Luigi Onnis

(1944-2015), neuropsychiatrist and family psychotherapist

(1944-2015), neuropsychiatrist and family psychotherapist, he was Professor in Psychiatry, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at La Sapienza University in Rome. He founded the systemic-relational psychotherapy schools IEFCoS (European Institute for Systemic Training and Counseling) and IEFCOSTRE of which he was the director. He has been a founding member of EFTA and has been Honorary President from October 2010 to his death. He founded and edited the Italian Clinical  journal ‘Psicobiettivo’.

Conny Leporatti: In Rhodes during an Efta-Tic meeting in 2006,  at the end of a workday, we found ourselves in the town square with Luigi Onnis, Maria Laura Vittori and Eugenia Squitieri. Rodolfo introduced me to his colleagues, calling them ‘Le Gigine’, close collaborators of Luigi/Gigi Onnis. Since then, whenever we spoke with Luigi, we always affectionately called his close colleagues ‘the Gigine’. Anna and Maria Laura are now among my closest friends, as well as wonderful colleagues.

Maria Laura Vittori: I want you guys to go back to 1992. There was an international congress about adolescents and their systems, held in an Italian town, where the pleasures of life are at their most: Riccione. Endless beaches for leisure activities during the day, countless clubs at night. It was April, the spring had sprang, the air smelled sweet, the sun shone bright. The contents of the conference were very interesting: famous colleagues gave speeches full of novelties, especially to me who was an inexperienced, young trainee. Luigi Onnis himself spoke about his method: “Family Time Sculptures” and I was impressed by the beauty of his way of facing challenges in the therapy room, being compassionate and effective. In the same evening, a colleague of mine and I decided to explore the city, its attractions and its discotheques and we spent the night clubbing. At 4 am, we decided to call it a night and go to bed. We were just getting out, exhausted, when… surprise! Gigi Onnis was in a queue to get into the club! He wore the perfect black leather jacket, and he was as fresh as a daisy, performing – lightly- the two-step and the “monastery” dance moves, while waiting. I can say that I was impressed by the beauty of his dance.
There are many reasons why a master is a master, aren’t there?
Luigi Onnis loved EFTA passionately. I can say that without fear of contradiction. When we were at the I.E.F.Co.S, the Italian institute he directed, during the endless evening meetings, he would promote every EFTA event, with a special light in his eyes and an invincible smile on his face. Thus he was that time, in June 2006, when he invited two of the Iefcos trainers to participate at the next meeting due at Rodi, the following September. Anna Squitieri and I were the first to respond affirmatively: it took us two seconds to raise our hands. Anna and I left full of enthusiasm, Gigi in the middle, flanked by the two of us. We kept this formation for the whole period (the journey, the meeting, the social events). It would seem very strange, at  first glance… However, there was a reason: Anna and I could not understand a word of English, and Gigi helped us all along, to fathom what was happening and why. He would tell us “Please keep all your channels of communication open, be alert and receptive, so you can make the most of this experience”. I remember a workshop held by Tom Andersen and the intense emotions it raised in everyone. Even though Gigi was immersed and moved, he kept helping us to express ourselves and enjoy the experience. At the end of the workshop we were getting out, keeping our usual configuration, when Andersen saw us- probably he had already noticed the tripartite picture we composed- and exclaimed “Gigi with Gigi’s Angels!”. That way we acquired that affectionate nickname, without any merit. All the merits were Gigi’s, because of his generosity, his legendary patience, his capability of foreseeing.

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