My road to counselling and psychotherapy has been interesting. Having worked in London for circa ten years predominantly in the area of commercial property, I returned to Ireland in the late 1990’s and have lived in Cork since. In need of an academic and a personal challenge, I undertook a social science degree in UCC (B.Soc.Sc. 2001-2004). Following graduation, I began working with a Cork-based legal firm where I gained experience of working with people going through family, immigration and employment law difficulties.
That involvement, being with people experiencing life crises, provided an invaluable background to my therapeutic work with adults and adolescents. Having undertaken a masters in counselling and psychotherapy (M.A. 2010-2012), the time came to take a leap of faith and I reluctantly left my salaried position with the law firm to concentrate on my private practice and set up clinics in Cork city and in Bantry, County Cork.
Since graduation, I have undertaken a variety of training which includes: CBT; managing anxiety; understanding addiction; working with eating disorders; compassion-focused mindfulness; coaching; supervision; understanding drugs and addiction; problem-solving and process management; supervision; domestic violence; self-harm; suicide; sexual health promotion; smoking cessation. I am currently undertaking a MSc in psychology.
My goal is to help people understand how they can become more accepting of themselves and ultimately be content. I work with groups in day centre hospitals and with the Department of Psychiatry to help promote ways in which to safeguard and nurture our emotional wellbeing. I work with people who have and people who do not have a mental health diagnosis.
The other facet of my work involves workshops, talks and training which allow me to reach a wide audience. I promote wellness, positive wellbeing and parenting through devising and delivering workshops, courses and presentations to businesses, youth and community groups as well as to the education sector (at each level & to both teachers and students).
I write for publication which promotes awareness of how to overcome difficulties that we all experience at some point in our lives such as feeling anxious, disturbed sleep / sleeping problems, anger outbursts, parenting difficulties, relationship issues, bullying, rejection, self-doubt, being self-critical etc.
I view my role in therapy as nurturing self-reliance, fostering self-belief and helping people achieve acceptance and effect positive change. Therapy helps people to learn how to believe in themselves and in their abilities and teaches the importance of liking ourselves a whole lot more. This is accomplished through learning how to change unhelpful habits of thinking and behaving, by acquiring and practicing new coping skills; by accepting the past, making plans and setting attainable goals for the future.
From experience, I know just how good we all are at being self-critical. We often deserve a ‘gold star’ for excelling at negative self-talk, guilt, indecision, shame, blame or criticism. One person told me he was “a dinger” at being hard on himself. Another said the only thing he was good at was criticising himself. I enjoy working with adolescents and also with adults experiencing self-doubt, anxiety and stress-related issues and being with them as they progress and learn how to change.
In therapy, at my Cork and Bantry practices I work on a one to one basis with adults and with children over the age of 12 years. For children under 12 years (and also over 12 years) I work directly with parents who wish to make homes more calm and happy. I alter my therapeutic approach to best suit the person and presenting issue. My style of therapy is humanistic and person-centred which means that I believe the person knows best; that he/she is the expert on their own thoughts, feelings, life experiences and difficulties.
The person coming to therapy is best-placed to decide what to do with his/her life which means that I do not tell people what to do. For example, if someone asks me whether they should marry their fiancé/fiancée I do not say yes or no. Who am I to give that advice or instruction? Through discussing the relationship, decisions regarding the best course of action are arrived at.
An important aspect of therapy is that I listen and hear what is being said and what is not being said. Regardless of what I hear it is not my place to judge and I remain non-judgemental at all times. Everything that is said in therapy (with some exceptions which I explain in person) remains confidential. This is central to building a good working relationship – where a person feels comfortable enough to discuss anything with me.
I routinely attend supervision where I discuss my clients’ issues but people are not identifiable. I may discuss a female in her forties who is married or a male in his twenties who is single but names are never mentioned. Supervision ensures my accreditation remains up to date and that everyone attending with me for therapy is being properly heard as my supervisor has decades of experience.
Regarding frequency of appointments, I do not tell people that they must attend every week or every two weeks but in my experience it can be helpful for someone to gauge their progress when regularly attending, particularly in the initial stages of therapy. Attendance is entirely voluntary because the time must be right for you. Some people attend once every so often and others have regular weekly appointments.
I may not be the best fit for every person who attends at my clinics and that is okay too. I am happy to refer to others for counselling and psychotherapy. Therapy works for the majority of people but it is important to find a therapist that suits you. On day one I always say to people to use the initial session, with whatever therapist you attend, as an opportunity for you to see if the therapist is someone you can work with. Therapy is all about the person attending, not the therapist.
Therapy can be about making positive changes or acceptance or dealing with something that is bothering you or learning why you think the way you do. I am very privileged and love my therapeutic work. I also love delivering talks and training courses because no two days are ever the same – how lucky am I?