Remember – Leaving Cert results do not determine the future

Not all students will get desired results but there are ways to lessen the feelings of failure

Anne McCormack  Irish Times – Tuesday 11th August 2015

Planning ahead and thinking about ways to cope with possible disappointment may be useful for results day.

Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. Everyone feels it at some point and it can be a difficult feeling for any person to bear. But disappointment has value, as all emotions do. Disappointment is of great value, as it bears witness to hope.

Many young people have high hopes on Leaving Cert results day. These hopes often relate to receiving enough points to access the third-level course of their choice. And some might feel disappointment.

While the prospect of planning for the possibility of disappointment may seem pessimistic, it is worth giving the possibility some thought.

It gives you the chance to become prepared psychologically, in case disappointment on Leaving Cert results day enters the frame.

Here are some ways to think about and deal with disappointment. By taking the time to reflect on these ideas, young people will be more prepared to handle this difficult emotion, and the disappointment will then be less likely to overwhelm.

Tuning in to thoughts as well as feelings

Disappointment can be intense. It can seem as if the event, the Leaving Cert results, is directly causing this unwanted feeling: I got this result, therefore I feel disappointment. It is important to know that it is the thoughts about the event, rather than just the event itself, that causes the feeling to arise. Therefore, I got this result and am now thinking this, is the cause of the feeling. By tuning into and by challenging these thoughts, young people can gain strength and influence over their emotional self and feel better.

Plan who to talk to for support

It can be useful for young people to think ahead and make a plan about who they will talk to if they are feeling disappointed.

If a young person’s peer group are all receiving results on the same day, it could be that a trusted friend may be largely unavailable to offer emotional support that particular day, if required. Someone at home, perhaps a parent, could be in a better position to really listen to how the young person is feeling.

For a parent to offer this support is useful. Then, by listening to the expression of disappointment, parents can check in with the young person about what they are thinking about. This provides an opportunity to steer their thinking away from negative thoughts which could damage their self-esteem.

 

Take a wider, longer-term view

There is always more than one way to get from A to B but on results day, it is hard to remember this as many young people have route A, their preferred first choice, very much in mind. No matter what career a young person has set their heart on, there is always the possibility of pursuing that goal, no matter what the exam results are.

It is important for parents to remind young people of this, ahead of results day as well as on the day itself, if they are feeling disappointed. It is also good to remind young people not to put pressure on themselves to figure out an alternative route straight away.

Taking a few days to process the emotions they are feeling is enough for the young person to deal with.

 

Celebrate effort more than results

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the points system and the number of points received. This can create the impression that results matter more than effort, but that is not necessarily the case.

In many areas of life, whether it is within relationships, within a workplace context or pursuing a life goal, effort matters a very great deal indeed.

Young people on results day may believe that results matter more than effort. But holding this belief does not make it a fact. It is vital for young people to be reminded of the validity and importance of effort. It is vital also that they be encouraged to celebrate effort, rather than just results.

Celebrating efforts made throughout the exam period and throughout the school life has much merit. Parents can take a lead by placing focus on and congratulating effort.

 

IQ versus EQ

The Leaving Cert does not take account of many an individual’s worthy qualities. Points are not awarded for kindness, a person’s level of honesty or a person’s social skills and yet these qualities matter a very great deal.

Research from Harvard Business School showed that emotional intelligence was twice as important as intellectual intelligence and technical skill when it came to determining who would be successful in life. In order for a person to become emotionally intelligent, a person must be able to experience empathy.

In order to experience empathy, a person must first be able to tune into and feel their own emotions deeply. There is an opportunity with disappointment to do just this; to feel deeply, to bear difficult emotion. And that can be a significant aspect of success.

Results day is significant, but it does not determine how the future will be. Young people may need to be reminded of that.

Anne Mc Cormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI & ICP.

Not all students will get desired results but there are ways to lessen the feelings of failure

Anne McCormack Irish Times – Tuesday 11th August 2015

Planning ahead and thinking about ways to cope with possible disappointment may be useful for results day.

Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. Everyone feels it at some point and it can be a difficult feeling for any person to bear. But disappointment has value, as all emotions do. Disappointment is of great value, as it bears witness to hope.

Many young people have high hopes on Leaving Cert results day. These hopes often relate to receiving enough points to access the third-level course of their choice. And some might feel disappointment.

While the prospect of planning for the possibility of disappointment may seem pessimistic, it is worth giving the possibility some thought.

It gives you the chance to become prepared psychologically, in case disappointment on Leaving Cert results day enters the frame.

Here are some ways to think about and deal with disappointment. By taking the time to reflect on these ideas, young people will be more prepared to handle this difficult emotion, and the disappointment will then be less likely to overwhelm.
Tuning in to thoughts as well as feelings

Disappointment can be intense. It can seem as if the event, the Leaving Cert results, is directly causing this unwanted feeling: I got this result, therefore I feel disappointment. It is important to know that it is the thoughts about the event, rather than just the event itself, that causes the feeling to arise. Therefore, I got this result and am now thinking this, is the cause of the feeling. By tuning into and by challenging these thoughts, young people can gain strength and influence over their emotional self and feel better.
Plan who to talk to for support

It can be useful for young people to think ahead and make a plan about who they will talk to if they are feeling disappointed.

If a young person’s peer group are all receiving results on the same day, it could be that a trusted friend may be largely unavailable to offer emotional support that particular day, if required. Someone at home, perhaps a parent, could be in a better position to really listen to how the young person is feeling.

For a parent to offer this support is useful. Then, by listening to the expression of disappointment, parents can check in with the young person about what they are thinking about. This provides an opportunity to steer their thinking away from negative thoughts which could damage their self-esteem.

Take a wider, longer-term view

There is always more than one way to get from A to B but on results day, it is hard to remember this as many young people have route A, their preferred first choice, very much in mind. No matter what career a young person has set their heart on, there is always the possibility of pursuing that goal, no matter what the exam results are.

It is important for parents to remind young people of this, ahead of results day as well as on the day itself, if they are feeling disappointed. It is also good to remind young people not to put pressure on themselves to figure out an alternative route straight away.

Taking a few days to process the emotions they are feeling is enough for the young person to deal with.

Celebrate effort more than results

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the points system and the number of points received. This can create the impression that results matter more than effort, but that is not necessarily the case.

In many areas of life, whether it is within relationships, within a workplace context or pursuing a life goal, effort matters a very great deal indeed.

Young people on results day may believe that results matter more than effort. But holding this belief does not make it a fact. It is vital for young people to be reminded of the validity and importance of effort. It is vital also that they be encouraged to celebrate effort, rather than just results.

Celebrating efforts made throughout the exam period and throughout the school life has much merit. Parents can take a lead by placing focus on and congratulating effort.

IQ versus EQ

The Leaving Cert does not take account of many an individual’s worthy qualities. Points are not awarded for kindness, a person’s level of honesty or a person’s social skills and yet these qualities matter a very great deal.

Research from Harvard Business School showed that emotional intelligence was twice as important as intellectual intelligence and technical skill when it came to determining who would be successful in life. In order for a person to become emotionally intelligent, a person must be able to experience empathy.

In order to experience empathy, a person must first be able to tune into and feel their own emotions deeply. There is an opportunity with disappointment to do just this; to feel deeply, to bear difficult emotion. And that can be a significant aspect of success.

Results day is significant, but it does not determine how the future will be. Young people may need to be reminded of that.
Anne Mc Cormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI & ICP.

Not all students will get desired results but there are ways to lessen the feelings of failure

Anne McCormack  Irish Times – Tuesday 11th August 2015

Planning ahead and thinking about ways to cope with possible disappointment may be useful for results day.

Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. Everyone feels it at some point and it can be a difficult feeling for any person to bear. But disappointment has value, as all emotions do. Disappointment is of great value, as it bears witness to hope.

Many young people have high hopes on Leaving Cert results day. These hopes often relate to receiving enough points to access the third-level course of their choice. And some might feel disappointment.

While the prospect of planning for the possibility of disappointment may seem pessimistic, it is worth giving the possibility some thought.

It gives you the chance to become prepared psychologically, in case disappointment on Leaving Cert results day enters the frame.

Here are some ways to think about and deal with disappointment. By taking the time to reflect on these ideas, young people will be more prepared to handle this difficult emotion, and the disappointment will then be less likely to overwhelm.

Tuning in to thoughts as well as feelings

Disappointment can be intense. It can seem as if the event, the Leaving Cert results, is directly causing this unwanted feeling: I got this result, therefore I feel disappointment. It is important to know that it is the thoughts about the event, rather than just the event itself, that causes the feeling to arise. Therefore, I got this result and am now thinking this, is the cause of the feeling. By tuning into and by challenging these thoughts, young people can gain strength and influence over their emotional self and feel better.

Plan who to talk to for support

It can be useful for young people to think ahead and make a plan about who they will talk to if they are feeling disappointed.

If a young person’s peer group are all receiving results on the same day, it could be that a trusted friend may be largely unavailable to offer emotional support that particular day, if required. Someone at home, perhaps a parent, could be in a better position to really listen to how the young person is feeling.

For a parent to offer this support is useful. Then, by listening to the expression of disappointment, parents can check in with the young person about what they are thinking about. This provides an opportunity to steer their thinking away from negative thoughts which could damage their self-esteem.

 

Take a wider, longer-term view

There is always more than one way to get from A to B but on results day, it is hard to remember this as many young people have route A, their preferred first choice, very much in mind. No matter what career a young person has set their heart on, there is always the possibility of pursuing that goal, no matter what the exam results are.

It is important for parents to remind young people of this, ahead of results day as well as on the day itself, if they are feeling disappointed. It is also good to remind young people not to put pressure on themselves to figure out an alternative route straight away.

Taking a few days to process the emotions they are feeling is enough for the young person to deal with.

 

Celebrate effort more than results

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the points system and the number of points received. This can create the impression that results matter more than effort, but that is not necessarily the case.

In many areas of life, whether it is within relationships, within a workplace context or pursuing a life goal, effort matters a very great deal indeed.

Young people on results day may believe that results matter more than effort. But holding this belief does not make it a fact. It is vital for young people to be reminded of the validity and importance of effort. It is vital also that they be encouraged to celebrate effort, rather than just results.

Celebrating efforts made throughout the exam period and throughout the school life has much merit. Parents can take a lead by placing focus on and congratulating effort.

 

IQ versus EQ

The Leaving Cert does not take account of many an individual’s worthy qualities. Points are not awarded for kindness, a person’s level of honesty or a person’s social skills and yet these qualities matter a very great deal.

Research from Harvard Business School showed that emotional intelligence was twice as important as intellectual intelligence and technical skill when it came to determining who would be successful in life. In order for a person to become emotionally intelligent, a person must be able to experience empathy.

In order to experience empathy, a person must first be able to tune into and feel their own emotions deeply. There is an opportunity with disappointment to do just this; to feel deeply, to bear difficult emotion. And that can be a significant aspect of success.

Results day is significant, but it does not determine how the future will be. Young people may need to be reminded of that.

Anne Mc Cormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI & ICP.

Not all students will get desired results but there are ways to lessen the feelings of failure

Anne McCormack  Irish Times – Tuesday 11th August 2015

Planning ahead and thinking about ways to cope with possible disappointment may be useful for results day.

Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. Everyone feels it at some point and it can be a difficult feeling for any person to bear. But disappointment has value, as all emotions do. Disappointment is of great value, as it bears witness to hope.

Many young people have high hopes on Leaving Cert results day. These hopes often relate to receiving enough points to access the third-level course of their choice. And some might feel disappointment.

While the prospect of planning for the possibility of disappointment may seem pessimistic, it is worth giving the possibility some thought.

It gives you the chance to become prepared psychologically, in case disappointment on Leaving Cert results day enters the frame.

Here are some ways to think about and deal with disappointment. By taking the time to reflect on these ideas, young people will be more prepared to handle this difficult emotion, and the disappointment will then be less likely to overwhelm.

Tuning in to thoughts as well as feelings

Disappointment can be intense. It can seem as if the event, the Leaving Cert results, is directly causing this unwanted feeling: I got this result, therefore I feel disappointment. It is important to know that it is the thoughts about the event, rather than just the event itself, that causes the feeling to arise. Therefore, I got this result and am now thinking this, is the cause of the feeling. By tuning into and by challenging these thoughts, young people can gain strength and influence over their emotional self and feel better.

Plan who to talk to for support

It can be useful for young people to think ahead and make a plan about who they will talk to if they are feeling disappointed.

If a young person’s peer group are all receiving results on the same day, it could be that a trusted friend may be largely unavailable to offer emotional support that particular day, if required. Someone at home, perhaps a parent, could be in a better position to really listen to how the young person is feeling.

For a parent to offer this support is useful. Then, by listening to the expression of disappointment, parents can check in with the young person about what they are thinking about. This provides an opportunity to steer their thinking away from negative thoughts which could damage their self-esteem.

 

Take a wider, longer-term view

There is always more than one way to get from A to B but on results day, it is hard to remember this as many young people have route A, their preferred first choice, very much in mind. No matter what career a young person has set their heart on, there is always the possibility of pursuing that goal, no matter what the exam results are.

It is important for parents to remind young people of this, ahead of results day as well as on the day itself, if they are feeling disappointed. It is also good to remind young people not to put pressure on themselves to figure out an alternative route straight away.

Taking a few days to process the emotions they are feeling is enough for the young person to deal with.

 

Celebrate effort more than results

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the points system and the number of points received. This can create the impression that results matter more than effort, but that is not necessarily the case.

In many areas of life, whether it is within relationships, within a workplace context or pursuing a life goal, effort matters a very great deal indeed.

Young people on results day may believe that results matter more than effort. But holding this belief does not make it a fact. It is vital for young people to be reminded of the validity and importance of effort. It is vital also that they be encouraged to celebrate effort, rather than just results.

Celebrating efforts made throughout the exam period and throughout the school life has much merit. Parents can take a lead by placing focus on and congratulating effort.

 

IQ versus EQ

The Leaving Cert does not take account of many an individual’s worthy qualities. Points are not awarded for kindness, a person’s level of honesty or a person’s social skills and yet these qualities matter a very great deal.

Research from Harvard Business School showed that emotional intelligence was twice as important as intellectual intelligence and technical skill when it came to determining who would be successful in life. In order for a person to become emotionally intelligent, a person must be able to experience empathy.

In order to experience empathy, a person must first be able to tune into and feel their own emotions deeply. There is an opportunity with disappointment to do just this; to feel deeply, to bear difficult emotion. And that can be a significant aspect of success.

Results day is significant, but it does not determine how the future will be. Young people may need to be reminded of that.

Anne Mc Cormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI & ICP.

Not all students will get desired results but there are ways to lessen the feelings of failure

Anne McCormack Irish Times – Tuesday 11th August 2015

Planning ahead and thinking about ways to cope with possible disappointment may be useful for results day.

Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. Everyone feels it at some point and it can be a difficult feeling for any person to bear. But disappointment has value, as all emotions do. Disappointment is of great value, as it bears witness to hope.

Many young people have high hopes on Leaving Cert results day. These hopes often relate to receiving enough points to access the third-level course of their choice. And some might feel disappointment.

While the prospect of planning for the possibility of disappointment may seem pessimistic, it is worth giving the possibility some thought.

It gives you the chance to become prepared psychologically, in case disappointment on Leaving Cert results day enters the frame.

Here are some ways to think about and deal with disappointment. By taking the time to reflect on these ideas, young people will be more prepared to handle this difficult emotion, and the disappointment will then be less likely to overwhelm.
Tuning in to thoughts as well as feelings

Disappointment can be intense. It can seem as if the event, the Leaving Cert results, is directly causing this unwanted feeling: I got this result, therefore I feel disappointment. It is important to know that it is the thoughts about the event, rather than just the event itself, that causes the feeling to arise. Therefore, I got this result and am now thinking this, is the cause of the feeling. By tuning into and by challenging these thoughts, young people can gain strength and influence over their emotional self and feel better.
Plan who to talk to for support

It can be useful for young people to think ahead and make a plan about who they will talk to if they are feeling disappointed.

If a young person’s peer group are all receiving results on the same day, it could be that a trusted friend may be largely unavailable to offer emotional support that particular day, if required. Someone at home, perhaps a parent, could be in a better position to really listen to how the young person is feeling.

For a parent to offer this support is useful. Then, by listening to the expression of disappointment, parents can check in with the young person about what they are thinking about. This provides an opportunity to steer their thinking away from negative thoughts which could damage their self-esteem.

Take a wider, longer-term view

There is always more than one way to get from A to B but on results day, it is hard to remember this as many young people have route A, their preferred first choice, very much in mind. No matter what career a young person has set their heart on, there is always the possibility of pursuing that goal, no matter what the exam results are.

It is important for parents to remind young people of this, ahead of results day as well as on the day itself, if they are feeling disappointed. It is also good to remind young people not to put pressure on themselves to figure out an alternative route straight away.

Taking a few days to process the emotions they are feeling is enough for the young person to deal with.

Celebrate effort more than results

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the points system and the number of points received. This can create the impression that results matter more than effort, but that is not necessarily the case.

In many areas of life, whether it is within relationships, within a workplace context or pursuing a life goal, effort matters a very great deal indeed.

Young people on results day may believe that results matter more than effort. But holding this belief does not make it a fact. It is vital for young people to be reminded of the validity and importance of effort. It is vital also that they be encouraged to celebrate effort, rather than just results.

Celebrating efforts made throughout the exam period and throughout the school life has much merit. Parents can take a lead by placing focus on and congratulating effort.

IQ versus EQ

The Leaving Cert does not take account of many an individual’s worthy qualities. Points are not awarded for kindness, a person’s level of honesty or a person’s social skills and yet these qualities matter a very great deal.

Research from Harvard Business School showed that emotional intelligence was twice as important as intellectual intelligence and technical skill when it came to determining who would be successful in life. In order for a person to become emotionally intelligent, a person must be able to experience empathy.

In order to experience empathy, a person must first be able to tune into and feel their own emotions deeply. There is an opportunity with disappointment to do just this; to feel deeply, to bear difficult emotion. And that can be a significant aspect of success.

Results day is significant, but it does not determine how the future will be. Young people may need to be reminded of that.
Anne Mc Cormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI & ICP.

SYSTEMIC THERAPY AS TRANSFORMATIVE PRACTICE

 

SYSTEMIC THERAPY AS TRANSFORMATIVE PRACTICE
Eds.   Imelda McCarthy &  Gail Simon                                                                                                                          ISBN 978-0-9930723-2-1
Systemic Therapy as Transformative Practice is a substantial collection of writings on innovative, contemporary practice from leading edge therapists around the world. The book showcases ground-breaking systemic practice from Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Ireland, England, Canada, Sweden and USA.  The writings address connections between change in smaller and wider systems, connecting local with global – all against a backdrop of massive economic and social instability worldwide. The writers share stories from their everyday working lives with creative reflections on the intersections of systemic, social constructionist, narrative, dialogical, appreciative, constructivist and collaborative theories.

For further details, please click on link below

Systemic Therapy as Transformative Practice flyer

How self-confidence can nurture your mental health

 

Irish Times: 1st September 2015

Anne McCormack

Young people need to be supported to learn how to validate themselves so they do not depend on feedback

The numbers of young people presenting to hospital emergency departments because they have self-harmed or are at risk of self-harming has increased again this year. This creates huge concern for parents, and it creates a need to figure out ways to better mind their children’s mental health.

Young people are spending a lot of time on social media; it is how they connect with the world and with each other. But as they begin a new school year, managing their online presence is just one more element with which young people have to deal.

As well as being fun, it can be a source of much anxiety. This is because the social media world has become one of the main mechanisms through which young people work out their identity, ie who they are and what they are worth. They depend on feedback from peers online to answer questions such as “Am I popular?”, “Am I liked?” and, therefore, “Am I of worth?”. But social media feedback is too narrow a filter for anyone to work out their worth. Even the most confident adults would feel their self-esteem falter if they were depending so much on positive feedback for validation.

Young people need to be supported to learn how to validate themselves more, so that they are not as dependent on feedback. To do this, we must focus on confidence.

Making the unconscious conscious

Young people begin to face the psychological task known as identity formation around the same time that they begin to use social media. They grapple with questions such as “What is my identity?” and “Am I a person of worth?” but the questions are in the unconscious part of their minds. How these questions are answered throughout adolescence is affected by what happens them online. It is better for young people to know about this psychological task.

Social media posts as ‘performance’ Social media sites can be used as a place to perform. People post the best of what they wish others to see, and the social media site becomes a stage. Young people can be helped by thinking of social media in this way. What others post is often performance, whether that is selfies of stars or selfies of their classmates.

On social media, people make public what they want others to see and wait for the reaction of the “audience”. If the audience reacts well, it makes the performer feel good but it does not make the person who performed any better or worse than anyone else. How an audience reacts is outside the performer’s control. But they can control how they interpret the reaction. Young people can take more ownership of how they interpret people’s reactions to them on social media. The first step in doing this is to tune into their confidence source.

Taking the time to tune into the source of confidence involves making space in the mind for reflection. It is hard for young people to reflect while they are on social media as so much information is coming their way. Parents can encourage this reflection by asking questions not just about how the young person’s day was, or how school went, but by including questions about social media.

Questions such as these can help: “How did you get on with your friends online?” “Did anything happen on social media today that made you feel good or bad about yourself?” “What reaction did your posts get?” “How did you feel about that?”

Everyone gets confidence in different ways, but because young people are trying to work out their identity, they are particularly tuned into feedback from others, especially peers online. This results in a lot of their confidence being sourced externally.

External versus internal confidence sources

There are two main confidence sources. One is external and involves feedback from others. To have only an external source of confidence is not good, as external sources are outside a person’s control. An internal source of confidence is something each young person can develop and nurture for themselves. They can gain control of it, using their mind to soothe, support and encourage themselves, regardless of the feedback.

How to develop an internal confidence source

Once a young person knows the difference between an internal and external confidence source, they can tune in more accurately to where they are getting confidence. They can pay attention to their internal thoughts about themselves, noticing whether these thoughts are, in the main, supportive or critical of the self. If their internal thoughts tend to be self-critical, they can choose to challenge these thoughts. The more effort they make, the easier it will get.

Sometimes young people are very self-critical without even being aware that they are. Being too focused on the number of “likes” they get or don’t get on social media can perpetuate this negativity. And as the new school year begins, young people who nurture self-confidence will nurture their mental health.

Anne McCormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI and ICP.

Remember – Leaving Cert results do not determine the future

 

Not all students will get desired results but there are ways to lessen the feelings of failure

Anne McCormack  Irish Times – Tuesday 11th August 2015

Planning ahead and thinking about ways to cope with possible disappointment may be useful for results day.

Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. Everyone feels it at some point and it can be a difficult feeling for any person to bear. But disappointment has value, as all emotions do. Disappointment is of great value, as it bears witness to hope.

Many young people have high hopes on Leaving Cert results day. These hopes often relate to receiving enough points to access the third-level course of their choice. And some might feel disappointment.

While the prospect of planning for the possibility of disappointment may seem pessimistic, it is worth giving the possibility some thought.

It gives you the chance to become prepared psychologically, in case disappointment on Leaving Cert results day enters the frame.

Here are some ways to think about and deal with disappointment. By taking the time to reflect on these ideas, young people will be more prepared to handle this difficult emotion, and the disappointment will then be less likely to overwhelm.

 

Tuning in to thoughts as well as feelings

Disappointment can be intense. It can seem as if the event, the Leaving Cert results, is directly causing this unwanted feeling: I got this result, therefore I feel disappointment. It is important to know that it is the thoughts about the event, rather than just the event itself, that causes the feeling to arise. Therefore, I got this result and am now thinking this, is the cause of the feeling. By tuning into and by challenging these thoughts, young people can gain strength and influence over their emotional self and feel better.

 

Plan who to talk to for support

It can be useful for young people to think ahead and make a plan about who they will talk to if they are feeling disappointed.

If a young person’s peer group are all receiving results on the same day, it could be that a trusted friend may be largely unavailable to offer emotional support that particular day, if required. Someone at home, perhaps a parent, could be in a better position to really listen to how the young person is feeling.

For a parent to offer this support is useful. Then, by listening to the expression of disappointment, parents can check in with the young person about what they are thinking about. This provides an opportunity to steer their thinking away from negative thoughts which could damage their self-esteem.

 

Take a wider, longer-term view

There is always more than one way to get from A to B but on results day, it is hard to remember this as many young people have route A, their preferred first choice, very much in mind. No matter what career a young person has set their heart on, there is always the possibility of pursuing that goal, no matter what the exam results are.

It is important for parents to remind young people of this, ahead of results day as well as on the day itself, if they are feeling disappointed. It is also good to remind young people not to put pressure on themselves to figure out an alternative route straight away.

Taking a few days to process the emotions they are feeling is enough for the young person to deal with.

 

Celebrate effort more than results

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the points system and the number of points received. This can create the impression that results matter more than effort, but that is not necessarily the case.

In many areas of life, whether it is within relationships, within a workplace context or pursuing a life goal, effort matters a very great deal indeed.

Young people on results day may believe that results matter more than effort. But holding this belief does not make it a fact. It is vital for young people to be reminded of the validity and importance of effort. It is vital also that they be encouraged to celebrate effort, rather than just results.

Celebrating efforts made throughout the exam period and throughout the school life has much merit. Parents can take a lead by placing focus on and congratulating effort.

 

IQ versus EQ

The Leaving Cert does not take account of many an individual’s worthy qualities. Points are not awarded for kindness, a person’s level of honesty or a person’s social skills and yet these qualities matter a very great deal.

Research from Harvard Business School showed that emotional intelligence was twice as important as intellectual intelligence and technical skill when it came to determining who would be successful in life. In order for a person to become emotionally intelligent, a person must be able to experience empathy.

In order to experience empathy, a person must first be able to tune into and feel their own emotions deeply. There is an opportunity with disappointment to do just this; to feel deeply, to bear difficult emotion. And that can be a significant aspect of success.

Results day is significant, but it does not determine how the future will be. Young people may need to be reminded of that.

 

Anne Mc Cormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI & ICP.

 

Holiday Harmony: a guide for parents and teenagers

Holiday harmony: a guide for parents and teenagers
Try to coordinate your and your teen’s expectations to make this a relaxing, stress-free summer
Anne McCormack

Irish Times Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 01:00
Few parents relish the long break from school that stretches ahead for their teenagers. Summer jobs are practically nonexistent these days, and unless they are particularly motivated themselves, parents might feel that all their teenagers wish for is time to be idle and free.
Some parents feel the secondary school summer break is too long. A three-month break from a solid routine and an environment that is conducive to learning adds up to a lot more days than many parents would choose for their offspring to be idle.
Yet the vast majority of adolescents relish the idea of this long period of rest from school, viewing it as a time to unwind and shift gear, away from the pressure of academic work.

Tension can build within families over this extended summer break. Teenagers can become bored and demanding; parents can become frustrated and impatient.
There are two main reasons for this rise in stress and tension during the summer. One is that family members have expectations of each other that are not being met, or even expressed. Secondly, they are not communicating about their hopes for the summer and how to achieve harmony in the home in time, if at all.
The impact of this rise in tension and stress for a family unit can have a bad effect on all family relationships, not just the parent-teenager one. The couple relationship within the family can become strained as the overall atmosphere becomes more tense. Then the level of intimacy felt by parents towards each other can become lost in an environment of continuous argument and disagreement.
But it is possible to plan the summer mindfully, by having a sense of where you wish to go and how you wish to get there, maintaining awareness of each moment as it comes.

Taking action in time
It is possible for parents to avoid conflict during the summer by sitting down and making a plan about how to create the context for harmonious family life over the coming weeks.
They can take charge of creating the context for harmonious living and can do so in a way that does not result in teenagers feeling as if they are being “controlled”.
The first step involves reflecting on what you expect from each person in the family over the summer, and what you expect from yourself.
It is important, if there are two parents in the family, that these hopes and expectations are shared with the other parent first, as any differences in opinion about what a teenager is and is not allowed to do can be aired and agreed upon before the conversation with the teenager begins.

Expectations
One of the most important things for parents to work out early in the summer are their expectations of the teenager. It is best to be specific, as this is part of what will help when it comes to talking clearly with the teenager about it.
If a parent expects their teenager will be more helpful and more involved in household chores, given that they have more free time, it is important to be specific in relation to what exactly is expected. For example, would making dinner for the family once a week meet your expectation, or would more be expected? Would you like them to help out in the garden or do some cleaning?
Most parents reasonably expect some increase in the amount of effort teenagers make within the household over the summer. Some teenagers may expect this to translate into more money in their pocket at the end of each week. Teenagers are on their way towards adulthood, so the increased level of responsibility for chores can help prepare them for life.
Making a list, thinking it through and then asking the other parent to go through it also allows space for clear communication to happen between the couple. This will prevent tension between them later on if expectations are not being met by the teenager.
If both parents are clear of the other’s expectations, they are more likely to back each other up.
It is good for parents to consider their expectations about time spent on social media or engaged with technology; time spent with friends and away from the house compared with the amount of time spent with family; expectations around curfews, financial support, lifts to and from places, and so on. When a parent has a clear idea about each of these areas, it is a good time then, to introduce the topic to the teenager.

The context of communicating with teenagers
Going through the teenage years can be difficult. There are many changes happening for teenagers and intense feelings such as infatuation, frustration and anger can be hard for teenagers to deal with.
Teenagers are often self-conscious and can seem to adults to be somewhat self-absorbed. This can reflect their often-felt worry and preoccupation with what others think of them. As this is something that matters greatly to a lot of teenagers, being around peers becomes a very important aspect of teenage life.
Peer contact – either face-to-face or online – serves as a way for the teenager to get direct or indirect feedback about themselves.
It is within peer groups that teenagers really get to work out their identity: under the surface, in their unconscious mind, this a major question teenagers deal with on an ongoing basis. Who am I? What does the world think of me? What will I think of myself? These questions are psychologically where teenagers are at, even though they are largely unaware of that fact themselves. This explains the preoccupation with peer contact.
Every teenager is different and it is very important that any discussion about expectations includes some question about how much contact a teenager wishes to have with their peers.
It is important for parents to recognise how important this contact can be for teenagers and not to be dismissive of their desire to see their friends a lot.
It is also, however, good that some balance is struck and that teenagers are encouraged not to become reliant on feedback from peers to work out how they view themselves. Some time with family is good for teenagers as this will be character forming, as well as good for overall family life.

Starting the conversation
Beginning the conversation with a teenager about their hopes and expectations for the summer can be tricky. Parents do not wish to be seen as nagging, and many parents fear that bringing up a conversation about expectations of each other will be viewed in a negative light.
Viewing the conversation as an opportunity to look together at how the teenager and the rest of the family can have an enjoyable summer is a good way to introduce the topic.
It is important to let the teenager know ahead of time that this is something you wish to chat to them about, perhaps mentioning it very briefly and then scheduling a time to talk and relax together over the coming days.
When parents sit down and begin the conversation, it is good for the parent to try to take on a listening position. That way, it is more likely that the teenager will feel heard and will, in turn, then be more ready to hear the parent.
To ask the teenager what they wish their summer to be like and what they are looking forward to, is a good positive way to begin. Teenagers may not have thought it through but by prompting them, it is possible to elicit a sense of how they wish the summer to be.
It is important to be specific with them about the people they wish to have contact with over the summer, how much of it is in person and how much of it is online.
Inquire gently, as this then provides an opportunity for parents to get a sense of how much their social life is online and therefore not “real” social contact. Social contact that is face to face is better for teenagers than too much social contact online. This conversation allows a space for the parent to articulate this view.

Communicating about the communication
It is useful if only part of the initial discussion involves expressing expectations and negotiating around chores and curfews. Another part of this initial discussion should be about how communication will happen as the summer goes along, as expectations and wishes can change.
It is important for the parent to emphasise and acknowledge that even if an initial plan has been agreed, there may be times during the summer when the parent expects more from the teenager or the teenager wants more from the parent. Both parties should have the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of any agreed plan and there should be a way to check in and review how things are going with each other.
Building in this period of time to review or revisit the agreement is part of what will keep the atmosphere good through the summer.
A particular time each week, either out of the house going for a walk together or in the house with no distractions around, is worth scheduling. This built-in checking-in time will act as a buffer against tensions rising.

Enthusiasm and unplugging
Parents are often stressed and busy, and it can be hard for them to imagine being in teenagers’ shoes. But it is important for parents to try, and to tune into their memories of their own school summer holidays. That way, parents will connect more easily with how their teenager might be feeling and may end up wishing they too had a long break from work and routine.
The lack of structure at summer brings so much opportunity for teenagers; to experience life in a different way, to take time to get out into nature, to be in the world at a different pace to how they are the rest of the year. But with the rise in the amount of time teenagers are spending on social media and on technology, they are missing many opportunities the natural world has to offer them.
Parents have a role to play in encouraging teenagers to unplug and get outdoors into nature. Parents, by becoming enthusiastic about unplugging themselves, set the example for the teenager. Again, a specific expectation can be expressed in relation to this plan to unplug.
Parents can take control now of creating the context for harmonious family life this summer. Beginning the conversation with a sense of enthusiasm and positivity means parents are much more likely to succeed. Working hard all year, parents deserve a relaxing time through summer just as much as any teenager does.
Express expectations: it is only through shaping the conversation that parents get to shape the family’s world.

Anne McCormack is a family therapist accredited to FTAI and ICP

A week in my…Family Therapy Practice – KAREN LEONARD

A week in my . . . family therapy practice:  KAREN LEONARD

‘There’s a lot of expectations on families and parents to get things right’ KAREN Leonard Karen Leonard, family therapist: “There’s a lot of pressure on teenagers in terms of social media, the points system, their image and their sexuality.” Photograph: Brian Farrell

Irish Times Tue, Jun 23, 2015, 01:00 Colette Sheridan

I lecture full-time at Athlone Institute of Technology, educating future careworkers to work with families, young people and service users such as people with disabilities. And there’s a focus on educating people to work in the early-years sector.

I also have a private practice as a family therapist in Elphin, Co Roscommon, where I live. And I work in the Boyle Family Life Centre.

I do one night a week in my private practice, Crannóg Family Therapy, and I work Friday evenings in Boyle. I have to keep it to that. I talk to a lot to families and clients about boundaries. I have to have a very clear boundary around my down time. I don’t work at weekends.

I’m very disciplined and I suppose I’m an organised person by nature. I have to keep everything clear and planned out so I have an electronic diary and two phones; one is only for work.

Best of both worlds A few years ago, I was thinking that I’d go more into the clinical and practical work but then I thought that really, I have the best of both worlds. Client work can be very draining. I know therapists who do five or six sessions per day, listening to 30 or 40 cases every week. I see six families a week. Altogether, I work a 47-hour week.

The two jobs really help each other. Recently, I was doing up some notes for next year’s class and I found the research I was doing for that was keeping me up to date for my work with clients.

Also, while working with clients, I get ideas and scenarios from them that I can discuss in class but obviously I don’t breach confidentiality.

When I get feedback from the students at the end of the year, what they really like are the real-life examples I talk about. I give them scenarios and dilemmas that we tease out. It brings the theory more into focus for them. The course, in applied social studies in social care, is very much geared towards practice. When the students graduate, they need to be able to do their job.

Unlike training courses where everybody wants to be there, when you’re lecturing students, they may have other things on their minds.  The challenge is to make the work applicable and to make the environment conducive to discussion.

Family therapy For my family therapy work, I get referrals from GPs and I sometimes work with psychiatrists. If, for example, a person is at risk of suicide, I’d need a psychiatric assessment.

Sometimes a young person with, for example, an eating disorder, might need to go to hospital for in-patient treatment so I’d have a good working relationship with psychiatrists, doctors and social workers – and sometimes teachers, too.

Young people can show problems at school in terms of non-attendance, or they can be very anxious. My job is to tease out where the anxiety is coming from. I would also bring in the parents because it’s not always just the young person who needs help. There’s a lot of expectations on families and parents to get things right. With the recession, a lot of families have been under stress with maybe one partner having to be away from home for work in England or farther afield. There’s a lot of pressure on teenagers in terms of social media, the points system, their image and their sexuality.

Rapport with adolescents Working with adolescents is not an area that everybody likes because they’re seen as challenging. But I tend to have a good rapport with them.

If you start by talking to them about what they’re interested in rather than broaching the problem straight away, it usually helps. And I sometimes talk to them one-to-one. My main area of work is with teenagers and their families. Most people who come to me want to get on well with their families. So usually, they’re quite motivated to make changes and that in itself makes the work easier.

Compared with other models of therapy, family therapy is rewarding in that you tend to see results quite quickly. My work is usually about trying to change communication patterns or dynamics within the family. After six to 10 weeks, I would see a big difference in a family.

One of the challenges in my private practice is that I would be likely to carry stuff home from there rather than from my work in Boyle, where I have a line manager to talk to if I need to. But when I’m seeing people on my own, I have to work things out myself or go to see my supervisor.

Supervision is ongoing. It happens when you’re engaging with the course and continues after you have qualified. I trained at UCD and at the Mater Hospital. When I was doing my masters in family therapy, it involved group therapy and clinical supervision.

Once I qualified, I registered as a family therapist which means I have to see my own clinical supervisor. I have peer supervision with other therapists in Boyle. We do that every two weeks. It’s necessary for continuing professional development. It’s an opportunity to reflect on cases.

I’d like to think I know myself very well, flaws and all. I suppose I can be a bit hard on myself sometimes. I probably need to be a bit kinder to myself.

Busy Schdule Monday to Friday is very busy. My husband, Graeme Moore, is at home most of the time. He’s a social care worker and works two nights a week with the Brothers of Charity.

When I talk to my students about how gender roles are changing, I realise that Graeme is doing the more traditional maternal role. We have an eight-year-old daughter, Daisy. Graeme does the school lifts and supervises homework. I have to travel for an hour to get to Athlone, so that adds more time onto my working day.

For my lecturing work, there’s a lot of administration. On the family therapy side, there are case notes to be kept, writing letters, sometimes writing court reports, as well making phone calls to organise appointments. I try to do that in the evening. I don’t mind that side of the work. It fits in with my personality. Writing up case notes puts a bit of closure on the day.

Karen Leonard has an essay on parenting adolescents in Learning on the Job: Parenting in Modern Ireland, which is published by Oak Tree Press

Why our partners matter most to us

Why our partners matter most to us

Our most important relationships are not with blood relatives but with partners and friends

Irish Times Sat, Mar 21, 2015,  Kate Holmquist

In a stressful and fast-changing world, who do we rely on? The Family Values survey, conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of The Irish Times, shows that our partners are the most significant people in our lives.

For people in relationships, partners are the people we spend most time with outside of work, the people we are most likely to share a problem with, and the people we say have, except for our parents, had most influence on our lives.

Friends are generally the next most important people in our lives. Nineteen per cent of us spend most of our time with a friend, and 18 per cent of us are most likely to share a problem with a friend.

For those not in a relationship, friends are more important than any family member. Thirty-nine per cent of single people name a friend as the person they spend most time with, and more than a third of single people say they are most likely to share a problem with a friend.

When these figures are broken down by gender, however, we begin to see that, within relationships, men rely more on women than women do on men.

That is the “grand statement” that Brendan Madden, a relationships expert and psychotherapist, believes the research is making. “Men need to reach out to each other, and women who are already good at reaching out need to pass their skills on to the men in their lives.”

Emotional support

The Family Values survey shows that married men and men who live with their partners seek social and emotional support from their spouses or partners more than women do.

“Men and women are very different in who they spend time with, share problems with and who influences who,” says Madden. “Women continue to prioritise friends and other family members, while men seem to be more focused on the primary relationship. Over time men become less inclined to share problems with others outside the relationship, and women become more inclined to share problems with others. This reflects the dynamics we see in family therapy, where men are more reluctant.”

Women spend less time with their spouses or partners than men do. Fifty-seven per cent of men turn first to their partners with problems; just 43 per cent of women do. Women have a wider emotional support network, spending 42 per cent of their time with friends and female family members. (Twenty-one per cent of women name friends as the people they spend most time with outside work; 21 per cent name daughters, mothers or sisters).

Mothers are seven times more likely to turn to their daughters than they are to their sons. What does this mean for those sons?

Trish Murphy, a psychotherapist, says, “This is probably unfair to their sons, as there is no doubt that sons are as capable of understanding and supporting mothers as are daughters. However, there is probably a left-over heritage of men being the strong, silent types and women the caring ones.”

Men are less likely than women to share a problem with a friend (15 per cent versus 21 per cent). And just 11 per cent of men share problems with mothers and sisters, compared with 21 per cent of women.

“It’s significant that mothers are seven times more likely to share problems with their daughters than with their sons,” says Madden. The statistics also “show that fathers don’t share their problems with anybody,” he says. “Men are also very reluctant to share problems with their sisters, which speaks to a wider issue of the emotional challenges facing young men. One message from the survey is that mothers need to make time to share their own problems with their sons, not just their daughters.”

To teach young men communication skills around emotional problem-solving, parents must model this behaviour with their children, especially their sons, instead of the sharing of problems remaining a female preserve.

As men, more than women, rely on their partners for support, what does this mean for men who don’t have partners to share with? And for lone fathers?

Trish Murphy says, “This has an enormous effect on men, as lone men are deprived of emotional connection. The extreme example of this is where a man has experienced a broken relationship and feels suicidal afterwards and tells no one.

“Men have the full range of emotions, and their difficulty is that they are socialised into expressing only a certain range of these, such as joy at the team winning or anger or impatience at a slow car. However, some emotions, such as hurt and vulnerability, can be channelled into anger or irritation.”

It’s good news that younger men are more likely to share problems, according to the research. Murphy thinks this is a benefit of platonic female friendships formed in mixed schools and colleges. Yet when men become involved in a long-term relationship they lose their separate group of friends. “Men often let go of their involvement in sport, music, hiking, etc, so that they lose their own support networks,” Murphy says.

Fathers do not share their problems with their sons, and sons do not share problems with their fathers. And although three-quarters of people believe that relationships between fathers and children are better than in the past, sons and daughters are not turning to their fathers for support. “I think that the new male role model is still tentative and delicate. Possibly it will take another generation for fathers to have the same emotional support responsibilities and rights as women,” Murphy says.

Challenging shifts

Another finding is that the older men and women are, the more likely they are to turn to their spouses or partners for support – and this includes women. Madden says that this “reflects challenging shifts during various life stages. People shift their focus in a relationship depending on the role that is most significant in their life. At first the relationship with the spouse is most important; that shifts when the children arrive, and it shifts back when children have left the nest.”

For men the statistic that they rely far more on the women in their lives than women do on them is very difficult. “Men tend to try to sort out their problems alone – often with disastrous results. By discussing we learn from other people’s experience, and this can save us a lot of suffering,” Murphy says.

These statistics can teach us to improve mutual support in relationships, says Karen Kiernan, chief executive of One Family, a charity that supports one-parent families.

“If, with young children, you learn to listen and support them to find their own answers, whether you agree or not, then as adults they will still come to you and share what is happening for them. The parents who have very close relationships with their children are those who listen best and keep the wagging finger in their pocket.”

 

What are the different types of psychotherapy?

What are the different types of psychotherapy?

Here’s a rough guide to the types of therapist that are available to you

Irish Times Saturday, 10 January 2015

Kate Holmquist

Wht are the different types of psychotherapy? Most psychotherapists these days shy clear of labels and many combine various approaches. However, there are five “modalities” of psychotherapy within the Irish Council for Psychotherapy.

1. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy Once the exclusive preserve of psychiatrists, this method has developed light years with the times, while still having its origins in Freud and Jung, focusing on memories of childhood experiences. Six organisations represent psychoanalytic psychotherapy in Ireland. Psychotherapy ireland.com/disciplines/ psychoanalytic-therapy/

2. Constructivist Psychotherapy Every individual over time creates a story about themselves, the world around them and how they came to be who they are. This story allows them to anticipate or map out in their head how things will turn out. These maps can be unhelpful, especially if the person anticipates things turning out badly, so constructivism helps the client move towards a more informed and less negative view. See irishconstructivists.org.

3. Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy Integrative therapists use a variety of accredited psychotherapy practises so that they have the flexibility to employ what might help the client most. The phrase “humanist psychotherapy” is what appeals to many people, as it is based on the individual’s inherent drive towards development and growth, with the view that every human being has a capacity for fulfilment. See iahip.org.

4. Couple and Family Therapy With a reputation as the last stop before divorce, this approach when used earlier in the relationship can remind you why you fell in love and improve communication. It sees each individual as part of a system in which negative interactions with others can exacerbate an individual’s problems. For example, in a dysfunctional family system a particular family member may be “scapegoated” as the only individual with a problem – the depressive mother, the alcoholic father, the out-of-control teenager. Couple and family therapy takes a broader view of problems and seeks to improve relationships, while also taking account of the internal issues of each individual. Relationships Ireland offers couple and family therapy at low cost.

5. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy This is an active, problem-solving approach that can help alleviate depression and anxiety. The therapist and client share a journey towards understanding the relationship between the client’s feelings and behaviour. Changing thinking patterns can help sufferers of panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic depression, who often respond well with CBT. The number of sessions required depends on the needs of the client and the extent to which they need to explore, with the therapist, the reasons for their distress. Make sure that your CBT professional has the full accreditation required, which you can find out by consulting the Irish Council for Psychotherapy, Psychological Society of Ireland or National Association of Cognitive Behavioural Therapists (NACBT).

Therapy Unlocked

Therapy unlocked: a guide to finding the right therapist for you

There are thousands of therapists out there, but it’s not easy to assess their qualifications, particularly in the throes of a crisis. Here’s our guide to finding help

 

Irish Times, Saturday 10 January 2015

Kate Holmquist

When you have reached that difficult moment of emotional crisis where you’ve decided to reach out to a psychology professional, you will probably look online. Cue confusion. You see bewildering lists of accreditation letters – ICP, IACP, PSI, IAHIP, FTAI to name a few – and you notice that there appear to be several methods – Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Constructivist Psychotherapy, Couple and Family Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Humanistic Integrative psychotherapy.

You may see the words “counselling” and “psychotherapy” and wonder what the difference is. With so many phone numbers and emails you could use, for the uninitiated it’s a bit like putting a pin in an online map and hoping that the person who answers will be kind to you.

This feels like a shot in the dark, and yet you’ve never been more vulnerable because things have got pretty stressful for you to be phoning a complete stranger. As the phone rings, you may visualise yourself reaching Gabriel Byrne’s Dr Paul Weston of In Treatment, or Dr Jennifer Melfi in the Sopranos, Frasier Crane or even Sigmund Freud himself, with his goatee and couch where you will lie for an hour trying to remember your dreams. Who knows?

Finding a therapist is not like finding a dentist. Your friends will always have lists of dentists, and GPs and personal trainers to call. People tend not to discuss their therapists with each other, partly due to a lingering stigma in Ireland and partly because of the deeply private nature of the problem you are trying to solve.

Today psychotherapy in Ireland has developed to a high standard, even though there is no formal State accreditation of psychotherapists. Still, says psychotherapist Brendan Madden, many people still suffer for four or five years before seeking out a therapist and they may be at the end of their tethers, with sleep problems, anxiety or anger issues.

Whatever the reason for considering therapy, there’s no question that people feel extremely vulnerable when they finally decide to make the leap. Can you ask a friend? It’s a good idea, but you may not want to share your friend’s psychotherapist. Your GP may have a psychotherapist or counselling psychologist working in the practice, which can be a good place to start.

Comfortable

Finding a therapist may not seem as straightforward as finding a GP, but it’s actually a good idea to follow the same route. Do you feel comfortable with the person? Have they listened to you on the phone? Are they friendly, clear and otherwise consumer-aware (as in, telling you what they charge)? Are they nearby?

“In the same way we choose a doctor, we should allow ourselves the option of shopping around until we find someone we have a good fit with,” advises Trish Murphy, psychotherapist and Irish Times agony aunt. “This is not always easy and many people choose to stay with the person they first meet and this often works out well.”

Psychotherapists are trained to relate to and treat people who are distressed. They work to alleviate personal suffering and encourage change.

“The therapeutic relationship is very important and you have to be able to trust your therapist,” says Yvonne Tone, a cognitive behavioural therapist, one of the five “modalities” accredited. “It’s about collaborating with the therapist, working in a shared way to understand the problem, such as depression or anxiety, that you want to address.”

But first you have to figure out what all those accreditation letters mean and what the various forms of therapy are. Don’t you? “You can’t say that one therapy is better than another – for example, while CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) has been shown to be effective, there’s no evidence that it is better than other types of therapy,” says Brendan Madden.

Madden practises solution-focused “brief therapy”, where the client is encouraged to become “a solution detective” and discover their own strengths and solutions to whatever problem they’re facing, empowered by the therapist.

Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, sees the path of self-discovery, in cooperation with the therapist, as an end in itself. “Psychoanalysis respects the individuality of each person,” says Jose Castilho, psychoanalyst and chair of the Irish Council for Psychotherapy.

“It’s not about helping the client to adapt to the world, but helping the individual to adapt to him or herself.”

While it may have a reputation for being the scenic route to wellbeing, since it’s not goal-oriented, psychoanalysis has changed over the years and can help people who are in crisis from a breakup or the loss of a job over a short space of time. Others may remain in “analysis” or other talk therapy for years because of the insights they gain.

The uninitiated may think that any therapist of whatever ilk has a gift of insight into their personality that will eventually be revealed like the third secret of Fatima. You are bound to be disappointed, because like the Wizard in Oz, the therapist hasn’t got the answers, only you do. But an effective therapist will help you figure it out.

“Therapy is not a healing ritual or practice performed by the therapist to cure psychological distress. Recovery and emotional healing comes from the strong therapeutic alliance built over time between therapist and client – and it’s really the client who does all the work,” says Madden. Trusting relationship Murphy agrees that establishing a trusting relationship is the key to the success of the therapy. “It’s the relationship between the client and the therapist, not the particular model of therapy, that is most important.”

In recent years, psychotherapy has moved towards shorter, solution-focused therapies that can help the client get through a rough patch or to make a difficult decision. Some therapies, however, can involve much more time. Where there is a serious issue with depression or anxiety, the therapy could take years to get to the source of the problem, says Dermod Moore, chair of the Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP).

What qualifications should a psychotherapist have?  All psychotherapists should be accredited with a professional body that adheres to a code of ethics and has complaints procedures and standards of practice. Currently, the Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) is the umbrella body for all psychotherapy in Ireland, representing more than 1,250 psychotherapists who have undergone in-depth training and are committed to the highest standards of professional conduct. Another professional body is the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Currently, the qualifications required for ICP is seven years’ training, four of those at post- graduate level dedicated specifically to psychotherapy. Many Irish psychotherapists hold the European Certificate for Psychotherapy which qualifies practitioners to work anywhere in Europe.

What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist or psychotherapistst? The key difference is that a psychiatrist has been medically trained and holds a medical degree. The suffix “-iatry” means “medical treatment,” and “-logy” means “science” or “theory.” Psychiatry is the medical treatment of the psyche, and practitioners are therefore qualified to prescribe medication, while psychology is the science of the psyche.

A psychotherapist can be a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional, who has had further specialist training in psychotherapy which focuses on helping people to overcome stress, emotional and relationship problems or troublesome habits.

What will it cost? Many therapists offer a sliding scale based on your income, so be forthright about what you can afford from the start. The cost varies depending on the psychotherapist but a regular fee is somewhere between €70-€120 per session . Less expensive therapy is available through training programmes or subsidised systems. Many psychotherapists offer a sliding scale for unemployed or retired people. Student therapists need to practise to become qualified, so you can see someone in a training programme for €50 per hour or less. The upside is that student therapists tend to be very enthusiastic, dedicated and well-supervised.

What should my therapist be like? The therapist should empower you to feel more confident, not less. Empathy is his or her most important quality. Trust your gut instinct about whether this particular therapist is right for you. “Keep it simple and don’t be blinded by jargon. It’s the therapeutic relationship that counts – you have to have a sense that the therapist will listen, understand and work with you towards your goal,” says Madden. If you don’t feel it’s good for you or not what you agreed, then don’t be afraid to find another therapist that’s a better fit for you.

How often do I need to see the psychotherapist? Usually the first session is used to see if there is a fit between the therapist and client and to agree what the need is about the number of sessions. The average is probably about 8 weekly sessions. Some psychotherapists work on a twice-weekly basis; these would be in the minority.

Are all therapists neurotic? To train as a therapist, you do need to have therapy and sort out your own issues. However, it’s fair to say that there is a tendency for people to be drawn to psychotherapeutic training to sort out their own problems, which probably leads to a higher proportion of neurosis and issues among therapists than among the general population. But that’s usually a good thing because the therapist has probably developed a good deal of compassion and understanding on their journey to mental wellbeing and personal growth.

I’m still not sure. Why do I need a psychotherapist rather than a friend who is a good listener? A psychotherapist will help to unravel the tangles of the issue and help to clarify what the problem is and what can be dealt with at what time. “Psychotherapy is a safe place to explore and discuss the most difficult of things, even those that are hidden,” advises Trish Murphy.

When should I seek a therapist? “When you are troubled, suffering, shocked, grieved, floundering and unable to reach decisions,” advises Trish Murphy. “When a relationship – at home, at work or elsewhere – is in trouble is another appropriate time. A critical event might be an ideal time to source help: loss, death, accident, injury, change of country/job, rape, hurt and so on.”

How do I know it’s working? Generally, how things are working out early on in therapy is predictive of how things will turn out. “You should feel change and notice progress fairly early in the therapy process, over a matter of weeks rather than months,” says Madden. “By six to 10 sessions there should be some early change.”

There’s sometimes a notion that you have to get worse before you get better. Madden disagrees: “If it’s getting worse, something isn’t effective. You should be feeling more hopeful after six to 10 weeks and start to feel better. If not, discuss this with your therapist and consider doing something different .

How will I know if it’s not working? From the start, the psychotherapist should be professional and organised and give clear, reassuring answers about their qualifications and experience. The time, date, fee and location of the appointments should be fixed and agreed. The psychotherapist should be empathetic and always put the client’s needs first (for clients at risk of self-harm or abuse, safety needs come first). All psychotherapists are guided by their association’s code of ethics that guide practice and meeting client expectations. If clients are not making progress, therapists are obliged to listen to their feedback, change the direction or focus of therapy, or make a referral onwards.You should feel listened to and heard – that is the core of empathy, a necessary condition for change. With the exception of classical psychoanalysis, the client shouldn’t be expected to do all the talking. The therapist should take turns to summarise, paraphrase and clarify what the client is saying.

Are there cases where a couples therapist is better? Where there are difficulties in an intimate relationship, there is often a case for seeing a couples therapist. Where someone is undergoing personal therapy for depression, for example, and relationship issues arise, this does not necessarily mean leaving the individual therapist. Where both parties are willing, the therapist might seek to work specifically with them on couple issues for a period of time, which can be enormously helpful for both the individual’s depression and the couple relationship. Familytherapyireland.com is the professional body for couple and family therapists.

Many family therapists work with people on an individual, couple and family level. Other therapists offering couple therapy would be expected to have additional training or experience in this area.

 

Tell me about it: I’m being snubbed at the school gates by other mothers

Tell Me About It: I’m being snubbed at the school gates by other mothers

Trish Murphy

Irish Times: Tuesday,14th October 2014

Q I work full time in a high-pressure job that demands long hours at times, and I am the breadwinner in our family. A situation has developed at my kids’ school that makes me so mad that I feel like screaming at the instigators about how sexist, spiteful and rude they are.

I schedule my holidays to coincide with the school holidays, so I’m not a regular figure at the school gates. When my eldest started going to school I was on maternity leave, so I was around a lot more and got to know quite a few of the other mothers. However, some years on and two promotions later, my life is a blur of work and getting home to the kids. But I always try to get to their plays or concerts.

It was at one of these concerts a few years ago that one of the mothers who I know well but hadn’t seen in a while snubbed me, while saying hello to my husband. It was so pointed that it couldn’t be mistaken as an oversight. Soon after that, another mother whose child is in the same class walked by me on the footpath outside the school and quite spectacularly snubbed me. What was so hurtful about that is that her child is quite frequently in our house, playing with our children. She did it again after that, so I texted her and asked her why. She said that I’d ignored her first but that’s just not true.

More recently it happened again. I texted her and asked her why she had snubbed me. This time she didn’t reply. I can only surmise that it’s something to do with my absence at the school and perhaps a bitchfest that has gone into overdrive. Quite unusually, none of them work full time themselves. If I were a man, the fact that I work full time and am not a regular figure at the school would not be a problem. I also think it’s outrageous that these women think they can write me out of the equation while continuing to say hello to my husband and sending their kids to my house.

 

A The outside-the-school- gate politics can be very intense and often very hurtful. We can assume that everyone is comfortable and confident, but often parents are putting on a front of confidence while hiding their insecurities. Little groups can form at the gate, which is great for the people in those groups but very isolating for those who are outside or who are not around often enough to be connected.

Parenting is hugely important to most people and we place enormous importance on our decisions in this area. For some, giving up work in order to look after children is a principled decision, but it may mean sacrificing a career, status and worldly participation. The effect can be that some struggle with confidence, and the last place a parent wants to be insecure is in full view of their children and their friends.

You sound very angry by the slights and exclusions, but what comes through is that the underlying sentiment is one of hurt. It matters to you and the other mothers that you are all acknowledged and accepted. The chances are very high that the other mothers felt abandoned by you (not consciously) or envious of your options, or perhaps because you have moved into a world that did not value their choices. This may have left them feeling vulnerable, and so they were sensitive to your perceived ignoring of them. You also may be feeling sensitive as you valued being a full-time mother while on maternity leave, and so you may be feeling excluded from all that closeness and connection that comes from meeting like-minded people every day.

All of you put your children first, which is why they still send their children to your house and yours go to theirs. This is a higher value that should offer you all the possibility of reconciliation. Your husband is clearly connected to you and the other mothers, so perhaps he could organise a casual meet-up that might offer some real talking. Texting (or email) is the worst possible way of dealing with conflict. If you all meet, it would be because all of you would benefit from understanding and being heard. If this is not attempted, the next generation may well carry the burden of your falling out.

 

Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist.