Sheila Youngson obituary

My friend and colleague Sheila Youngson, who has died aged 65 from a stroke, was a clinical psychologist in the NHS from 1981, focusing on children and young people.

Her final clinical post, from 1998 to 2010, was as consultant clinical psychologist at St James’ hospital, in Leeds, where she was based at the paediatric renal unit. Within the medicalised environment of the hospital, she worked with persistence and sensitivity to introduce her child-centred approach to the emotional needs of the young patients.

She was born in Glasgow and grew up in Edinburgh, the adopted daughter of Alexander Youngson, a university professor in political economy, and his wife, Elspeth (nee Naylor), who worked part time as a librarian. She was educated at St George’s school for girls in the city; while there, she injured her leg playing lacrosse, which resulted in long stays in hospital as a teenager and reduced mobility in later life.

After leaving school, Sheila studied psychology at Aberdeen University, graduating in 1977. She then worked as a residential care worker in Edinburgh and in London before training in clinical psychology at the University of Edinburgh (1979-81), and took up her first post with Lothian health board working with people with learning difficulties and adolescents.

In 1985, she moved south to Yorkshire, working first in Scarborough and then from 1987 at Wakefield and Pontefract NHS trust. In 1998 she took up her consultant post at St James’ hospital.

Sheila was the deputy clinical director on the doctorate in clinical psychology at Leeds University from 1995 until 2012. She was the major steer for a significant shift in culture in clinical psychology there, from the “scientist practitioner” model to a focus on the “reflective practitioner”.

She held strong ethical principles and always sought to respect the uniqueness of the individual and try to understand the positions that other people came from, not imposing her own views. She co-edited a book, Personal Development and Clinical Psychology (2009).

Sheila became aware of the extent and impact of child sexual abuse in her work and wrote about ritual abuse at a time when there was a professional risk in doing so. She knew about oppression from her own experience of being disabled and a lesbian; she was acutely aware of how systems of power exclude people and fought to counteract this in her spheres of influence.

She is survived by Elspeth, and her brother Graeme.

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