Weekes also offered something unique to the field: hope


“To recover, they must know how to face, accept and go through panic until it no longer matters …” Weekes said. “Recovery is in their own hands, not in drugs, not in avoidance of panic, not in ‘getting used to’ difficult situations, nor in desensitisation by suggestion. Permanent recovery lies in the patient’s ability to know how to accept the panic until he no longer fears it.”

The New York audience made her acutely aware of their disdain. They looked at their watches and talked among themselves, and the famous South African psychiatrist Dr Joseph Wolpe tore her to pieces after she dared challenge an approach to treatment that he favoured. At least one psychiatrist in the audience appreciated her pioneering work, however. Dr Manuel Zane, who ran a New York clinic for anxiety and phobia, had firsthand experience of the success of her method, even with intractable cases.

“The remarkable thing was that patients came to me talking about her,” Zane wrote in a nomination he made for Weekes for a Nobel Prize in the late 1980s. “That was the difference between Weekes and other professionals. She was coming to us from where the patient is, and not from our top, where we were telling patients what it’s all about, why they are the way they are.” Weekes also offered something unique to the field: hope.