The Systemic Cafe 27th March 2012 – Review by Declan Moran

The Systemic Café


Entry by Declan Moran – Family Therapist –The Lucena Clinic & Clanwilliam Institute.

The D4 Berkley Hotel is usually a renowned gathering point for the Leinster & Irish Rugby faithful. However on Tuesday the 27th of March 2012 it hosted a different type of gathering namely The Systemic Café. This was the fourth systemic Café to date and the topic of the evening was “Beyond stress, Therapists chilling out”.

Incoming Chairperson of the FTAI, Ms. Trish Murphy, hosted the evening and the guest speakers included outgoing chairperson Ms. Marie Keenan (Researcher & lecturer UCD), Mr. Dermot Coonan (Counseling Psychologist at Trinity College) & Ms. Michelle Magill (founder of MELT In Temple Bar, Sculptor & Chinese herbalist).

On this occasion the speakers & audience appeared at one and a most interesting personal account of how stress is viewed experienced & managed ensued. It was my experience that the multitude of layers & ideas explored helped to ignite the systemic mind (similar to that of a systemic team in session). Whilst the conversation is too vast to summarize on a website, a common theme of caring for oneself emerged & are evident in the following themes that weaved through this gorgeous Tuesday evening;

“May I be well”

“You are obliged to mind ones heart”

“Mindfulness & prayer”

“Relinquishing ones worry & stress to a higher power”

“Cultural views on stress”


After a long busy day at work the last place you may wish to go is the Systemic Café –Ironically it is just what you need!


Declan Moran- Family Therapist

It’s serious stuff, so call in the experts – Tim Smyth. Irish Times 27th March 2012

It’s serious stuff, so call in the experts


Irish Times Health Supplement: Tuesday, 27th March 2012

MIND MOVES: ‘YOU DO know that the Irish are supposed to be immune to this therapy business, don’t you?” I said to her, trying to sound wary rather than nervous.

“Why is it that the only bit of psychology that anybody can quote is from that film The Departed?”

I shrugged. “Because it’s deadly, I suppose.”

“Well, okay. Fair enough. But it’s also untrue.”

I folded my arms. “We’ll find out.”

I was back in for therapy after a gap of two years. The last time I was in was just after starting a course of anti-depressants. I stopped taking the tablets about nine months ago, and since then I’ve started to build on the lessons I’ve learned from depression.

Never waste a good crisis, they say, and I don’t think I have. Certainly I’ve been affected by the whole thing, but I don’t let it define me. If anything, I make use of it, and try to see it as an early-warning system. If I look too harshly on how my day went for too many days in a row, then I know it’s time to change the way I’m doing things.

That’s what led me back to a psychotherapist. It took me a while, because it’s always struck me as such a strange relationship. You can’t really compare it with anything else. They’re the ones you tell stuff you can’t tell a friend or to someone you’re going out with, but you don’t meet them out for pints or talk a huge amount about TV.

There’s a professional decorum about it all, even when the material under discussion is intensely personal. You have a respect for this person that’s close to parental, but the relationship is an equal one: it’s just two people talking.

Therapy is a kind of work, but you’re not quite colleagues. Most work aims at perfection and discipline, but the watchwords of therapy tend to be “flexibility” and “good enough”. It’s the strangest situation you can imagine.

And that’s precisely the point. A therapist isn’t like anybody else. The reason we can’t quite put words on what they’re for is because they’re there to fill the gap that every other relationship leaves out. They help you take care of the things that remain to be solved when everything else is in place.

Being normal means having things to sort out. Actually, I’d go further with that: having a full life means you have things to sort out. If I didn’t think that I could do something every day to improve my life, I can’t imagine I’d have a huge amount of fun. Looked at from a certain angle, everything we do is because things are a bit wrong, or at least aren’t quite right.

Updating the music collection, giving it loads at the gym, even trying to find the right place to go for lunch: it’s all part of that, even when we don’t realise it.

I don’t intend to diminish the size of the work that goes in to sorting your head out, though. It’s a serious business, and that’s why you get a professional in. I certainly wouldn’t trust myself to fix my laptop if it was acting up, same as I’m not going to try to sort out stuff in my life that I’m too immersed in to see properly.

When I’m in a rough place, all I can see is a mess of wires, like when I look at the inside of a computer. A therapist can help you see how they’re connected. That’s not to make it a question of pure expertise: you need compassion, patience and a serious amount of skill to do this kind of job properly.

If this strikes you as weirdly open, it’s because I genuinely believe we all need some form of mental health practice that helps us through the day. Whatever form they take, these practices are about improving our methods of dealing with the world. They are ways through the obstacles that we don’t even notice half the time.

I’m not going to mistake my initial flush of excitement at taking the first steps for recovery itself. I don’t get to make that call, because I’ve chosen to work with someone who will help me get to that point in life. There’ll be good and bad days, same as there are when you take on any kind of job or project, and I don’t know in the morning how each day’s going to turn out.

One thing I do know though, is that The Departed is still a deadly film even if it is off the mark about the benefits of therapy.

Tim Smyth is Youth Ambassador for Headstrong – The National Centre for Youth Mental Health (


Systemic Cafe – Tuesday 27th March 2012: Beyond Stress: Therapists Chilling Out

Systemic Cafe March 2012

Welcome to  Systemic Cafe where FTAI  members, colleagues & friends met to socialise, share ideas, observe, or participate in a short discussion, have a drink & relax we are ready to roll again. It is free. It was our desire to come together in a more casual atmosphere of friendship and therapeutic curiosity that made the Systemic Cafe so enjoyable. This time we have a great new venue with a cosy fire, comfortable seats and warm ambiance (a fine, private section of the original Bar at the Berkley Court). 


Venue:         THE D-4 BERKLEY HOTEL

                      Lansdowne Road,  Ballsbridge,  Dublin 4.

                       (3 mins.from Lansdowne Rd. DART,   15 mins walk from Grafton St.)

     Date:              Tuesday 27th March 2012

    Time:                7.00 – 9.00pm

    Topic:              ‘Beyond Stress; Therapists chilling out’

“Beyond Stress: therapists chilling out”.  Avoiding burnout, our collective experiences that only we know. Lets share our communal tips, insights, secrets to coping with the subtle, and not so subtle pressures of our work. There’s definitely a light side to many of our stories and experiences. Lets share the experiences that make life fun!


Michelle Magill’s background is founded in art ( NCAD). For many years she taught students at secondary school level from her own ceramic studio, she was also a teacher in Parnell secondary school.For many years she taught life drawing classes and sculpture classes to blind and visually impaired.She first became involved in alternative medicine in 1989. She studied massage, body talk, polarity therapy, reiki, tuina massage, acupuncture, gestalt therapy, Chinese herbalism and Pilates teacher training. She opened MELT in Temple Bar in 1996, and she currently employs 12 therapists mostly in massage and acupuncture. Most of her treatments involve fertility treatments and backpain.

Marie Keenan is a Researcher and Lecturer at the School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin and a member of the Advisory Board of the UCD Institute of Criminology. She was Chairperson of the Family Therapy Association of Ireland 2010-2012 and an Accredited Psychotherapist who has worked for over twenty years with survivors and perpetrators of sexual crime and their families in community and forensic settings. Her most recent publication Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power and Organizational Culture was published by Oxford University Press in October 2011.

Dermot Coonan is a counselling psychologist with experience in working with teens and adults in community and 3rd level settings. For the past 6 years, Dermot has been working at the Student Counselling Service in Trinity College, gaining experience in online, face-to-face and group work. Dermot describes himself as a client centred therapist that tries to be integrative. He aims to facilitate clients to explore external social and internal personal factors and to identify strengths, values and supports to accept uncertainty and face their challenges. For 5 years, Dermot raced between 2 half-time jobs and his young family. Over this period he feels he learned a lot about stress.



For those coming directly from work, The D4 BERKLEY has a ‘Bar Food’ menu (at your own expense!). The discussion starts at 7pm.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) = 2 hours. CPD certificates will be issued by the Family Therapy Assoc. of Ireland (FTAI).      See you @ the Systemic Cafe.


Vincent Browne writes about Marie Keenan’s book: Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power and Organisational Culture.

Theology of priesthood behind sex abuse crisis

VINCENT BROWNE – Irish Times 21st March 2012

CLERICAL SEXUAL abuse is inevitable given the meaning system that is taught by the Catholic Church and to which many priests adhere.

Contradictions in that system lead to failure, increase shame and a way of living that encourages deviant behaviour.

This is the thesis of a revealing book on sexual abuse within the church by an Irish academic and therapist who interviewed, at length, nine priests and brothers convicted of child abuse, who counselled several other clerical abusers and who undertook extensive research on the issue for her book Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power and Organisational Culture. The author is Marie Keenan of the school of applied social science at UCD.

It is evident that the apostolic visitors – Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, Thomas Christopher Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York – didn’t read the book or speak to Keenan while in Ireland.

Their report, published in summary form yesterday, might have been very different had they done so.

The culture inculcated in Catholic clergy is that they are separate from other human beings because of their special “calling” from God, because of their sole capacity to administer the sacraments, to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, because of their power to forgive sin and administer the last rites.

From the moment of their ordination they are apart, apart in the minds of other convinced Catholics and apart in their own minds. And they are also celibate, because of that “calling”. Abjuring intimate sexual relations, sublimating their sexual urges and widely admired in the communities they inhabit on account of that sublimation.

Keenan says this theology of sacrifice eclipses all human considerations. She says her argument is not that clerical celibacy is the problem but a Catholic externally-imposed sexual ethic and a theology of priesthood that “problematises” the body and erotic sexual desire and emphasises chastity and purity, over a relational ethic (how as human beings we should treat each other).

She says this theology of sexuality contributes to self-hatred, shame and a sense of personal failure on the part of some priests.

This tension is often exacerbated by a sense of powerlessness on the part of many priests within a hierarchical, authoritarian church, subject to the authority of bishops or heads of religious orders, often allowing them with little sense of being in control of their own lives. And this is further added to by loneliness.

Some priests cope with this by easing off on the celibacy bit. Some ease off the celibacy bit with guilt, some with a sense of doing their best with their human frailties.

According to Keenan it is often the priests who aspire to priestly perfection and are hugely conflicted with the demands of such perfection that resort to child sexual abuse, usually, she says, not opportunistically, but consciously and deliberately over time. And this seems to be confirmed by other research.

Moreover, in many ways, the release of the confessional – the opportunity to dispel guilt in a secret ritual – compounds the problem. The “external” imposition (by the church) of the priestly ethic, rather than the cultivation of an internal ethic, also contributes to the propensity to abuse; for the construction of an internal ethic involves reflection on the impact of one’s conduct on the lives of others and that seems to have been missing in the make-up of many of the clerical abusers.

There is nothing at all of this in the report of the bachelor apostolic visitors, instead a recommendation that the culture of the seminary be intensified in the lives of aspirants for the priesthood. No acknowledgment is made of the tension inherent in the celibacy thing and the hypocrisies and traumas to which it gives rise.

In general there seems to be little interest in why this clerical abuse has occurred and what it is within the Catholic culture that has engendered it. The dismissive explanation that it is all due to the “flawed” personalities of the abusers ignores the cultural and formative factors that at least contributed to the phenomenon.

There is a further point which is also not addressed at all by the Catholic Church and it has to do with society’s treatment of the clerical perpetrators after they have served their sentences. They are rendered effectively homeless by a public rage directed at them, engendered largely by the media.

Our system of justice ordains that people who commit even the most heinous of crimes are brought before the courts, convicted, publicly shamed and then imprisoned, after which, that’s it. And yet, often in denial of their human rights, they remain hounded for the remainder of their days. Moreover, very often those who do the most vigorous hounding are those who speak most loudly that bit from what is known as “the Lord’s Prayer”: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”


Scott Wooley Two Day Workshop

Scott Wooley will present this two day Workshop entitled  ‘Using Emotionally Focused Therapy when working with couples’ on  7th/8th October 2011 at the Westin Hotel in Dublin city centre.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a leading, revolutionary, empirically supported approach for treating couples.

Day 1 of this workshop lays out the theory and techniques of EFT and helps participants learn to de-escalate difficult couples and engage withdrawn partners.

Day 2 builds on the first day and focuses on softening pursuers, creating lasting secure bonds between partners, using 7 empirically derived steps to heal the devastating impact attachment injuries, and treating trauma in the context of couples therapy.

Video of therapy and supportive research is used throughout the two days to illustrate how EFT is used to help couples heal and develop long-term healthy bonds.

This two day Workshop will be held on Friday 7th & Saturday 8th October 2011 at the Westin Hotel (at College Green), Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2.

Workshops are from 10am – 4pm, with registration from 9.30am.

Download Registration Form

Regional Sub-committee

For some time the FTAI executive committee has been considering the needs of  members who work and live in various regions throughout the country. We hope these needs can be met more effectively via the work of the Regional committee which aims to build links with members and keep members more connected and informed.

Responses to a questionnaire sent to all members this year highlighted, perhaps not surprisingly, that family therapists value connecting with others and with groups that support their practice.

Often the only constraints to this are time and location.

Following this years AGM the committee expanded to include new members which is a very exciting development and there is great enthusiasm for the work of this group. Future ideas include moving the committee meetings around to different parts of the country to facilitate members and build links. Indeed building links and enhancing communication seems to be a central theme at this stage.

Other ideas included the use of the FTAI website as a central point for discussions and communication and the use of emails to keep members connected.

We welcome any new members who have an interest in being a part of this committee and we are open to any feedback members may have.