Reclaiming voices: Transforming therapeutic conversations beyond oppression

Read on for 1) some of my highlights from the Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) 2024 Conference on decolonising therapy 2) more information about writing for the Irish Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy and 3) some of awkward vegan deliciousness from the journey and stay in Sligo

‘My dream is for collective liberation’ ~ IACP Public Inspiration award winner, Blezzing Dada

Our MC for the day: The fantabulous Jade

First, the elephant in the room

black elephant near trees
Didn’t want to show an actual elephant in a room because elephants prefer the wild.
Photo by Venkat Ragavan on

Being Indian Irish, London born with a London/Essex/loadsofotherplaces accent, a part of me was a LITTLE concerned about opening my mouth at the breaks at an event I assumed would focus on healing the Irish experience of 800 years of oppression (by the English).

My heart still hurts that, having grown up assuming so many British people were ashamed of the horrific history of the British Empire… well, the whole Brexit thing and rise of the far right. The referendum result and lack of accountability for any of the well documented lies and propaganda led to my move to Ireland with, as Metro emphasised, Rainbow MagnifiCat

Even writing that now, I feel guilty that I have passport privilege as I’ve had an Irish passport since I was 10 and we lived in America for a year and COULD move.

I know so so many people who are hurting more each day in a country that no longer feels like home. I know so many people around the world who are hurting not only because they feel less welcome in hostile environments but because a small group of noisy racists and other hate mongers speak for so few and yet make so much noise and create terror.

We need to feel safe, welcome and loved in order to thrive. We’re WIRED that way.

Fortunately, events like these are helping people from all backgrounds to come together, heal and create as much safety, welcome and love (in the therapeutic agape sense, no dodgy predatory behaviour) for our clients and supervisees as possible

It was lovely to see more of Sligo (see below) and the day began with Frank Feighan TD, IACP Cathaoirleach Séamus Sheedy and IACP CEO Lisa Molloy welcoming everyone. Iwona Blasi‘s beautiful artwork graced the slides.

We observed a minute’s silence for Martin Ryan who had worked at IACP for many years. The moving tributes by Lisa and Séamus were followed by a slideshow of pictures of him with the team. His death and funeral had been so recent, I have no idea how they worked through it to get the event not only ready but SO welcoming and wonderful with such raw grief.

Assistant professor in psychotherapy and broadcaster, Dr Ray O’Neill, made a dramatic entrance inspired by a scene from Game of Thrones and gave an excellent talk entitled Fa’mine’: Possessions of trauma and using cultural / national histories of oppression to justify the hurting of others.

Jodie McKenzie, CEO of the Australian Counselling Association spoke about the importance of First Nation Representation and she’s been collaborating with an Australian university to support the development of a First Nations Counselling Curriculum. Much of what she spoke of in her talk Healing echoes: Nurturing resilience in indigenous trauma and loss was especially moving considering similar issues here in Ireland and around the globe and I really hope she does, as planned, welcome and encourage greater representation from First Nations counsellors in her organisation and more widely.

Professor Lynne Gabriel was brilliant, hilarious (and named the elephant in the room with her own English accent) and remembered her fighter young self and recognising how she now (through so much service for BACP, now as President and more) uses (I’m putting this in psychosynthesis terms, calling it Skillful Will v Strong Will) different approaches but still speaks up for herself and others. Her talk was called Moving beyond oppression: The role of relational ethics.

Dr Edil Torres Rivera, a professor at Wichita State University, spoke eloquently about chaos theory and liberation psychology in his talk Decolonisation is liberation: Operationalisation of decolonial model of counselling using liberation psychology principles.

Both panels were facilitated by Dil Wickremasinghe and panellists included the IACP Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s Chair Jim Hutton and Vice Chair Ravind Jeawon as well as offering us the opportunity to ask more questions of the guest speakers.

I hope there’ll be many MANY more events like this as it felt we only scratched the surface and it was such a joy. For example, I would love to hear from counsellors and psychotherapists from the Traveller community as well as many other communities.

Most of my photos from the day didn’t come out – some strange glitch meaning some have been identified as not the right format for the site even though all were taken with the same camera (my phone).

Here are a few that did:

Dil, Jodie, Ray and Jim during the first panel | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024

Lynne, Dil, Ravind and Edil after the second panel | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024

As always, it was lovely to hear about the talented, generous and innovative members who were given awards. Blezzing Dada‘s acceptance speech was especially moving as she recounted the activism (from the age of 11!) in the face of such adversity that brought her here.

Blezzing Dada winning the Public Inspiration Award | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024

Lots and lots of inspiration from all the day’s speakers and the amazing behind the scenes staff who, again, while grieving such a recent loss, did phenomenally.

The Irish Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

I’m still new to my role as Editor-in-Chief of the Irish Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy but, having been part of the Editorial Committee since 2021 and having now edited two editions, am increasingly enjoying getting to know the team better.

The whole team couldn’t be there but this picture shows Editor of the Summer 2024 issue (and award winner!) Jayne Leonard, me, Rosie Woolfson and Ciaran Whyte | photo by the delightful photographer whose name I will find out and come back to properly credit

Jayne Leonard accepting her IACP Research Excellence award for her work with nutrition and mental health | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024

Having spoken about self care and burnout at last year’s conference, my role this year was (yikes) to network and encourage people to consider writing for us and joining us.

As psychotherapists, counsellors and supervisors spoke out about the media’s part to play in honouring all voices during question sessions as well as during the breaks, I loved and being able to ask them (and YOU if you’re fired up about any issue that might work for us!) to please consider writing for us. You can access some back issues and FULL AUTHOR GUIDELINES by scrolling down the page HERE

If (after reading them) you’d like some extra guidance, please email me at the Journal:

It’s up to us to make it as reflective of the whole membership and Ireland as possible so we can all benefit from a diversity of voices not just in specialisms and ways of working (although, let’s face it, I adore diversity in all its forms. It’s why I work this way)

We’re also looking to welcome some new members to IACP’s Editorial Committee. If this is something that aligns with your skillset (enjoying writing and editing, excellent eye for detail etc), please complete this volunteer application form

Stunning Sligo

Based in Mayo, I feel like I should know Sligo better but it’s so far by public transport, I’ve only been a few times. This time, I DROVE a good chunk of the way and we survived my learner terror of the junction with no filter light and cars coming from ALL directions including above and below and sideways (in my horrified imagination).

It was my first time actually seeing Benbulben from the town. I’d only been to Sligo in the rain before!

It was an absolute joy to be able to drive us to Rosses Point between the conference and dinner and then Mullaghmore for snorkelling the next day.

Monument to all the women who said goodbye to and waited for the return of their men and children, forced to leave Ireland for better lives the way so many around the globe seek safety and better lives themselves. As the daughter of immigrants and now an immigrant myself (while also living in a country I have a blood link to for the first time in my life), this statue reminded me of my (not known to me) great grandparents on both sides | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024
Underwater snorkel selfie | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024
stunning seaweed | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024
under the sea beauty | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024

Awkward vegan delights

Being vegan and allergic (anaphylaxis) to bell peppers, eating out is usually very awkward.

I’ve been to several IACP events now where they’ve taken SUCH good care of me, I’ve not only felt safe enough to eat the food but it’s been delicious and served with no (apparent to me) annoyance. Big thanks to IACP’s Operations Manager Carol Murray for all she did for me and others, again, while grieving.

Here are some of my highlights from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Sligo (which had a gorgeous pool, too) and some of the stops we made on the journey there and back.

Divine dal, almost as good as I remember my grandmother’s having been | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024
Decadent vegan cheesecake. I think the omnivores wanted some too! | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024
I enjoyed a SALAD! Especially the edamame beans and pomegranate. Aged 48, am growing… | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024
Not my best look but it captures my glee at being able to FEAST now thanks to big brands widening their vegan options. The plant based Whopper was a thing of deliciousness and this pic was taken before I ended up wearing some of it on my face | photo by Pat Croghan 2024
I was worried KFC no longer did their vegan burger as my last trip to Dublin had me making a tough decision between KFC vegan burger and running an errand I could only have run in Dublin only to be told they didn’t have any. That day? Forever? Thankfully the Sligo franchise still does them. And when I have a full driver’s licence, such treats may become more frequent | photo by Eve Menezes Cunningham 2024

All in all, a delightful weekend.

Thanks again to ALL involved.


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