Queen Elizabeth II as a Model of a National Psychotherapist


While God can no longer “save the Queen,” we in psychiatry can save the best of what she represented and taught.




I have come to ask myself, as you might have done, why write so many columns related to the passing away of Queen Elizabeth II?

Today is the day after the funeral of the Queen, ending a formal 10-day mourning process called Operation London Bridge, which she helped plan. Perhaps like the nursery rhythm “London Bridge is Falling Down,” the hope is that whatever is broken down by her death will be built up stronger.

There has been extensive media coverage in the United States. Never before had I paid much, if any, attention to this Queen, but it became apparent to me that perhaps there was much relevance to psychiatry, especially since her leadership power seemed to be more psychological than political.

On the days leading up to the funeral, lines extended to waits of up to at least 24 hours to reach the coffin and pay quick respect. Though mainly British, there were also attendees from the Commonwealth and many other countries.

What may have caused such apparent voluntary devotion? Likely her stability and continuity for one thing, no matter the rocky roads and mishaps along the way. For many, she seemed to represent dignity, discretion, and duty. She was a mirror of traditional British culture. It also seemed to be a sort of social bonding ceremony from the past to the future of the Monarchy.

Such major public losses can also trigger and tap into losses in each public mourner. Moreover, how can we not be stimulated to think about our own upcoming deaths and how others will react to it?

At the conclusion of the funeral, it struck me that she had many resemblances to a traditional psychodynamic Freudian psychotherapist. Though she was known publicly, as Freud was in his time, she did not talk about her private life, nor was that recommended in such psychotherapy. This allowed the Queen to become a steadfast transference motherly object. The ideal psychotherapist also expresses dignity, discretion in the confidentiality needed, and loyalty to the patient.

Whenever we in psychiatry enter the public sphere, she can be a model for us: the nurturing of relationships; the maintenance of the delicate interchange and overlap between public and private life; and the understanding of the interplay between media representation, misrepresentation, and personal projections onto her. Hopefully, her son King Charles III has learned from her, too.

God can no longer “save the Queen,” but we in psychiatry and others can save the best—and there was a lot of it—of what she represented and taught.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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