Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
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Carl Berkeley Memorial Award 2014

Marcella Finnerty - Acceptance Speech

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the IACP – friends. This is a very special honour, an enormous compliment and I am truly grateful. I am flattered, humbled and elated to join the ranks of the recipients of the Carl Berkeley Memorial Award. Standing here, I am suddenly conscious of my place in the bigger scheme of things, and of the past.

I didn’t know him personally, but Carl’s name is one known to us all. He was, I’m told one of those great men, a practitioner rather than a politician with a mellow voice and a great presence.   His dedication, passion and dynamism are legendary and we are all indebted to him. He was a catalyst to counselling being made available in Ireland and that is something that we in VCS and IICP feel strongly about and are very grateful to Carl and others for paving the way.

In accepting this award, I am aware that I join a stellar lineup of previous winners, amongst them Ursula O’Farrell. Ursula has long been an influence in my life, I feel so privileged to have had her as a lecturer not once but twice in my career, and now to be a recipient of the same award.

I am also aware that this award is not mine alone.  I want to say a thousand thanks to our team, to Triona Kearns, Aisling Keane, Padraig O’Morain, Ann Frey, David O’Regan, and many other generous, hardworking, and passionate professionals with a steely determination and great warmth and strength, including my long-suffering husband, Pat, my family and friends.

I feel privileged and honoured to be a member of the IACP and to have worked with first-class colleagues and committees who have proved a great source of strength and a guiding light to me throughout the many years.  I wish to see the profession continue to thrive and grow with best practice our core value.  Key to achieving this goal is research. Research is vital to keep things moving, to prevent stagnation. It’s educating ourselves. It’s taking time to find out - because through finding out we learn, and through learning, we grow.

I’ve recently conducted a study exploring how 14 experienced integrative therapists describe their practices of integration. Part of what I found out (and I include myself in this also) is that much of the academic research literature is not terribly relevant to us as therapists. We, as practitioners, need to be involved also as researchers if we are to make the literature applicable, useful and interesting to us. We do not slavishly follow any theories or therapies.   Instead it seems, we build up a second body of tacit knowledge which we use as a reference point. We look to what worked for us previously and constantly try to collaborate with our clients as we tailor our interventions to meet their needs with the therapeutic alliance as key to success. We are a group of lifelong learners with a belief that no one approach has the ability to respond to the complexity of issues with which our clients present. We use a multiplicity of models and view them as complementary with the disadvantages of one enhanced by the strengths of another. The descriptions of the therapists in my study reflect a broadly pluralistic perspective to their practice and I think it is serendipitous that Professor Cooper who has written extensively on pluralism and whose work I admire greatly and have used in my own research, is here today. It’s up to all of us in the profession and myself, and the team at IICP and VCS, to continue to find out, to keep things moving forward, to help shape the future and to adapt to new circumstances. Because, in the immortal words of Carl Rogers;

"The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change."

On behalf of my colleagues and myself, thank you once again from the bottom of our hearts for this acknowledgement.

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