional discipline and skills grew and flourished in Elisabeth’s carefully built and sustained milieu.
The New Zealand community of psychotherapists and many individuals within it owe Elisabeth a great debt.