The WAPCEPC Board was deeply saddened to learn of the unexpected passing of Pete Sanders early this month. He is a tremendous loss to the PCE world as he was admired, respected and loved by many for his commitment and contributions to person centred counselling. We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Pete's family and also to his colleagues at PCCS books who will miss him dearly.
Below is a heartfelt personal and professional tribute to Pete by Mick Cooper. It paints a beautiful picture of Pete's spirit and we owe a debt of gratitude to Mick for writing it and allowing us to share it with you all.
Warm regards, Susanna Markowitsch (Chair) on behalf of the Board.
Probably the strongest memory I have of Pete is a bit of a strange one. It’s of him playing table tennis with my (ex)wife and kids in the hall in our house in Glasgow. He was, to my surprise, actually pretty good. And I remember him laughing, smiling, chatting, having fun. It was great to see him happy and I have lots of memories of Pete happy – staying with him and Maggie at their house and helping Pete cook (he loved cooking). I remember visiting one time and going to the local pub with him and Tony Merry. They were laughing and joking all evening long. They were great mates and I know that Pete missed Tony so badly when he died, also really suddenly.
I also have memories of Pete being great with our kids: really kind and caring. He took us all to a stone forest near where he and Maggie used to live. We went down the river in a boat. We talked about person-centred therapy, and life, and how things were going but mostly I just remember Pete having fun and laughing. He really laughed a lot.
One time I went through a really bad episode of anxiety. Pete was amazing. He’d ring me up every day or two, check on how I was doing… for months I remember Pete being there. Nothing too intrusive: just a warm, gentle, caring presence; someone I knew that I could turn to.
PCCS Books, which Pete set up, was also a bit like that. What an amazing thing to do: to set up a whole publishing company that could publish books for the person-centred field. And also for other areas that Pete cared deeply about, like the abuses of psychiatry and ways of empowering service users. Pete set up PCCS Books because he wanted there to be a way of communicating ideas and practices that wasn’t determined by financial drivers – as the big publishing houses tend to be. And he and Maggie were brave and courageous and took real risks – real risks – in setting up PCCS as a service that was there for us all. Just as one example, Pete took on the publishing of our journal, Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counselling, without any strong guarantees that it would be financially viable. And, perhaps more to the point, he was happy for the journal to move on to a larger publisher when he knew that that was best for the journal. Pete was such a generous man and really led by principles: it was about doing the right thing rather than the thing that was going to suit his finances or his ego.
I always looked forward to seeing Pete and the PCCS team at conferences. He’d be there at the PCCS stand, at lunch or when the talks got a little wordy, or during the encounter groups (Pete always seemed to opt out of those!), and you could nip off and have a chat with Pete. He’d always be up for a discussion, and it could be personal or professional or just joking around. Pete was like a great anchor in our counselling and person-centred world, or perhaps like a harbour. It was always somewhere safe you could go back to and feel like you could reconnect to someone and to yourself.
When I posted news of Pete’s death on social media, one of the things that people most reflected on was his ‘First steps in counselling book’, and how that had, indeed, been their first steps into the counselling and person-centred worlds. Pete had an incredibly ability to write clearly and simply: to convey complex and difficult ideas in ways that people could really understand. It was clear to me that so many people really loved that book: but, more than that, they loved a man who had taken the time to really present counselling ideas in a way that was accessible and meaningful to them.
But that was Pete. Someone deeply, deeply committed to social justice and to creating a world in which everyone has access to all the best things that life can offer. Everything, in all his activities, pointed to that end: he lived a person-centred ethos as much as he wrote about it and promoted it through PCCS.
I find it impossible to imagine that Pete is gone. It’s a massive Pete-shaped hole in our person-centred and counselling community. It’s an anchor that has been raised, a harbour that’s been destroyed: it’s an existential shock, and I imagine we’re all going to need a bit of time to re-orientate ourselves.
Much love and condolences to Maggie, who I know meant absolutely everything to Pete. And also to their children who I know he utterly adored.
Pete was a loving man, and a fighter, and someone you could really rely on and who held so much together. He was so sharp, smart, but also compassionate and warm. Our world will be a really different one for his loss. But in all the sadness, I can still see Pete running around that table tennis table, and laughing and smiling. For all his depth, profundity, and commitment to social justice, he also brought an amazing joy to my life and the lives of so many others, all over the world.
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