Friday 20 September 2019

Good therapists and process of healing

Sir - In response to Donal Lynch's appraisal of therapy (Sunday Independent, December 11), he hit the nail on the head when he said "the hard, unglamorous heavy lifting of self-improvement is still up to you". However, this does not mean you can do it alone.

If you break your leg, you go to hospital and a doctor will set your leg in plaster. The process of healing comes from the body's ability to heal itself. Without this the doctor's work would come to nothing. Likewise in psychotherapy, a good therapist will facilitate the process of healing. All neurotic symptoms have their roots in unresolved trauma buried in the unconscious mind of the afflicted person. The client must face their own pain and in the process heal themselves. Tears can be very healing.

Often people have a wrong conception of psychotherapy. Sometimes they want quick answers and solutions to their problems. A good therapist will never give advice. Rather they will give the client the tools where they can trust their own judgment. Thereby when the therapeutic relationship has finished, the client has the necessary resources to manage their own lives.

Finally, it is sometimes necessary to accept certain realities in our lives. As the serenity prayer says, the trick is to know the difference. A good therapeutic relationship between therapist and client, which is vital, can facilitate the client getting in touch with their true selves and accepting themselves as human beings with limitations just like the rest of us.

Tommy Roddy,


A matter of trust and articulation

Sir - In response to Donal Lynch's article, ('The mental health stigma has faded, but quacks are thriving', Sunday Independent, December 11), I'm glad I didn't read this when I was desperate to find a therapist who could help me understand why I felt the way I did, and why I couldn't function normally in life at that time.

Though the article opens appropriately with necessary regulatory professional matters (now governmentally planned for), and the challenges one may encounter when pursuing a therapist, a process that can indeed be arduous, especially when one's worldview is hopeless (as it is frequently at this phase of engagement).

I don't agree, however, that the therapist's attire hardly matters, so long as one can provide the client with some degree of hope and guidance. Later in life, I went on to professionally train and register as a therapist, now for over 20 years. When someone sits in front of me, I instinctively want to offer them that hope and guidance, as we navigate their life story. Though depending on weather and comfort, my intermittent change from shoes to sandals hasn't yet emerged as an issue of concern (as it did for Mr Lynch's cited experience of therapy) for people in distress, though perhaps I may be as yet unaware of how my footwear inhibits my effective therapeutic engagement with clients.

On the financial matters noted (though I work within a public service), I have found through collaboration with private psychotherapists, that clients who have mustered up some degree of motivation to begin therapy, have found that investing in themselves (even in widely available low-cost or sliding scale capacities) can be the symbolic catalyst which led them toward real and sustained change. For a client to begin to trust and articulate how they think and feel in therapy, is often a matter of life and death.

When Mr Lynch references a novelist's interpretation of therapy, ie "to a farmer moaning about the weather", such publicised commentary concerns me, considering the 500-plus individuals who died by suicide in Ireland, in 2015, and who may not have had the chance to talk about what was evidently concerning them deeply.

If I were to imagine telling one of my clients that "you just have to get on with it", I would truly have lost faith in the human condition and with the distinct possibility - that no matter what our circumstances, we can have hope, change and improve our lives for the better.

From my clinician's perspective - therapy can be an accessible, life-saving and transforming resource for people - which is hopefully reassuring to your readers, in contrast to what Mr Lynch's article indiscriminately suggests.

John Connolly,


Co Cork

Accredited and accessible services

Sir - Following Majella O'Donnell's call for accessible services for those suffering from depression (Sunday Independent, December 11), I would draw your readers' attention to the fact that the Irish Council for Psychotherapy has over 1,500 qualified and accredited psychotherapists from around the country on the ICP register.

All these practitioners, after lengthy in-depth training, are specifically skilled to work with people who present with mental health issues, including depression, stress and anxiety, trauma, family crisis, and so on.

The full register of ICP accredited psychotherapists can be found at

Jean Manahan,


Irish Council for Psychotherapy

We don't employ enough doctors

Sir - I was disappointed in the way Majella O'Donnell, wife of Daniel O'Donnell, criticised the medical profession for the problems with waiting lists in psychiatry, and for the level of charges in private psychiatric practice (Sunday Independent, December 11).

What a lack of understanding of the health service she demonstrates! And how easy it is to take a cheap shot at the doctors providing the service!

The key issue, which Majella completely ignores, is that the State does not employ enough doctors in any specialty, including psychiatry, to ensure a quality service for patients.

Doctors in all medical specialties are struggling to match high demand with proper provision of a service. Therefore there are waiting lists. It's not the doctors she should criticise - it's the state funding for health services and perhaps also the poor HSE management that runs an inefficient service. Doctors cannot be expected to carry all the inadequacy of the HSE on their shoulders.

We need to double the number of hospital consultants and their support staff before we can provide the level of service that Majella wants. This would cost a lot of money, so maybe she should think in terms of persuading the Government to find the money rather than criticise doctors. Simultaneously, perhaps she could persuade the people of Donegal and elsewhere to pay a lot more tax to fund her demands.

Tom O'Rourke,

Gorey, Co Wexford

Celebrate but keep animals off plate

Sir - As we approach Christmas and the mass killing of billions (yes, billions) of farm animals, animal lovers who eat meat might ask themselves this simple question? How is it that we can love our dogs and our cats yet seem incapable of harbouring feelings for the animals that we choose to eat?

Our contradictory relationship with animals is routinely explained away by the natural empathy we feel for our dogs and our cats, an empathy that rarely travels as far as the pig or the cow or the chicken.

A long time ago, I acknowledged to myself that, while that position was understandable, it was nonetheless morally untenable.

Just because I can love my dog and my cat but not feel the same love for a pig, or a chicken, does not mean they should be treated differently. They are all animals, all sentient beings. They should be treated as such: equally.

Why not embrace your natural empathy this Christmas and keep animals off your plate?

It surely is the compassionate way to celebrate this otherwise beautiful day in the year's calendar.

Gerry Boland,

Keadue, Co Roscommon

Sunday Independent

Also in Business