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Marie Briehl; Pioneer in Child Psychoanalysis

December 22, 1993|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dr. Marie H. Briehl, a pioneer in child psychoanalysis who helped establish the Southern California Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, has died in Mamaroneck, N.Y. She was 96.

Mrs. Briehl, who had moved to New York two years ago after 45 years in Los Angeles, died Saturday of heart failure, her son, Dr. Robin W. Briehl, said Tuesday.

She and her late husband, Dr. Walter Briehl, moved to Los Angeles in 1946 and helped found the Southern California Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She established its training program for child analysis and headed it for 20 years.

"The work of a child is play," she told The Times in 1988, explaining how she allowed children to choose toys or objects in her office while she observed. "Whatever the child does is ultimately of some value in knowing how he feels about the organization or lack of it in his own house. We then take that information and pick up on those points that seem to be significant in their relationship to the world around them; we can then better understand and diagnose their problems."

Mrs. Briehl was also instrumental in founding the Westland School in Los Angeles, a progressive school with a psychoanalytical orientation. She served as a consultant there for many years.

With her husband, who died in 1982, she was a champion of human rights. After his death, she set up the Walter Briehl Human Rights Foundation in Los Angeles to educate physicians and other professionals about human rights violations.

Mrs. Briehl also worked to aid child refugees of the war in El Salvador through the Valerie Anne Briehl Foundation, established in honor of her granddaughter.

Educated at Hunter College in New York and honored as one of its distinguished alumnae, Mrs. Briehl initially taught at Hunter College High School. She and her husband went to Vienna in the 1920s to study psychoanalysis. She concentrated on child psychoanalysis with its creator, Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund Freud. The Briehls became a part of the senior Freud's circle.

When they returned to the United States, Mrs. Briehl taught English literature at New Utrecht High School in New York City and practiced child analysis through New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital. She was also associated with the New School for Social Research.

In addition to her son, of Lewisboro, N.Y., Mrs. Briehl is survived by a brother, Peter Hawley of Yonkers, N.Y., two sisters, Elizabeth Delza Munson and Sophia Delza Glassgold of New York City, and one granddaughter.

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