My friend Peter Leviné, who died at the age of 78, was a compassionate psychotherapist who favored independent judgment over orthodoxy.

Peter’s commitment to progressive and rational humanism was deeply influenced by his mother, Doreen Byrne (known as Bill), who at one point ran a home for teenage girls, and his father, Eugene ( Genia) Leviné, a refugee from Germany in the 1930s who settled as a professor of biology in London, where Peter was born. His Russian Communist grandfather, Eugen Leviné, had briefly ruled the Soviet republic from Munich in 1919, before being tried for high treason and executed by the German government, when the republic was overthrown.

Peter attended Marylebone High School and spent his adulthood in the bohemian 60s north of London. During this time, he met Bente Teller, with whom he had a son, Jan. He ran a moving company, Tiger Trucks, and then delivered mail to Highgate while taking social work training at Middlesex Polytechnic.

After working for Barnet’s social services, Peter moved in 1983 to North Yorkshire. He moved to Whitby with Yvonne Lawrence. During the high-profile Cleveland child abuse crisis of 1987, Peter was director of social services there, working with children and families. Friends describe how much Peter cared about what was going on and for the children to be listened to. Around this time, he also began training in the branch of psychotherapy known as transactional analysis, with the Northern Guild for Psychotherapy, founded by Christine Lister-Ford and Jennie McNamara.

Peter’s work as a psychotherapist was extremely rewarding for him. Many clients and colleagues have also spoken of his success in helping people find hope, self-acceptance and meaning.

In the early 2000s, he was part of a small team developing expertise in transactional analysis in Russia – training visits that reconnected Peter with his family history. From 2005 to 2016, with GP Margaret Jackson, Peter co-created a new model of psychologically informed support groups to deal with the isolation and challenges faced by people living with long-term chronic illnesses.

Intense, outspoken and honest, Peter could be intimidating. But he was also kind, emotionally stable, and open to his pleasures – which ranged from biking and playing the guitar to cryptic crosswords, food, indie cinema and, lately, green balls. A polymath raised to argue his point with confidence, he enjoyed the brawl of disagreement and was fearless in being corrected. I met him in the early 1980s, and our friendship involved long, happy disagreements over Labor, world capitalism, modern art, and opening car windows while driving.

Living with terminal cancer amid Covid restrictions was difficult as opportunities to connect with her many dear friends narrowed and life moved online. Poor health limited Peter’s options but he remained mentally and socially alive, with the Guardian a constant pleasure. He was buried with a copy, including his last half-finished riddle, and an issue of Cycling Weekly.

Peter is survived by Yvonne, Jan and three grandchildren.



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