tel: 042 9331803
mob: 086 0381073

Back to the Future.

Counselling — admin @ 12:54 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we’ve been at the movies. As regular readers will know, our weekly meetings here can take a turn and we can end up talking about all kinds of things. We allow ourselves this luxury as we find we can get in touch with all kinds of interesting things. In psychoanalysis it is called Free Association, allowing yourself to flow freely from one idea to the next without censoring what you say. Anyway, this week’s digressions lead us to talking about the movies. This year’s Oscar nominations are due to be announced this afternoon and we got to talking about what movies would rank in an awards ceremony for films which were judged to have relevance to therapy. And a clear front runner is the movie that became a series: Back to the Future.

The plot of Back to the Future involves the hero, Marty McFly being transported back in time to when his parents were not yet dating. The ability to return to the past means that significant events that happen will shape the future and involve a ‘new’ future which differs from the one from which Marty has just returned. If you follow. This concept is represented well in the movie plot and poses all kinds of dilemmas for the hero as he takes steps to ensure that his parents do begin to date and fall in love. In this way he ensures his own future existence. An additional point of interest for those of us in the field of psychotherapy involves Marty’s father standing up to a bully. In asserting himself with this bullying figure the father changes the future and when Marty returns to 1985 where the film begins there is a new relationship between his father and his former tormentor. In the amended version of history the father is confident and assertive.

All of these themes are played out in the drama of the film’s story line. In real life we cannot return to the past and change things so as to return to the present and enjoy a different reality. The film, it could be said, represents our wish to be able to achieve this impossible feat. In reality we often struggle in the present with the leftover effects of past events. These can be in the form of significant, traumatic events or more mundane frustrations at the path our lives have taken. Sometimes, it is said of therapy, that although we cannot change past events we can change how we view them. This is certainly true and it can take up a good deal of our therapeutic work.

Sometimes a therapy involves a kind of Back to the Future of sorts in that we look at our life’s narrative to date and consider the effects of decisions we made and options we took or didn’t take. The best we can do in terms of aiming to achieve the wish expressed in the film is to make now the time to make some sort of stand or take some sort of action to bring about a changed future. And this doesn’t have to involve punching a bully and knocking him unconscious. It more usually involves a sort of taking stock; making a decision and finding the determination to begin working on some sort of project. This project can be a college course, a change in diet or exercise or something more abstract involving a clearer vision of a future version of our own self that we would like to aim for.

Sometimes a therapy can involve reviewing the timeline and the narrative of our life to date. Often this means that our patterns become clearer, facilitating an awareness of what we have been trying to achieve in life. This applies as much to our love lives as it does to work; lieben und arbeiten as Freud put it, to love and to work. The punch that Marty’s father threw in the film represents a single dramatic event that changed his future self. Real life it is not quite as simple as that and it is not possible to achieve lasting change in one single act. It will take time and awareness and conscious work. This is what therapy involves and we are pleased to be able to facilitate our clients in this process as they review their own pasts and dream up and try to put onto action a future of their own choosing.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

Christmas and New Year Holiday arrangements 2014.

Counselling — admin @ 5:24 pm

Christmas and New Year Holiday arrangements 2014.

We’ll be open until Tuesday, December 23rd at 4pm. We’ll be closed from the 24th until January 2nd 2015. We will be checking the voicemail during the days when we’re not here so if you like to leave a message we’ll ring you back to arrange an appointment. We don’t have an around the clock service for emergencies so check our links page for contact details for Aware and Samaritans.

We’d like to wish all our clients and friends a Happy and Peaceful Christmas. We’re looking forward to working with you in the New Year.

Fergal and Maggie. Counselling Connections.

tel. 042 9331803 mob. 086 0381073

Eastern Mindfulness: A Western Psychodynamic Perspective

Counselling — admin @ 10:29 am

The Irish Psycho-Analytical Association Presents
Dr. Michael DelMonte
Eastern Mindfulness:
A Western Psychodynamic Perspective
Dr. Michael DelMonte (Michelo to his friends) will conduct a lecture/workshop
into Mindfulness. The English word, Mindfulness is derived from the Hindu concept
and practice sati, widely defined as “the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental
focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the
present moment”.
Michael was born in The Hague in The Netherlands. He completed his formal
education in Dublin with a BSc in Genetics and Psychology, as well as an MSc and a
PhD – all from Trinity College Dublin. He also has an MSc in Psychotherapy from
University College Dublin. He is now in private practice as a Psychotherapist, whilst
lecturing in Psychology and Psychotherapy at Trinity. Mindfulness has been a subject
of great interest to him for many years.
Date: Saturday, 18 October
Time: 11.00 am
Venue: The Royal Marine Hotel, Dunloaghaire
Entry: €20 (€15 for the unwaged)
For More Info Telephone: 01 4967288 087 6307233 or 087 2378302

Mindfulness and Psychotherapy – A therapist’s Perspective.

Counselling — admin @ 10:22 am

When mental health Minister Kathleen Lynch got stuck in a lift with the Minister for Health James Reilly, she assured the media she was not stressed during it as she was practicing her mindfulness. Was she in a state of profound calm or just trying to deny a mounting panic or discomfort?

And this is how mindfulness can be. It can be used and mis-used. Today it is a real buzz word and seen as the new answer to all ills. Vietnamese Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, warns against this kind of mis-use in his writings on ‘the better way to catch a snake’. If we grab a snake by the tail or the body, it will bite, but if we use a fork at its head it is safer. Similarly if we approach mindfulness the wrong way we can get bitten.

The original practice of mindfulness is based on the Buddha’s teaching in the ‘Sattipathana Sutta’, or ‘The Great Discourse on the Establishment of Mindfulness’. In a nutshell, it is a balanced and relaxed observation of the processes of our body, our sensations in our body, our feelings and thoughts.

The clever thing about mindfulness is stepping back from ourselves and seeing the process of ourselves unfold. Like watching a river flowing or clouds drifting across the sky you see your body just as it is, seeing our thoughts and feelings just as thoughts and feelings…’this is a thought, this is a feeling’…seeing them arising, staying for a while and then subsiding. Seeing their changing nature we don’t get caught in them and can let them go.

However, this includes seeing and staying with the unpleasant feelings, thoughts and sensations which is a little more difficult. But watching them in the same way as the pleasant aspects of ourselves is also mindfulness. An old teacher realised this when he said: ‘there is no reason to believe that when we discover the truth it will turn out to be interesting.’

So Kathleen Lynch was practicing mindfulness if she was able to observe her unpleasant feelings and thoughts as they are; or was she, like most of us would do, wrestle with the thoughts and feelings trying to push them away or getting caught up in them and following the drama.

The benefit of mindfulness is this stepping back from ourselves and attending to ourselves. In a way we are giving ourselves the space to see how we are and take care of that which is a good thing. It also allows us to calm down, this soothes us. We can get in touch with a peacefulness in us that is a real resource. This gives us perspective and space.

Mindfulness also has it limits. As a psychotherapist, I have seen clients who rely excessively on mindfulness. It can contribute to a lack of involvement in the world and feed an isolation in their lives that has its roots in their own past isolation. Psychotherapist Arnie Mindell describes it: ‘The secret desire for nirvana (enlightenment) is a shortcut to death itself as it cuts off individuation from a failure to interact with life’.

It can also be used to run away from our feelings. If we learned that our sexuality or our anger is ‘bad’ we can turn to such spiritual discipline to expunge these aspects of ourselves. This never works and the battle with ourselves can keep us very stuck in our lives.

But most importantly, mindfulness does not see the huge value in relationship and relationality – the value and profound contribution a second person can make to this practice of self observation. Our planet has two poles, north and south; batteries need two points to work. Similarly, we work best in twos. And this is why counselling and psychotherapy works best when there is two people. The importance of expressive speech and a listening, reflecting other is a hugely important and healing part of counselling that is not in mindfulness practice alone.

Also, ironically, in my experience, the use of mindfulness in a psychotherapy session can take a client to a real depth in themselves that they do not experience from their own individual mindfulness practice. For me, mindfulness in the therapeutic relationship has a real power that is life changing.

In summary, in the question of whether to use mindfulness or counselling, it might be both.

This is a guest blog by friend of Counselling Connections Thomas Larkin. Thomas is an integrative psychotherapist/counsellor, supervisor and trainer based in Dublin city centre.

Irish Psycho-Analytical Association Lecture.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 11:44 am

The Irish Psycho-Analytical Association Presents

Professor Karl Figlio

The Difference Between

Private and Public Mourning


Karl Figlio, Professor of Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex in Colchester, has been a friend of our Association for many years. Here he takes up the topic raised by Freud in his 1917 paper, Mourning and Melancholia, and re-examines it from the viewpoint of the twenty-first century, including his interest in the societal unconscious and in object-relations psychology. His overview is broad and sweeping.

This lecture will be of interest to anyone who deals with depression and/or mourning in the consulting-room. Since it throws light on the changes in unconscious structure due to mourning, and those resulting from depression, it will have an appeal for anyone who has lost a person, or a situation dear to them, and who must deal with this

Date: 17 May 2014

Time: 11 am

Venue: The Royal Marine Hotel, Marine Road, Dun Laoghaire

Entry: € 20 (€ 15 for the unwaged)

Bereaved by Suicide Support Group.

Counselling — admin @ 3:27 pm

Bereaved by Suicide Support Group.

We are very pleased to announce that the Support Group for people bereaved by suicide will be starting up again next month. The Group will be facilitated by experienced counsellors. It is intended as a safe forum for people to come to talk about their loss with others who have had similar experience.

Venue:           Counselling Connections, 27 Seatown Place, Dundalk.

Date:               Thursday, Oct 3rd 2013 and every Thursday until Dec 5th 2013.

Time:              7.00pm to 9.00pm.

Cost:               €15 per evening.

It is an open group; anyone who has lost a loved one through suicide is free to attend.

For any further information feel free to get in touch with us here.

Foundation Counselling Course.

Counselling — admin @ 7:32 pm

Counselling Foundation Course 2013/14.

We are taking applications for a Foundation Course in Counselling and Psychotherapy.  The course will run from early October 2013 through the academic year to May 2014.

There will be twenty evenings totalling 60 hours of training. It will include practical counselling skills and theory.

The Course team are experienced Tutors and Facilitators.

The cost wil be €650.00.

To apply please contact us at

Or download an application form:

Foundation Course Application Form13


Counselling in difficult financial times.

Counselling — admin @ 3:30 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we were listening to news bulletins of the latest problems with banks. People often ask us in a humorous kind of way whether the bad news in the economy is good for our business. It is not of course but the question points to an understanding that families and individuals are really struggling financially at the moment, and that this places additional stress on them. There are many losses involved in this and we discussed them between ourselves focussing in the end on the stress and challenge to the person who is going through financial difficulties. Banks had been regarded as august and respectable institutions. We grew up believing that we could put our trust in the bank. The local bank manager was a well regarded person in any local town and had a position of trust and authority. These things have changed and bad banking practice and the crash from an over-heated economy have conspired to leave many ordinary people struggling to pay bills.

One of the aspects of this that we highlighted in our discussion was how being up to date with our bills is something that can become part of how we define ourselves. When we look in the mirror and ask questions like ‘what am I?’ or ‘who am I?’ we can begin to think of ourselves in terms of the various roles that make up our day to day life. We may be a mother or father. We might be a parent. We may live with a friend, a partner or a flatmate. Or we might still live with our parents. In whatever capacity we live we have financial demands on us. How we respond to these demands can become a big part of how we define ourselves. Being able to meet the basic bills with which we are faced becomes an important part of the place we hold in our own household and in our wider social circle. In these challenging economic times lots of people have found that their discretionary spend is a lot less than previous and money is tighter than ever. Many who are in work are finding perhaps for the first time ever that the basic housing and utility expenses are almost beyond reach. And many who had never faced financial difficulties find themselves out of work and really struggling financially.

When money starts to get tight in a home all sorts of trimming of expense has to take place. Earners have to make sacrifices and let go of things which they had previously enjoyed. If this situation persists over time, as weeks become months and months become years with no sign of improvement it can cause real problems. We are faced with existential kinds of questions about what our work and our effort is for, and who it is for. There is a real danger of a disconnect opening up between ordinary individuals and the state itself. Our impression is that the difficulties faced by many ordinary people are not recognised, acknowledged or understood by policy makers and government.  This is not good for the mental health of the nation. It also threatens to create a new generation of young people for whom civic involvement and a sense of belonging are lost in a society which doesn’t care. Young people who queued overnight to buy houses and are now faced with negative equity.

These are wider societal concerns which are perhaps the backdrop to the financial struggles that families face. More and more are having to face the difficult reality that there isn’t enough money to go around. There is advice available to help people deal with banks, mortgage lenders, utilities companies and others to whom money is owed. A general rule of thumb is to work out reduced payments on a pro rata basis and to agree these with the lender. It is important to engage with them and to discuss your financial situation openly. The goal here is to try to manage the debt as well as possible until things improve and in the process to manage your own levels of stress. It can be humiliating to have to face these things and there is no doubt that suicide has been considered by many who did not feel that they could get on top of their financial situation.  Feelings of dread about what the postman brings or what phone calls might come in from debt collectors can be alleviated by facing these things and making revised agreements with lenders. To do this may involve having to change our own view of our self.

We spoke earlier about how paying our way can be an important part of how we define ourselves. We may have to learn to loosen up on this personal characteristic and adjust it to a point where we have to satisfy ourselves with the knowledge that things are bad financially but that we are doing everything we can about it. That seems to be the key to surviving financial difficulties. Cold hard financial facts; Euros and cents and lenders trying to enforce credit agreements can appear like a relentless and unforgiving force. We may have to come to terms with the fact that we can only do so much and lenders may have to come to accept that our best is going have to be good enough for the moment. We have to cope too with feelings of injustice when we read of the appalling behaviour which contributed to this economic crisis. In the first instance the solution is to survive on a personal level and get though as best we can. In the longer term there will be a good deal of rebuilding required for individuals, for families and for the wider community and civic society. We hope that we can all begin to feel part of that process and that ordinary hard work and personal responsibilities are nurtured and become prized once more.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

Gdansk, the Fields of Athenry and football; a psychological perspective.

Counselling — admin @ 10:58 am

Here at Counselling Connections this morning much of the discussion has surrounded the football tournament which is taking place in Poland at the moment. Something notable happened there last night which has ignited debate here at home in the media and on social media. The context is a football match where the Ireland team came up against the European and World Champions Spain. Somewhat predictably and despite earlier hope and optimism the Spanish team proved too strong and won the match well. With seven minutes left to play Spain scored a fourth goal and with it any faint hope of a miracle comeback were extinguished. And then the Ireland supporters began to sing.

It is this singing which generated much discussion last night and this morning. Many have been genuinely moved by the off the field performance of the supporters. Some of the debate has been fuelled by the comments of football pundits, many former professional football players who felt that the result was the more important thing. Some were a bit cross about the emphasis on the performance of the fans. We are a group of therapists and have no expertise or knowledge of football formations or tactics but we do understand a little about people and we feel that some commentators may have missed the significance of what was happening before their eyes. It was a people telling themselves stories about themselves. It is about a people defining themselves in a public forum and saying to the world how they would like to be regarded.

For the last seven minutes of the match and for some minutes after the final whistle the Ireland supporters sang the ballad ‘The Fields of Athenry’. This is a song of two young lovers, parents who are parted because the father stole food from the local landlord to feed their starving children. His punishment is deportation to Australia and the couple dolefully reflect on brighter times when their love was blossoming. This song has become something of an anthem; its throaty chorus lends itself well to renditions in football stadia. It has become a staple not only of the Ireland football team but of rugby teams as well as club teams in England and Scotland. It has been heard over and again so many times that it risks losing its meaning. But there seemed to be something special about the circumstances and the way it was sung last night.

It is the context of the current social, political and economic environment that brings a special resonance to the performance of the Ireland supporters last night.  Like a child looking to a parent to give it something to be happy about many Irish people are looking to this football team to give some cause for optimism or celebration. The team clearly came up short in that task last night to the extent that the supporters took it upon themselves to create that hope and feeling of well being that people back home are desperately seeking. A wider context is the memory of what previous football tournaments, notably in 1988 and 1990 allowed us to say about ourselves. In the days before the Peace Process on this island symbolism of the flag of the Republic underwent an evolution. It became associated with celebration and most importantly with non violent behaviour. In the world of international soccer which has had difficulties with different hooligan elements the Ireland fans became associated with nothing other than bonhomie and good times. The tacit understanding which every supporter was aware of was to behave in a way that would only draw positive comment from observers.

The context of these times is that of national shame in the light of the loss of economic sovereignty with the financial bailout that our country has had to avail of. The budgetary austerity which we are told is what is required to pay for this bailout is causing a lot of pain and uncertainty and no little loss of confidence in the future. Many, many people are faced with difficulties meeting mortgage repayments on homes which they feel stuck with because they have fallen into negative equity. Many decent, working people have seen much of their aspirations and the fruits of their hard work depleted because of a financial downturn which has dented the value of their homes, savings and pensions. Indeed some who have travelled to Poland have probably done so in the knowledge that these financial challenges await them when they return home. So when a group of people stand to sing a ballad about past times they are telling a story about themselves. They are telling a story to foreign observers and to Irish people watching at home and around the world. They are writing another few lines in the evolving story of what it means to be from Ireland.

Nobody is deported to Botany Bay in this day and age for stealing food to feed hungry children. But many young people have left our shores to find work in Australia, Canada, America, Europe and further afield. Our economy is in a bad way. Our football team has tried their best but is clearly not up to the standard of the opposition. And we rise and we join together and we sing and in doing so we create something bigger than the result of a football match. We give a nod to the relentless forces of austerity and the unshakable logic of the markets. We pause to say out loud that we are hurting. We are hurting but we are in it together. We are hurting like we have hurt in times past. Much of the story of Ireland is about hunger and poverty and hurt. We will not fall into masochism or self pity. Nor will we simply ignore the problems and throw a party. An opportunity for a great national coming together is created with these football tournaments. We may use this one to find something positive in ourselves which we can identify with and which we can harness and use to transform our situation from despair, through hope and beyond to better times.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

Different roles, hidden pain and inner strength.

Counselling — admin @ 4:49 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we got to talking in an informal way about the different worlds that we inhabit as we go about our daily business. We had just come back from a walk up the street to call into the bank. We found it very interesting to observe the differing roles of the people we met along the way. We met a woman coming out of an insurance office. She was holding several sheets of paper which we gathered were related to either a car or home insurance transaction. She might have just called in to make a premium payment. Maybe she was filing some paperwork relating to a claim. And we wondered what story might be involved in that. At the bank there were lots of customers waiting either for the cash desks or for customer service. The customers played their roles and got their business taken care of and the bank staff looked professional and dressed appropriately and went about their work with the relaxed formality that their role places on them.

When we got back to the office we spoke about the different roles that people play and how even ordinary day to day business can seem to follow a script with participants like characters acting parts in a play. It struck us how different many of these roles are from the roles which people describe to us in our work. The contrast between the commercial and occupational activity of the main street and the personal dramas of people’s ordinary lives seems stark. People who come to our building set aside some of the formality of their day to day roles. Here we have a space to explore roles that might be regarded as more fundamental. Instead of commercial or other systems people talk about love and life and loss. Among the roles talked about here are those of mother, father, son, daughter, lover or friend. The struggle is to set aside the outer world and get in touch with more personal, internal scripts and to begin to consider rewriting them.

It is hard to tell when we meet someone in their outside role whether they are happy or not. At times someone might not even have a good awareness of whether they really are happy where they are at in life. It may not occur to someone that there is anything that can be done about it. At other times in life we can be quite aware that there are stresses and difficulties which affect us badly and make everyday life a struggle. It is very striking for us when we see someone trying to maintain their public persona while dealing with private pain which is hidden from view.

The task in therapy is to set aside the roles we play in our outside lives and get right down to the basics of what makes us a person. The work requires that we delve into the vulnerability that lies behind the self that we show to the outside world. It is our privilege here in Counselling Connections that we meet people at this level every day. It is by looking at our real self that we get to better understand the influences that make us what we are. It is through this journey that we come to appreciate the ways in which the outer world can weigh on us and cause us to struggle in our day to day life. Therapy can strengthen our ability to respond to the demands of the roles we are placed in by consolidating the inner self that is the bedrock of our public persona.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

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