Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
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Meet the Board: Bernie Hackett [14/08/20]

IACP Board of Directors' Vice-Chair Bernie Hackett Speaks to Us About Her Journey as a Member

What interested you in Counselling & Psychotherapy?

My reality is that the world of counselling & Psychotherapy found me! perhaps I should call myself “The Accidental Counsellor”. Many years ago having just moved to live in Gorey Co. Wexford, I was approached by the Parish Priest asking would I volunteer to train as a relationship counsellor with an organisation now called ACCORD. New to the parish and having considered getting involved in some form of community work, I agreed to go forward for selection, quite a daunting process interviewed for an hour by a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and the Bishop. Evidently, they considered that I was of sound mind and not a danger to society I was accepted to train. The training was well grounded on Egan’s The Skilled-Helper model, Developmental psychology, the principles of Human Behaviour, Systems theory etc. this training was the grounding base for all further training which I have undertaken since. 18 years later, having filled the roles as counsellor, tutor, and Supervisor, I opened my own Private Practice in Gorey. I became an IACP member and one of the first groups of IACP accredited supervisors.

What advice would you give to the new generation of IACP members?

Don’t you know counsellors would never give advice! What I would say: Don’t take yourself too seriously, beware of Gurus, be a critical thinker, with so much focus on academic achievement while being very important for counselling/psychotherapy to be recognised as a profession in its own right, your humanity, being your authentic self is the best gift you will give to your clients and yourself. Get involved in IACP by actively joining a committee, you will meet many wonderful and wise other members and a great form of support.

If you could give a younger you any piece of advice what would it be?

If I was to do it all again, laugh more, don't be afraid to make mistakes, take more risks, eat more ice cream, more belief in myself as “the good enough counsellor” but always striving to be more than that.

What skills/attributes are essential for working in this profession?

To answer that I am quoting (Rogers in Baldwin 1987) -  which is as true today as almost twenty years ago -  “I am inclined to think that in my writings perhaps I have stressed too much the three basic conditions (congruence, Unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding) Perhaps it is something around the edges of these conditions that is really the most important element of therapy—when myself is very clearly, obviously present”. I would also add that as counsellors, we require patience with both the client’s journey and our own, while recognising our strengths as well as our fragilities.

What do I think the future looks for our profession?

Moves to regulate the profession - while moving very slowly - will no doubt be in force within the next few years, all counsellors/psychotherapists will require a licence to practice and members of the public who wish to access therapeutic help can be reassured that the therapist they choose is trained and is qualified to hold that licence. However, there is an inherent danger in the demand for accountability and professionalism that academic qualifications may overshadow namely: the therapeutic use of self by the therapist remains the conduit of healing. When regulation does happen, I believe that IACP will continue to have a very significant role providing quality CPD, working with course providers, monitoring standards of training, and up to date research for the benefits of its members.

What key piece of learning has the Pandemic taught you?

The whole experience of going through this crisis and  experiencing loss of choice/control over certain aspects of my life has at times being extremely difficult and like many others I have struggled with low mood, irritability and frustration and anxiety. However, I have learnt that I have resilience and have adapted despite my senior years to using online platforms. Initially struggled to overcome some technical difficulties e.g. inviting a friend to a Zoom meeting for 3am! I hope that I have provided you with some insight about me and my thoughts and feelings regarding a profession that I believe have helped many people to lead more fulfilling lives.


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