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

Systemic Cafe on Statutory Registration 25th May 2015



   Date:              25th May 2015

   Time:             7.00pm – 9.00pm

   Venue:           Hampton Hotel (formerly Sachs Hotel)

                           19-29, Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, D.4

Topic:            How Statutory Registration might impact on membership of FTAI and the practice of members  employed within statutory sector, especially in circumstances where they are not employed as Family Therapists


Denis Murray and Valerie O’Brien will speak to this topic, and open discussion to the floor.


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

Date for your Diary Systemic Cafe 25th May 2015


Working with Adolescents in the Context of the Family

Crosscare Teen Counselling

Working with Adolescents in the Context of the Family

Road Maps and Toolkits: What works?

The family, both absent and present, is a major influence on young people. Keeping both parents and teens in mind is a vital, challenging and exciting opportunity for those working with them.

Mary Forrest and Fidelma Beirne will present themes from their 40 years working with adolescents and parents delivering Positive Systemic Practice, which is shown to be effective for adolescent emotional and behavioural problems.

It will be of interest to professionals working with adolescents or parents including social workers, psychologists, counsellors, psychotherapists, nurses and JLO’s.

When:                                   Friday 22nd May 2015, 9am to 4pm

Where:                                  The Red House, Clonliffe College, Clonliffe Road, Dublin 3

Cost:                                       €100. Includes Soup and Sandwiches at lunch time and a copy of the Positive Systemic Practice manual (retails at €25)  

Outline of the day

Roadmaps: Theory, therapy and principles guiding practice.

Toolkits: Engagement, middle and closing phases, catching teens and parents, working with teens and parents and finishing with teens and parents.

The day will be interactive with participants having the opportunity to consider their own work in this field. Participants are asked to have specific clients in mind to consider during the day.

Mary Forrest is Clinical Lead of Crosscare Teen Counselling and registered member of PSI and FTAI.

Fidelma Beirne is Senior Social Worker with Crosscare Teen Counselling.


How to Reserve Your Place:

Follow this link for booking information: https://v1.bookwhen.com/mfp7g/201505220900/ykb

If you experience any difficulty please contact abrowne@crosscare.ie


5.5 CPD points have been awarded for this event by the Family Therapy Association of Ireland


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.”


Sex Crime Victims should be able to meet offenders – Report


Criminal justice system ‘inherently ill-equipped’ to deal to sex crime challenges

Facing Forward report says: “Victims recognise very quickly that an adversarial criminal justice system reduces them to being a witness for the State and gives them very little opportunity to explain the impact of the abuse on their lives.”

Irish Times

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Mon, Dec 1, 2014, 01:00

A restorative justice system to enable victims to meet offenders should be introduced in cases of sexual violence, a new report recommends.

The study, based on 149 interviews with victims, offenders, judges and others, found strong support for the idea as a way of filling some gaps in the adversarial criminal justice system.

It found that the current courts system was “inherently ill-equipped” to address some of the challenges posed by sex crime, particularly for victims and their families, and argued that the high bar for evidence had resulted in almost 70 per cent of such cases not being prosecuted.

“Victims recognise very quickly that an adversarial criminal justice system reduces them . . . to being a witness for the State and gives them very little opportunity to explain the impact of the abuse on their lives,” according to the report, which was commissioned by Facing Forward, a voluntary organisation that advocates restorative justice methods.

Written by Dr Marie Keenan of the School of Applied Social Science at UCD and Bernadette Fahy, a counselling psychologist, it notes that fewer than one in 10 sex crime cases ever reaches the criminal justice system.

“For the vast majority of victims of sexual crime, a gulf exists between what the criminal justice system promises and what it can actually deliver.”

Sense of isolation

Victims who participated in the study spoke of their frustrations with long delays, a lack of information on how to navigate the system and the sense of isolation they felt after making reports to gardaí.

Offenders who took part in the project, among them a number of people serving life sentences, described a system that they felt encouraged them towards denial rather than acceptance of responsibility.

“Those interviewed were aware of the damage they had done to the victims and even though they were scared of meeting them, many felt they owed it to the victim they had hurt,” the report states.

The authors argue that sex crime, given its complexity and its acute psychological impact, often calls for a more flexible approach to justice than a courts system that is “by design offender-focused, with the imperative to gather evidence, to prosecute law-breaking and to punish law-breakers”.

Victims quoted in the report said that while the criminal justice system provided a sense of public validation and vindication, by virtue of their claims being believed, another form of accountability was needed.

“While refinements are certainly required to the conventional justice system, no amount of reform in that system will ever enable it to offer victims of sexual crime what they require: a victim-centred justice response.”

Idea supported

Of 23 offenders interviewed for the study, all supported the idea of introducing such a restorative justice scheme, but some expressed fear about meeting their victims and said they would not initiate it.

The report, which will be launched in Dublin today, recommended that a three-year pilot project of “restorative justice” in certain cases of sexual violence should be established “as a matter of urgency”.

Please click on link below for a copy of the Report.

Sexual Trauma and Abuse_ Restorative and Transformative Possibilities

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.


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.


Irish Council for Psychotherapy CEO Position

Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP)

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Half-time contract for one year

Application deadline: 19th December 2014


The Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) is the umbrella body that represents over 1,300 psychotherapists and the broadest range of psychotherapy modalities in Ireland.

Our primary objective is to contribute to public health by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, practice and ongoing education of psychotherapists.

The Executive of ICP recognises that in order to meet the growing demands and needs of our stakeholders, we require a CEO to fulfil a variety of functions, having particular regard to the challenging period ahead, as a result of the statutory regulation.

The ideal Candidate will have;

  • Previous CEO experience or equivalent
  • Knowledge of the field of psychotherapy and mental health
  • Experience in media, social media and PR
  • Competency in strategic planning and implementation
  • Leadership and team skills and ability to communicate with stakeholders
  • Ability to liaise with Government and other significant agencies
  • A knowledge of statutory regulation for psychotherapy would be an advantage

This post is for a sole trader and offers a remuneration package commensurate with its responsibilities.

Please email expression of interest by cover letter and CV to:



or by post to:

Tania Kacperski,

13 Upper Leeson St.,

Dublin 4

Tel: 01 9023819             Website: www.psychotherapy-ireland.com

One Day Workshop with Jim Wilson

A Systemic Orientation to Keeping Practice Thriving with Families and their Networks


This event is co-sponsored by the Family Therapy Association of Ireland and University College Dublin (Family Therapy Training Programme, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital)


One Day Workshop


Jim Wilson

Date:                   5th December 2014

Venue:                Ashling Hotel, Parkgate Street, Dublin 8.

Time:                   9.30a.m. – 4.30p.m.

“The mere fact that we recognize the importance of ideals that are better than our existing practice does not in itself mean we are hypocrites or humbugs. It is normal. The whole point of having ideals at all is to criticise current practice. If there were a society whose ideals were no more than a description of its existing behaviour it would be almost inconceivably inert “Mary Midgley, “Science and Poetry” (2001).

This workshop will emphasise a social – relational attempt to keep practice alive in Mental Health and Social Care settings where the endless manufacturing of diagnoses and explanatory theories for problems of living lack a corresponding appreciation of the skills necessary to create contexts of care, curiosity and competence as the basis of sound “humanualised” practices.

“In most…. treatments there is a rush towards meaning leaving the present moment behind. We forget that there is a difference between meaning, in the sense of understanding enough to explain it , and experiencing more deeply “Daniel Stern in “The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life” ( Norton ,2004 )

Jim will offer a “Possibilist” orientation to Practice where creativity, spontaneity and critically reflective thinking are characteristic features, to counter the false dawn of utopian cure-alls or the gathering darkness of pessimism about what can or cannot be achieved. Themes will include;

  • Doing what is realistic and negotiable in therapy and family work.
  • Expanding the practitioner’s repertoire of possibilities in child and family meetings
  • Creating useful connections with clients and patients
  • Broadening the range of methods and movement in family sessions.
  • Illustrating Possibilist practices in Supervision
  • Generating useful dialogue beyond “resistance” , tired explanations, and false certainties, in professional discourse and case meetings


JIM WILSON worked until recently as a Consultant Systemic Psychotherapist (part –time) with Greenwich CAMHS. He is author of papers on aspects of family therapy, its politics, supervision and the treatment of child mental health concerns. His books; “Child Focused Practice; a Collaborative Systemic Approach” (Karnac 1998 ) and “The Performance of Practice ; Enhancing the Repertoire of Therapy with Children and Families“ (Karnac 2007) have been translated into several languages. Jim offers training, consultation and supervision to staff in Mental Health and Social Care organizations in the UK and Europe. He is a founding member of the Open Network for Dialogical Practices (established 2011).



Please contact FTAI at amdpsy@gmail.com or 01-2722105 to obtain a booking form


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.