Bethan O’ Riordan is a counsellor and psychotherapist with over ten years’ experience. Having worked in addiction and homeless services in Dublin and Cork, she witnessed the pain and trauma of those affected by addiction and homelessness.


Helping others to deal with pain and trauma is, after all, a psychotherapist’s job. Over three years ago, a series of personal events inspired her to quit her job and set up her own private practice in Cork called “Resilient Minds”.


“Resilient Minds” is part of the Blarney Wellness Centre. The Centre comprises Bethan’s practice, Resilient Minds, and a practice run by Patricia Murphy called “Baby Toes to big toes”, which offers a range of treatments such as facial reflexology, foot reflexology, baby massage, meditation, and yoga


When Bethan’s son, Ramsey, was seven months old, he began to suffer from seizures. Around the same time, a family member’s son was diagnosed with a serious disability. A friend’s child also sadly passed away. During these painful times, Bethan began to wonder, “what is it that gets people through these dark times?”


Her own experience and the experiences she witnessed, opened her eyes even further to human suffering and motivated her to want to help other families.


“I realised that it’s ok to not be ok. But, how do you ‘not be ok’ and still keep it together?”


Bethan began to study the psychology of compassion. Compassion is the ability to understand the emotional state of another person or oneself. Compassion differs from empathy because it includes the extra element of wanting to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another or of oneself. Bethan says,


“Compassion is the science of being human…how we are all vulnerable to depression, anxiety, stress. It’s about learning to be the most helpful version of you”.


Bethan offers one-to-one counselling sessions to individuals who may be experiencing a difficult time in their lives. She uses a combination of approaches including person-centred, cognitive-behavioural therapy, compassion focused therapy and compassionate mind training. She also runs parenting groups and Mum and Baby Meet Ups at her practice.


“I run a group for Mums where they come with their very small children. We talk about the real difficulties of being a Mum and trauma from birth. The most important thing is that we bring compassion into it and we say, what is your motivation? If compassion is your motivation, it changes things. Because compassion is the ability to recognise that this situation is really hard but what are we going to do about it? We can create an inner ally in the mind.  Someone who is always on your side. Someone who can always make these really great decisions”.


Bethan explains why group work is so important.


“Humans are better together. Coming together as human beings, it helps us understand what being human is. If we talk about difficult emotions, and if we can do it in a group setting, it really normalises things”.


Bethan also works with teenagers and young children. She explains how youngsters are affected by the technology that is now a normal part of their daily lives.


“They are so afraid of being left out of something, not getting enough likes. But this is all in a make-believe world, so there is a lot to be said for coming together as people and talking about being human. People get a lot of strength from that”.


Because modern life is becoming increasingly fast-paced, Bethan advocates the idea of looking after our individual well-being.


“I think we are being moved away from our sense of being human, being together, getting on and being connected…well-being is early nights, late nights, sometimes; partying, sometimes; but, also, this idea that we don’t have to do six after-school activities. You could just go to bed and sleep or be at home with the family and play board games for the night. Well-being is eating well, sleeping well, it’s coming to therapy when you need it. Investing in your well-being is such an important message to get out to people”.


As well as investing in our well-being, Bethan has another important message to share with people.


“Come and talk if you’re not feeling great because when you talk, it shifts things…We are all vulnerable to stress, depression, anxiety, worry, shame, guilt. I always say to people, change is possible. Often, people have forgotten how to solve a problem because their brain has been totally hijacked by worry about something. We just need to get the rest of the brain clicking into gear”.


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Irene Halpin Long lives in Blarney, County Cork with her beautiful daughter and, rather tall, husband. She is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist. Her blog “Her voice from the kitchen window” chronicles her voice since returning to Ireland in 2015, along with the voices of those she meets and interviews who impact the society in which we all live.
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