My Counselling Journey
This is the story of my journey to becoming a counsellor. It was published in "Therapy Today", the professional journal of the British Association
of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. (May 2016, Volume 27, Issue 4).
It was published while I was still living and working overseas. I am back home in Ireland now!
If you click on the thumbnail (at the left) it will open in a pdf file.
Or, just read it here:
I was born in a small town in Northern Ireland. My father was a civil engineer, and his job took us to some interesting places.
In the mid 1970s, The Troubles in Ulster motivated him to move his family to Hong Kong, and since then I have had several careers and have lived
in various countries, including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and China.
I worked as a counsellor in Beijing from 2010 until 2017, and I found the experience of having been an expatriate child, teenager and adult
very helpful in my counselling role in that multicultural setting.
Prior to counselling, my background was in international trade. I started work in a 120-year-old British trading
company in Hong Kong in 1976.
My first experience of personal therapy was in Beijing in the mid 1990s, when a friend suggested I see a psychologist. In 45 minutes I was diagnosed with
moderately severe clinical depression. I took the prescribed medication, and continued to see my great therapist for a year.
She was respectful, thoughtful and, although a qualified psychologist, she worked very much in the
person centred approach.
A year later, a painful relationship break-up led me back to therapy, and again I felt huge benefits. I decided that therapy was the greatest
gift a person could give himself or herself.
My father passed away in the late 90s, and left me enough money to pursue counselling studies. The key to unlocking
the door was a certificate in counselling, so I hopped on a 747 and flew from Beijing to Derry in Northern Ireland, and I
think they let me on the course because I had travelled so far!
My next step was a diploma course, and luckily I met Marina Sweeney, who I refer to as the Mother of Counselling
in Northern Ireland. She told me about the
University person-centred training.
I was enormously privileged to learn counselling there directly from Professor Dave Mearns. Learning with Dave was almost surreal, because he
was Carl Rogers supervisee in the US for three years, and so had extensive contact with Carl. This led to a unique teaching
experience, where Dave would say, Carl said this, Carl said that, and sometimes it was as if Carl was in the room!
The two things I remember best from Dave were, "The counsellor needs the qualities of fearlessness and stillness", and, "You
should treat yourselves as trainees for five years after you graduate". For some reason I seem to have fearlessness and
stillness in abundance, and these are very useful qualities in my chosen field of couple counselling, especially when
helping a couple recover from an affair.
Treating myself as a trainee after I graduated helped me keep my ego in check, and also led me to hoover up as much CPD as I possibly could.
Dave also attracted the "greats" to lecture us at Strathclyde, people from the person-centred world like Brian Thorne, Charlie O Leary, Margaret Warner and, of course, Elke Lambers.
The brilliant Mick Cooper joined Strathclyde University that year, and I was very privileged to have Mick as the leader of our small supervision group.
Returning to Ulster after Strathclyde, I did two courses with Marina in Derry, acquiring the skills of solution focused brief therapy (SFBT),
which Marina had learned directly from Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg.
After graduating, I did lots of CPD, including one weekend with Dr. Charlie O Leary, who is a leading person-centred couple counsellor.
This course convinced me that I wanted to do couples work, because of its dynamic and fast moving nature. The work unfolds right in front
of you because both parties are there, you can see progress, check facts, and, heaven forbid, interrupt your clients
to clarify meaning!
In 2010, I returned to Beijing, to run the company I had started in 1992. I split my time between being CEO of the company
during the week, and counselling couples and individuals at weekends. My clients included individual expats, mixed marriage couples and expat
couples. Although cultural differences do exist, I do not let them dominate couples therapy. In my experience, most problems are caused
by differences between men and women.
In 2017, I returned to my native Ireland, so that our young son could grow up in the magnificent countryside and clean air, and also enjoy the lifelong
benefits of the great Irish educational system.
We are happily settled in the Irish midlands, where I continue to practice counselling.
If you want to talk to me about counselling, feel free to phone me on 085 114 5649, any day between 9:00AM and 8:00PM.