Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Providing support beyond the departure gates

Donijka Monk and Mary McHugh have set up a psychotherapy service to provide counselling via telephone or Skype to Irish people who are struggling with geographical distance or emotional isolation from loved ones.

Wed, Aug 1, 2012, 01:00


Donijka Monk and Mary McHugh have set up a psychotherapy service to provide counselling via telephone or Skype to Irish people who are struggling with geographical distance or emotional isolation from loved ones.

Since the Irish Online Counselling & Psychotherapy Service (IOCPS) opened for business, our client work has shown us the story of emigration beyond the airport departure gates. As well as learning to adapt to a new culture, possibly a new language, the geographic isolation from loved ones can lead to emotional isolation. The loss of physical proximity to family, friends and community is often highlighted during times of celebration, such as births, weddings, birthdays etc, or at times of sadness such as relationship breakdown, illness or death.

The stress brought on by these unshared occasions can be the catalyst that causes a challenge to become a crisis. For some of the overseas clients who use our service, conventional face to face counselling in their new country of residence had been tried, but due to language barriers or cultural differences it wasn’t conducive to the establishment of a safe and trusting relationship necessary for depth work and healing.

For others, the pain of separation from Ireland leads to a deep desire to connect with someone from ‘home’, but there can be resistance to fulfil that connection through family and friends. This can be borne from a sense of shame and perceived failure, or a desire to protect those at home who are also struggling with adapting to life without their loved ones. Our role is to provide a safe environment where people can be met where they are, geographically and emotionally within the professional boundaries that allow masks to be removed and healing to take place.

We offer counselling sessions through three mediums, instant chat, telephone and video call via Skype. Our opening hours are not restricted to 9am-5pm GMT, thus facilitating sessions through a medium and time that suit the client regardless of their time zone. Currently 40 per cent of our clients are Irish people living abroad. Some came to us after trying traditional counselling in their host countries, which didn’t provide a viable support for them because of language barriers or cultural differences.

Eamon Gilmore’s office have assured us that the support of Irish citizens abroad is a priority and have made our details available to the Irish Embassies around the world. We believe in the need for a support network to be made available to those considering emigration, even before they leave, perhaps to avoid the shift from challenge to crisis, or at least that within a crisis that they know and believe that they are not alone.

Our wish is not that online counselling should replace traditional face to face counselling, but rather that it be the vital stepping stone towards that, through connection and relationship, at a time when it is needed, through a medium that feels safe.

The Irish Online Counselling & Psychotherapy Service (IOCPS) was founded in July 2011 by Donijka Monk and Mary McHugh, influenced by their voluntary work with an online support service. The motto behind the psychotherapy service is “wherever you are, we are”. See and our Facebook page.

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