Often my clients ask me how I got into studying psychotherapy and it's quite a long story!
In college, I originally studied International Marketing and Languages and even during that course, my projects swayed towards psychology and I enjoyed subjects such as consumer behaviour and French existentialism a LOT more than managerial economics!
Then, at the end of my second year in college, my sister, Madeleine, died suddenly in a motorbike accident on the night we were out celebrating her 18th birthday.
The grief was unimaginable.
Myself and Madeleine 1996 (Madeleine on the right)
The physical shock took months to wear off and I plunged into intense sadness for a long, long time.
Irish twins, with 16 months between us, my entire life was intertwined with Madeleine’s. Never referred to as separate people, it was always ‘Nicola & Madeleine’. It felt as if I had lost half of myself and it took me many years to climb out of the sadness.
Four months after Madeleine died, I was booked to go on my Erasmus year abroad to Belgium. It was best to go when my college friends were going too, so I chose to go.
I struggled immensely with my mental health during that year and my friends’ kind support got me through. I still look back and wonder how I got through that year without my family. On returning to college in Dublin, I started counselling weekly with student services.
I experienced relief from my sadness during these counselling sessions and although I didn't attend for long, I kept in mind that I could return to counselling in the future if I felt low again.
When I was 22 and in my first job, I started private psychotherapy sessions with an experienced therapist in Limerick and it felt like a huge penny dropped for me.
This therapy thing was incredible!
I learned that I could leave a session with a better understanding of myself and with choices I couldn't see before the session.
My curiosity about how this was helping me took hold and I looked up counselling courses online and asked my therapist for recommendations. She recommended a Foundation Course in Counselling and when I found one in Galway, the closing date for applications was the very next day.
I'm a very deliberative person who usually takes a LONG time to decide on things but I decided to jump in, paid my (BIG) deposit for the course and started a year long part-time Foundation Course in Counselling.
I knew two weekends into the course that I LOVED every minute of learning how to hold space for people. It felt like an honour and a privilege to sit with others and listen to how they were feeling.
I was working in an office job I really disliked during this time and I decided to apply for a Masters in Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy in the University of Limerick as a follow on training. I really did not expect to be accepted on the course and the entry criteria and assessments were intense. Shocked to be accepted on the course, I went on to do the three year M.A in U.L and did my student placement as a student counsellor in UCC. After the four years I was qualified and then spent another two years working towards accreditation with the IACP and IAHIP.
All the work and the sacrifices to train as a psychotherapist were worth it and I learned so much about myself in the process.
I am so incredibly grateful to sit with people who struggle like I did and be there to empower and support them.
Me & my 2 fabulous daughters at the beach Summer 2020
(For anyone considering training as a therapist, I recommend looking at the government accreditation/certification standards for your country and work back from there to find courses that meet the same criteria)