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Congratulations to Ann Fitzpatrick

We are delighted to announce the winner of this year's Liam McCarthy Scholarship as Ann Fitzpatrick from Dublin.

Ann has had an interest in Counselling & Psychotherapy for some time and has studied counselling skills and personal development. She came across the Scholarship while searching online.
Ann is currently working in childcare and would like to work in a family therapy centre in the future and help to give people the skills to grow and develop.

On her win Ann stated “I love spending time with people, I’m a people’s person at heart, I suppose you could say I have a true desire to listen and to help a person when they're experiencing difficult times in their lives. My motivation to become a counsellor/psychotherapist is driven by my inner desire to share what I have been given during my own personal journey, hope, and the belief that things can and do change. I want to be in a position where I can work with people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives and give them an opportunity to grow, develop and live authentically. I am grateful to PCI College for affording me this opportunity and as a highly motivated person I am confident in saying “the guidance, mentoring and education I will receive from PCI will contribute to me becoming a good enough counsellor/psychotherapist”.

Ann will be formally awarded the Scholarship during our National Annual Conference which takes place this year on the 20th June in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin. The award itself is a tribute to a man who believed passionately in personal development, and he knew that continuing, adult education could be a central element in that development for many people. One of his visions was to open up third level education to a wider pool of mature students, who might not have otherwise seen themselves as getting a degree. Liam was also known for maintaining high academic standards, and he set that standard by his own example. He also believed in providing students with a broad education in what is after all a very broad field. The degree he designed, and which Middlesex University validated, is therefore characterised by an integrative approach to counselling & psychotherapy training, introducing students to all the main schools, as well as to important topics such as Abnormal Psychology, Loss & Grief, Substance Addictions. Moreover, the Diploma in Counselling & Psychotherapy which is awarded after Year 3, fully meets the training requirements of the IACP.

Please read Ann’s essay below.

"Counselling and psychotherapy plays a valuable role in emotional wellbeing and mental health."

If truth be known, Ireland’s emotional wellbeing and mental health are suffering a crisis. The economic downturn, a rise in unemployment, homelessness, the scandals of the Catholic Church, the horrific accounts of child sexual abuse, the rise in suicide and depression, have all contributed to this crisis. When asked how we’re doing, the most common response is “I’m grand”. Almost everyone in Ireland is “grand”.
 We have all become experts at withholding our thoughts and feelings which are regarded as being unacceptable; our rage, jealousy, fear and anger are often met with condemnation and punishment. Family and cultural values play a role in distorting our natural drives, impulses, sexuality, creativity and our voices, resulting in repression, a loss of self, a decline in our emotional wellbeing and mental health, leaving us with no internal frame to work from.

Life’s experiences set each of us up in our unique and peculiar way. Our relationship with our primary care-giver is paramount in who we are today. To enable us to survive, we repress our injuries, what is bad and painful, and identify only with what is good and pleasurable. So, for example, if we were lucky enough to have been loved and cared for we will come away with few symptoms. If we experienced neglect and abuse, if we were abandoned and bereaved, this will result in huge amounts of repression. This coping strategy isn’t very successful in the long term. None of us can go through life without experiencing stressors (divorce, illness, unemployment, etc) consequently early repressed traumas resurface causing despair and acute stress. If left unaided, pre-existing symptoms such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and hopelessness can break through.  Our core beliefs are activated – “I’m useless, not good enough, everyone is better than me”. Fear and anxiety intensify and resilience is seriously compromised, leaving us incoherent - our world, hopes, dreams and aspirations shattered.

What do we do? We recoil in fear - the stigma associated with mental health prevents us asking for help, we fear being judged, labelled, locked up, put in a certain category  (mentally disturbed, sick, mad). These negative views, attitudes, and derogative words we internalised rush into consciousness, further compounding our fears, leaving us feeling terrified and alone. We turn to drink, drugs, anything that will relieve our pain and our guilt. Many people don’t know where to turn. Therapies and treatments, including counselling and psychotherapy, have been developed which see emotional wellbeing and mental health as an integral part of developing a healthy and proactive lifestyle. Unfortunately, under the current regime the poor and marginalised are excluded, with anti-depressants still being their only option.
We must ask ourselves are we doing enough, or have we become so disconnected from the world and everyone in it that we fail to see beyond the label, the symptom, the behaviour. Can we take some responsibility for our fellow humans and offer them the opportunity to heal? Can we provide the nourishment they so desperately want, soul nourishment? Or will we pass them off as attention-seeking? Can we continue to dismiss the warning signs that are obvious, their pain and distress? We must ask ourselves; do we have a true desire to know, to help?
Or do we turn a blind eye, a deaf ear? Do we refuse to act as friend, family, community, congregation, nation, until we have forced the vulnerable into a place of utter despair and hopelessness?

Do we even know human suffering? Can we recognise it in the 65-year-old man whose wife had a long and difficult struggle with cancer and died three months ago, leaving him feeling suicidal? In the anorexic, with her pursuit for perfection where she loses herself in a struggle for thinness?

Counselling and psychotherapy play a valuable role in emotional wellbeing and mental health because it can give the care and attention the soul craves. It knows that behind every symptom there is a unique individual with their own values, thoughts and feelings, needing to be heard. Counselling/Psychotherapy offers a place of refuge while we explore our inner world. It’s where we make a therapeutic relationship with a caring therapist, one who has a real desire to truly listen, who offers positive regard and empathy regardless of what we say or do or did in our past. A therapist who we can talk to, about anything (including our secrets). One who allows us to remove our mask, unlock our inner thoughts and feelings, our shame, rage, insecurities, weaknesses, and who welcomes the shadow self to step forward into the light where it can be seen and validated.

This new way of being related to opens us up to the therapeutic process. It helps reduce our shame and permits us to be more compassionate and accepting of our self. Each new way of seeing ourselves opens up new possibilities for further growth, allowing the freedom to pursue each new step with clear and accurate ways of seeing and relating to the world. We will discover freedom, self-development, recognition of our needs, acceptance of our weakness, freedom of speech and power to bring about change for ourselves and others.

The unrelenting support, positive regard and empathy shown by the therapist encourages us to us continue on our journey; to take emotional risks, exercise new ways of being; to become more playful, honest, and explorative; to discard outdated coping strategies; to become more confident, independent, and authentic.

We Journey on towards becoming a person, a fully functioning one.

Ann Fitzpatrick


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