Mary Cockburn

Mary Cockburn arrived in Dunedin from Scotland with her husband Alex in 1965. She embarked on another journey in 1976 when she was chosen for training with the Marriage Guidance service in Dunedin. This was the beginning of her career in psychotherapy; her interest and the work have never stopped. Her early learning was from that great combination of experience, supervision, reading and group discussion. This foundation supported her subsequent trainings in Gestalt Therapy, Adolescent and Family Therapy at Dunedin Hospital, and Self Psychology. Mary has continued her professional development ever since at conferences and workshops. Her clinical work continued in the Student Health service at Otago University and for many years with Presbyterian Support Services as a counsellor and psychotherapist. In the very beginning, at Marriage Guidance, they realised they had discovered a true gem. She has been immensely valued by colleagues and clients in her work in the consulting room, organisations and in the community.

Mary became an Ordinary Member of the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists in February 1986 in Christchurch. This was a significant event. She is modest and aspiring; her respect for, and commitment to the Association is deep and enduring. Mary took on the combined posts of Executive Officer and Honorary Secretary of Council. With reliable competence and good will she dealt with Council agendas, minutes, correspondence and published the newsletter. She has an open enquiring mind, is attentive and famously well organised. Her capacity for knowing the right way has been generously available to the Association. Mary’s legendary knowledge and appreciation of our Constitution has guided many presidents and office bearers over the years. She understands the purpose and value of our founding document and its importance to our principles and practice. In 1994 she became Chairperson of the Admission Committee, and in 2001 she was given one of the first Distinguished Service Awards.

In all her undertakings Mary is wholehearted and thorough. She takes care, and gives it, in its various manifestations of thoughtfulness, planning, generosity and kindness. Her patients and clients know this; so do her colleagues and associates. She is astute in her understanding and has a sharp wit and lively sense of humour. She is courageous with the truth and has the warmth to convey it helpfully. When Mary Cockburn was Chair of the Admission Committee she presided over significant initiatives and developments which include the writing of the ‘Orange Book’ and the institution of the marking groups. In person she took care of many candidates facing the challenge of assessment for membership of NZAP.

Her qualities as a psychotherapist embrace her sensitivity and respect for the pain and problems of others and an abiding wish to be of service. She is known and appreciated for her deep and persistent commitment to making psychotherapy available to all, and particularly to those of limited means. Her skill, experience and courage underpin her readiness to do difficult work willingly and well. This includes running groups in the community which have been far-reaching in their scope.

As a colleague Mary Cockburn is constant, measured and thoughtful. She has a deep understanding of human development, relationships and the emotional world. Among her steadfast qualities are warmth, empathy and responsiveness. With the courage to ask awkward questions and offer challenging opinions, she is a staunch companion in difficult times. She is an excellent and respected supervisor to professionals in various disciplines. The nomination for this award generated delight and enthusiastic acclaim from our members.

Mary is known for her good Scots sense, sensitivity, and the depth, brilliance and clarity we treasure. Her personal talents, professional skill, generosity and dedication have contributed immensely to NZAP. These esteemed qualities and her long service to the Association are gratefully acknowledged in the bestowing of Honorary Life Membership.