My memories of being a student of Liam McCarthy

The letters PCI (as in PCI College) derive from the original counselling training institute (Personal Counselling Institute) which was the brainchild of Liam McCarthy some 30 years ago and which he very successfully developed with Josephine Murphy until Middlesex University became Academic Partners in 2000….and the rest, as they say, is history. The original headquarters and study centre were in Convent Court, Clondalkin (where I had my first meeting with the man himself at interview); a second centre (Kilkenny) was added in the mid-90’s…and it was there I began my counselling studies. These were pre-Middlesex University days, pre-modules days….pre-APA days (some would say Happy Days!) We were studying for a Diploma in Counselling & Psychotherapy awarded by Personal Counselling Institute…which was a 2-year programme. Whereas the one-day-per-week (and the 6-hour day) was the same as now, the aims, focus and structure of the pre-modular course were as I remember significantly different.


Liam and Josephine were our main lecturers each day, with an occasional guest lecturer…and an occasional “guest client” whom Liam would have brought along to enable the skills-practice experience to be entirely real….and boy, were they real! While we certainly studied the various theoretical approaches and had assignments to write (with proven academics such a Denis Dennehy and Niall Hickey assisting in the reading and grading process) the focus was mainly on personal development and skills training…lots of skills training including a strong emphasis on Grief Therapy training: Liam believed that, whatever the client’s presenting issue, all therapy was ultimately about Grief. The other main difference was in the arena of summer schools, which like now consisted of a 4-consecutive-days structure….but they were residential in beautiful locations such as Dowdstown House etc. The days were spent studying but the nights were spent in splendid in-house entertainment…provided by the students themselves! But enough of the Nostalgia!


How would I describe Liam? I have accompanied this piece with a personal- tribute little poem which is my subjective experience of the influence he had on me personally. If we as humans are ultimately products of Influences, Education and Experiences (amongst others), then Liam has undoubtedly made a massive contribution to who I am…and where I am…today. And I know that he has made the same contributions to countless others who had the good fortune of being taught by him.


A charismatic man, his Person-Centred approach to each student was remarkable; he just didn’t want to know what you had achieved in your life; he wanted to know who you were…he wanted to know YOU…whatever your history, he wanted you to feel good about yourself and had a marvellous way of making you believe that previous hardship was the greatest training ground for the role of counsellor.


To quote Maya Angelou: “People may forget what you say…forget what you do…but they will never forget how you made them feel”

That sums up the affect Liam had on his students better than any further words of mine.


Willie Egan, PCI Faculty Lecturer, January 2021.

Course Venues:   Athlone   |   Belfast   |   Carrick-on-Shannon   |   Cork   |   Dublin   |   Kilkenny   |   Limerick