12 February 2021

Terttu Eskelinen (1931-2021)

It is with deep sadness that the EPF Executive has to announce the death of  Terttu Eskelinen de Folch.

The EPF owes her a lot. Terttu Eskelinnen de Folch was President of the EPF from 1991 to 1995. Before she was General Editor of the EPF from 1980 to 1987. She passed away at the age of 90 years on February 12th,  2021, after a long illness. Her death is a big loss for the EPF and the whole psychoanalytic community. We commemorate her with deep gratitude and appreciation.

The following obituary has been written by a group of her friends from the Spanish Psychoanalytic Society.


On February 12th, Terttu Eskelinen (Pielavesi, 1931–Barcelona, 2021) passed away. Our teacher, friend, and beloved colleague, come to us from northern Europe, she made this land, language and culture hers, and joined in the struggle for freedom and democracy in Catalonia during the hard years of the Franco dictatorship.

Of firm convictions and admirable vitality, she was deeply in love with her husband Pere Folch, and devoted to her daughters Laura and Helka, and to grandchildren Pere and Mark. She also had a profound love for psychoanalysis, which she professed with great conviction, for scientific truths, as well as for culture in its multiple expressions. She loved literature, and most especially the works of Shakespeare, which she had extensive knowledge of. She was likewise enamored of music and art. She was an excellent hostess who knew how to bring people together to create a friendly environment. She also knew how to create groups in a professional and scientific setting. Warmth, harmony, and friendship were all important to her in her relationships, and were what she strove for. Her Scandinavian features and decided yet tender ways made her at once mysterious, captivating and unique. Her culinary skills were just one more expression of her great vitality.

At a young age Terttu Eskelinen left her native Finland for Switzerland in search of training. She completed psychoanalytic training at the Swiss Psychoanalytic Society where she met and worked with Raymond de Saussure and Jean Piaget. She later complemented her training at the British Psychoanalytical Society where her teachers included Anna Freud, Hanna Segal, Ester Bick, Betty Joseph, Herbert Rosenfeld, and Donald Meltzer among others. During her years of professional practice she made numerous scientific contributions to psychoanalysis, in the  papers she wrote, but also through her editorial task (1980-88) for the Bulletin of the European Federation which she performed from Barcelona. Later on, her contributions were made through her presidency of the European Psychoanalytic Federation (EPF/FEP) for four years from 1991-1995.

Terttu also established and maintained links between the psychoanalysis taught and practiced at our Society, which she cofounded with other analysts, and the British Society. She did this by teaching Klein and bringing over such eminent analysts as Joseph Sandler, Betty Joseph, John Steiner, Ruth Riesenberg, and Michael Feldman to teach and supervise. She herself was teacher and supervisor to many analysts at the Spanish Psychoanalytic Society. In 2003 she was granted the Award for Distinguished and Meritorious Service to the IPA. In 2004 she received the Sigourney Award for her scientific contribution to the development of psychoanalytic thinking. In 2016 the European Federation of Psychoanalysis gave her their Award for a Distinguished Contribution to Psychoanalysis. Terttu was also an honorary member of the Finnish Psychoanalytic Society.

As a speaker of multiple languages, two of which were spoken by a minority population, she was well aware of the problems of communication during her time serving on the executive committee of the European Federation of Psychoanalysis, as well as in her professional trajectory. She always prioritized building bridges between different cultural and psychoanalytic communities. She actively participated along with Han Groen-Prakken in the diffusion and teaching of psychoanalysis in eastern European countries, and gave classes between 2001 and 2003 at the Dubrovnik summer school in Croatia, training professionals in psychoanalytic psychotherapy for children and adolescents.

In her commitment to promote frameworks for dialogue, her participation at the meeting of the United Nations Organization which took place at the UN headquarters in New York in 2005 is quite noteworthy. Terttu attended as a member of the IPA-UN subcommittee on “unlearning intolerance”. The aim was to help UN specialists that work in conflicts originating in the intolerance of differences.  

Terttu Eskelinen distinguished herself for her analytic work with children and in many other aspects, for her contributions to the role of the woman and mother in the most fundamental structuring of the human mind from the beginning of life. She linked this to the contempt with which western patriarchal culture treated women. She thought it to be an expression of the difficulty men often had to recognizing this feminine role and accepting, not a central role, but rather a position of necessary collaboration with the mother. In the analytic relationship she advocated a systematic view of transference/countertransference and stood out for her intuition and admirable ability to understand the patient in the here-and-now of the session. She showed how to detect and follow the subtleties in the relationship sequence in the session from the patient´s free association to the analyst´s interventions and subsequent patient responses to then be able to move forward. She valued and appreciated contributions made by teachers and colleagues, including the younger analysts who were encouraged to learn about the psychoanalysis practiced abroad.

With her death we have lost an excellent psychoanalyst, a beloved colleague, and a dear friend who gave us many lessons in life. She will be sorely missed, but kept as a referent to inspire us in our work and lives.

Friends of Terttu Eskelinen

Spanish Psychoanalytic Society

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