Maria Gilbert Obituary

It is with sadness and fond memories that I write of the death of Maria Gilbert. Maria died in December 2020 in a London hospital of a non-Covid related illness.

Maria is the last member of the group of four close colleagues who founded, and lovingly built and nurtured “metanoia”, the now re-named The Metanoia Institute. 

Maria trained originally as a clinical psychologist in her birth country, South Africa. She discovered Transactional Analysis there and started teaching its principles, theories and practice. She had already encountered racism first hand and, rejecting the ideology of apartheid, she looked beyond its boycotting and oppressive reach for education further afield, eventually leaving for the UK when the state of emergency was declared in 1985. She came with her young son Matt to join Petruska Clarkson, Sue Fish and Brian Dobson, who a few years earlier had made the same journey from South Africa to the UK because of the political situation there.

Over her long and influential career, she wrote, supervised and practiced as a clinician in Transactional Analysis and Integrative Psychotherapy. She was first and foremost though a teacher of prodigious talent and long experience. Those of us who had first-hand experience of her teaching, and we are legion, witnessed her teaching philosophy in action. It was one of excellence, integrated ethical accountability and academic rigour. She displayed a sense of fairness that an implicit knowing of cultural difference and diversity brings, no doubt from her early life in South Africa.

Built on that life knowing, Maria helped to create the rare and precious teaching atmosphere that was metanoia in the 1980s. Although perhaps now part of the orthodoxy, then it was challenging, questioning, exciting and a courageous experimental learning environment. 

Always a task-orientated person, she brought her clear-sighted organisational skill and academic knowledge to complement the stunning talents and passions of Petruska, Sue and Brian - “Team Metanoia” as they thought of themselves.

She sat on the UKCP in its early days. UKCP’s vision, the regularisation and creation of qualifications and endorsements of trainee psychotherapists in humanistic modalities, came into being with her contributions. Her influence is intrinsic to the highly successful training, examination and accreditation structure, both process and content, of many TA and Humanistic Courses today, especially The Metanoia Institute. The many thousands of successful TA trainees at all levels owe their competence and confidence in a meaningful education in psychotherapy, to a large extent, to the early and abiding influence of Maria Gilbert. 

On building up a successful private clinical and supervisory practice, Maria once told me that if I loved it ... it would happen, and it did.

She could be extremely kind, drawing admiration and gratitude from colleagues and trainees alike. She could also be sharply critical at times when opposed. As others have remembered, she was affectionally nicknamed “Attila the Honey”, which she rather liked.

Maria’s life had its ups and downs. She knew great success but also sorrow and anguish and very sadly she suffered in her later years. That will not take away from the important legacy of her work and influence and she will be warmly, fondly and gratefully remembered. She is survived by her son Matt and a small family in South Africa. Condolences may be sent to Matt at]

Written by Carole Shadbolt

“This article appeared in the Spring edition of the UKATA News”.