Trish Murphy, Chair FTAI, responds to question about relationships – Irish Times 6th March 2013

KATE HOLMQUIST – Irish Times Wednesday, 6th March 2013
Q My widowed father has been in a very happy long-term relationship but is now uncertain about continuing with it and wants to break up.
My siblings, who live abroad, have always encouraged this relationship, as it assuages their consciences about not visiting often enough and the burden of care falling with me.
At the moment he is well and independent, but they like him having a companion to be there to prevent loneliness and to be there in a crisis. But I feel that he should make whatever choice he wants, even though the implications of him being alone will most likely fall to me.
A My initial reaction is that you are right to support your father in whatever pleases him and to pledge your support. Then I wonder why your family is taking sides, when your father is no teenager and has to make his own decisions. If you’re divided now, what about the future when life-and-death decisions concerning your father may await?
“It’s very important to handle this well because this could set the scene for quite serious divisions in the future over issues such as long-term care,” says Trish Murphy psychotherapist and chair of the Family Therapy Association of Ireland.
“This is a classic conflict situation where if you go with one set of family opinion you have a win, making it a win-lose scenario, and a win won’t work,” she says.
Exacerbating the issue is that those sibling rivalries and jealousies never go away and can raise their ugly heads in fraught emails and phonecalls across time zones.
The best solution, she suggests, is for the family to reunite back home and sort things out with your father and each other.
Before you dismiss this as impractical, Murphy warns: “This is a big deal – it would be worth their while because this would be the basis of everything in the future that might happen, such as the possibility of long-term care, decisions about health and even the property and the will.
“It’s not uncommon for people to have to get a ward of court because the family can’t agree on a parent’s future. Division now could result in generations of the family not speaking to one another.”
If you can’t organise a geographic face-to-face, then Murphy suggests a Skype family meeting with a family therapist present.
If a Skype reunion seems a step too far, you might suggest counselling to your father to enable him to make a clear adult decision without worrying about what everybody else thinks.

Death at a distance: the worst phone call an emigrant can get

Death at a distance: the worst phone call an emigrant can get
Friday, February 8th, 2013 at 9:09 am

No one wants to hear a loved one is gravely ill, or worse, but being abroad makes it even harder to bear, writes Ciara Kenny

As Joe Buggy prepared to move out of his parents’ house in Kilkenny and begin a new life with his American fiancee in New York in 2010, the possibility that his father or mother might fall ill in his absence was a thought he chose not to dwell on.

But just 10 months after arriving in Manhattan, Buggy (29) got the call every emigrant dreads. His father had suffered a heart attack and his mother was calling him home. The flight back to Shannon went by in a blur, but he made it to the hospital in time to say goodbye before his father Michael died two days later.

“Being an emigrant when a parent dies leads to the explosion of a million thoughts in your head,” he says. “How will my mother and younger sisters cope? Should my wife and I move to Ireland and leave a good life we have begun to build in the US? Did my leaving somehow contribute to his death?”

Buggy returned to New York a month later, and since then has kept in contact with his family by email and Skype. “We have been able to talk about my dad’s death and share the pain and sadness we felt, but not in the usual manner as if we were living close to each other,” he says.

Trish Murphy, a psychotherapist and spokeswoman for the Family Therapy Association of Ireland, says a call about the illness or death of a loved one while far from home is “all our worst fears realised”.

“For many young emigrants, the worry that something like this might happen is a huge concern,” she says. The first reaction most of us have is to drop everything and run, but Murphy believes it is important to determine how serious the situation is before making any decisions.

“We act to alleviate anxiety, but it might not be best for you, your work or your family to go home immediately. If someone close is gravely ill, of course it is important to try to come back before they die, but if it is not life-threatening they might need your support more at another time.”

But being far away from a family member or friend who is suffering is always going to be hard, and it is important to be honest and not to pretend otherwise, she says.

“On both sides, the instinct is to protect the other person, tell them they are fine and not to worry. But when you are far away you can feel very helpless and afraid. Sharing those feelings will help to alleviate them.”

If someone close dies, attending the funeral is an important part of accepting the reality of their passing and saying goodbye, Murphy says. “Going through the process of the funeral helps you to accept what happened, and realise the community support around you.

“Not being there can leave you in a state of unreality or denial, by making it easier to imagine everything is continuing at home as normal,” she says.

The biggest sacrifice

But for many emigrants, flying home may not be possible because of cost, work or visa reasons, even for the funeral of someone close. For the undocumented Irish in the US, not being able to travel to be by a sick parent’s bedside is the single-biggest sacrifice of making a life there.

“It is a different type of mourning that people go through when they can’t be there in person to grieve,” says Orla Kelleher, executive director of the Aisling Irish Community Center in New York. “If you have settled, have a family of your own and see your future here, it is too risky to travel back. Most families understand what the person would be jeopardising.”

Bereavement counselling is one of the most in-demand services offered by the centre, and Kelleher says the Irish community is very supportive when someone loses a loved one at home because most would have experienced a similar loss at some stage themselves.

“There is usually a memorial Mass organised, which is hugely helpful for the person in coming to terms with their loss,” she says. “People experience a lot of guilt when they can’t go back, but encouragement from family and friends here in the US is very comforting.”

Kelleher is hearing more often about funerals being live-streamed on the web or on Skype from Ireland too, as funeral homes respond to the demand from emigrants who can’t be there in person.

Murphy has also noticed a rise in the number of emigrants requesting Skype counselling sessions, and says the internet can be extremely helpful for sharing emotions across geographical distance.

“Being physically able to see someone, even if it is through a screen, makes a huge difference,” she says. “We can tell so much by looking at the people we love. You can’t physically touch them but you are in the same physical space.”

After attending the funeral of a loved one in Ireland, returning abroad where there may be less recognition or awareness of the loss you are mourning can be particularly difficult. Murphy recommends keeping in regular contact with family and friends at home.

“We need to talk to people who knew the person we lost. It is great to have friends abroad, and they can be very supportive, but they probably didn’t know the person and might not have the same understanding of what you are going through.”

It is important for the people who are still in Ireland to remember the person abroad may need extra support, she says. “Even a text message or a short email saying ‘thinking of you’ will let them know they are loved. Send a card or letter. Those things mean so much.”

It shows how powerful social media can be at a time like that


English teacher Luke Kenny (30) was at home in Hanoi in Vietnam, one Monday evening last April when a friend popped up on Gmail chat to say he had bad news.

Another close friend had fallen suddenly ill and was fighting for her life. “Word of her illness spread that day by text, email and Skype among friends in places as far apart as the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Australia and Dubai,” he says. “The intensity built as more people found out about it, and I imagined us like a constellation of stars around the world, sitting staring at computer screens and thinking of her.

“She died on a Friday, and when I heard the news I was online with another friend, looking at the same pictures of her on Facebook. We cried and laughed as we remembered her, just like you would at a wake. It was my way of grieving for her.”

Kenny wrote a piece about his experience for the Generation Emigration blog last June, which was shared among friends and family. “Being away from everyone, it was difficult to talk to them without being there in person, but writing that piece and sharing it online was my way of having that conversation.

“I was home a few months later and a lot of people told me how the piece had moved them, put into words how they were feeling. It shows how powerful social media can be at a time like that.”


“It’s the call that comes to all of us who live abroad. A family member was close to death, and I was a thousand miles away. My race against the clock had begun.

“My brother, at 42 years old, had been admitted to hospital with a serious complaint. I was called home in that offhand yet thoughtful way doctors have when they’re breaking bad news.

“Researching flights from Stockholm to Dublin at short notice, the loneliness struck. This was not a time to be with a plane-load of strangers or sour-faced customs officials, but to shrink the distance between us as fast as possible.

“For the want of something better to do, my wife tearfully ironed a white shirt for a funeral we hoped wouldn’t happen.

“At the airport I turned off my phone for the 150-minute flight to London. When I landed, I didn’t know whether my brother was still alive or not. Running through Gatwick to make the Dublin connection, the messages pinged in one after the other. I ignored them all. I called my younger brother to find out the latest – stable, but still critical and on a ventilator.

“Into the darkness I plunged again for the flight to Dublin.

“Having left Stockholm in snowdrifts, I clumped into Beaumont hospital in my heavy jacket and winter boots, dizzied by the blast of warm air as I entered intensive care. I had made it in time. He lay sedated and serene but fighting a raging battle for his life inside.

“I went home, exhausted, to my parents’ house, and slept in the bedroom he and I shared as kids. I hoped he would get better, and if he didn’t that we would be strong enough to give him the send-off he deserved.

“But it didn’t come to that. His strength picked up, the infections capitulated, and he began to recover. A few days later, I returned to Stockholm, relieved and a little elated.

“For any emigrant, every time we leave Ireland with the same number of family members as when we got there is a bonus. That call will come again, but for now I’m just glad he’s still alive, even if we are once more a thousand miles apart.”

A “Little Day” about Adoption


Friday, December 14, 2012 in Dublin:
UCD School of Applied Social Science :
Social Work Building : Room C001 10a.m. to 4p.m.
All About Adoption –
Search and Reunion, Opening of Closed Adoption and Open Adoption…How Many Families Does It Take To Make An Adoption?
This mini training/dialog is designed to provide all participants with a discussion of the current topics associated with adoption and complex blended families*, focusing on openness, search and reunion, and including the social media impact and sibling connections. The ‘little day’ will create discussion of the contrasting theories surrounding this wide topic, and the importance of advocacy in the world of adoption and complex blended families. It builds on the ‘first little day’ training held in March 2011.

For anyone
(professionals, birthparents and adoptive parents, adult adopted people, others)
who lives and works
in the world of adoption
and complex blended families*
Training is facilitated by
• Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao, PACT (pre/post adoption consulting and training) in Cambridge, MA and New York and Lecturer in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (Joyce says that her best credential is that she is adopted)and
• Dr.Valerie O’Brien, from University College Dublin: an academic, researcher and a systemic practitioner . Her particular interests in child welfare are in adoption and in kinship care practices. She works clinically at the Clanwilliam Institute in Dublin
It is our hope to use these ‘Little Days’ to enhance the lives of everyone who works and lives in the world of adoption and complex blended families*.
Pre-registration requested.
40 euro for individuals and 60 euro for couples
Payable to Valerie O’Brien (PACT)
And we are happy to give partial scholarships to those that need it.
To Register, or for more information contact: – Tel 087 2055523, and/or
or Mary Limerick at /

* What do we mean by “complex blended families?”
• Root families are families where the mother and father who gave birth to the child are also parenting the child together…
• Complex families are every other type of family structure…
• Complex blended families are a blending of many families by adoption, fostering, kinship care, remarriage,

Review of workshop: How to get online from scratch with Sue Bourke

How to Get Online from Scratch by Sue Bourke
FTAI workshop
10 November 2012 Ashling Hotel Dublin.
By Eugene Donohoe

Having discovered the joys of digital gadget freakery in late middle age, I was thrilled to attend this FTAI organized workshop presented by Sue Bourke. What was even better was that it was for free! Something not to be sneezed at in the middle of a recession, and what was even better than that again – it was of an excellent standard, delivered with humour and a lovely human touch. Those of you, who missed it, missed something really special and many thanks to FTAI (especially Ann, Trish and Terence) for doing this for its members.

Sue Bourke is Founder of the Product Launch Method, author and producer of “How to Get Online from Scratch” and in this she delivered a comprehensive, hands-on introduction to doing just that.

The presentation outline covered the following areas: Niche (work specialization area); Domain name and registration; Hosting; Squeeze (of the non romantic variety, I’m afraid); Email auto responders; Traffic; Content; and finally, Income.

Sounds all very technical, doesn’t it? However it was explained in a non jargonized manner which made unfamiliar territory exciting to explore.

So what, in common English did we learn? We learned the immense value of the amount of business one can pull in from the internet by having your own site and it is doable without having a PhD in computers and web knowledge. The key is to be clear about your niche or individualized area of expertise and to put it out there in a manner that those seeking help will find you in a Google search.

So for example, we learned the value of ‘Wordpress’ to set up your own site in affordable, easy, step by step templates using Google ad words in identifying relevant key target words to embed in your site so as you can be ‘found’ in Google searches. An advantage of doing this by yourself rather than a company would mean that you own your site/domain name rather than the company. We also learned the value of having professionally based accounts on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, all linked into your own site in order to increase your profile, and therefore business, through the web community of various professional forums and social networks.

Resonating very well with systemic people, Sue told us to that in outlining the problems we work with, to emphasize benefits rather than negativities arising from what we do! Overall, a surprisingly nice fit of modalities during a highly interesting Saturday morning, even if after a few glasses of wine the night before.

(Eugene Donohoe is employed as a systemic psychotherapist in Mater C.A.M.H.S.)

Social Construction and Social Work Practice: Innovations and Interpretations

‘Social Construction and Social Work Practice: Innovations and Interpretations’

On 19 April 2012, the School of Social Work and Social Policy Trinity College Dublin hosted a seminar to mark the publication of ‘Social Construction and Social Work Practice: Innovations and Interpretations’ edited by Professor Stanley Witkin of University of Vermont and published by Columbia University Press in Dec 2011. The seminar was addressed by Professor Witkin, Dr Marie Keenan, University College Dublin, and Dr Trish Walsh, Assistant Professor in Social Work, Trinity College Dublin, both of whom contributed chapters to the volume. Dr Keenan’s chapter is titled “Creating Hope in a Landscape of Despair: Trauma and Violence Work with Men who have Sexually Abused Minors”.

Invitation to join Family Therapy Group in Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Tipperary



We are a group of Systemic (Family) Therapists including Family Therapists in training who meet to link with other systemic practitioners for:  clinical discussion and exploration; journal discussion; peer support and to enhance clinical reflexivity from a systemic lens.  Our monthly meetings are based in Cork city centre (Wednesday from 12-2pm).  We welcome new members to the group.


For further information contact either:  

Joan Cronin at 0872793323;  e mail

Margaret O Mahony at -0863539745;  e mail


We look forward to welcoming new members to the group  

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