Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
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Meet The Board: Peter Ledden [22/07/20]

IACP Board Member Peter Ledden Speaks to Us About His Journey as a Psychotherapist


What made you interested in a career in counselling/psychotherapy?

I recall feeling very inadequate while working in my very first job which involved bringing newly bereaved families into a hospital morgue to see their family member laid out. This existential self-awareness put me directly on the path of wanting to develop counselling support skills, so I embarked on a two-year foundation course in counselling.

While this really felt the right direction for me to pursue, the tutor suggested that this was a career with a high burnout rate and dissuaded me from progressing further at that time.

As an alternative, I elected to instead embark on training as a Psychiatric Nurse which I really loved as a career. After qualifying, I worked in a Day Hospital doing mainly group therapy and working with individuals.

While I enjoyed this form of people work, it became apparent to me that that my preferred skill set was to be more pro-active than re-active in working within mental health. The medical pharmacological prescriptive model in my view often displaced the “I thou relationship” so with this in mind, I changed direction and trained as a Psychotherapist.

This for me was a huge decision to start over in a new career as I had invested heavily with the promise of a solid nursing career path ahead. I was very fortunate to have some of the founders of the IACP involved in my training and formation.

After my accreditation I became interested in the training of therapists which I did at the Tivoli Institute, PCI College and also as the Director of training at Fingal Counselling. I also set up The Lifecoach Institute (now the Irish Lifecoach Institute) for the training of Lifecoaches and have also been involved training Supervisors.

In 2003, I set up Abate Counselling and EAP Ltd which now has a team of 150 counsellors nationwide providing services to organisations and the HSE. In 2004 as the provider of EAP to Dublin Bus, I oversaw the counselling response for the bus crash tragedy at Wellington Quay. This led me to working a lot with trauma within An Garda Siochana for their members who were injured and also providing support for members when a colleague was killed on duty.

Overall, I think my interest in becoming a counsellor and the paths I took over the years have resulted in me loving what I do, and I am really glad that I followed my instinct and passions.

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

Firstly, it is always worth remembering that we are all privileged to be allowed into the inner working world of our clients who share with us their most intimate details, observations and fears. If we want to be successful as therapists we need to delicately move with understanding, creativity, compassion and remain authentic in the process. In addition to this the use of sensitivity can be accompanied with appropriate humour, personal sharing and psychoeducation. Be you in the work.

In terms of other advice, I have always found it essential to be able to compartmentalise work with clients so while in the counselling room we should fully immerse and connect in the moment yet remain able to re-emerge after sessions without accumulative compassion fatigue setting in.

I would encourage the new generation of therapists to identify a list of 21 joyous activities and schedule at least one a week. What also works for me is looking at the long-term weather forecast and taking time off from clients when it is predicted that the sun may shine.

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

Remember Erikson’s 8th stage of Integrity Versus Despair so “Don’t stop believing” and “Trust your instincts”

What do you think the future looks for our profession?

I have seen many changes over the years, when I began as a therapist there were very few training organisations and even getting on a course was considered an achievement. In those days all professional courses including nursing were at diploma level. When I began there was no internet, no social media, no smart phones and as a newly accredited therapist counsellor the main advertising method was the Golden Pages which gave higher listings in alphabetic order, hence the birth of the name Abate Counselling.

Having said that in my view the future for the profession is bright, we must always embrace change and thankfully there is now more mental health services available, therapists are better educated, research is a necessary part of guiding the profession. There have been major advances in supervision and cross professional supervision, online supports are developing at great speed and as a IACP board member it is an amazing experience to be at the coalface of influencing the future developments of this profession.

I feel really proud to have been involved in our organisation which is now 39 years in existence.
Through my involvement as a board member I have discovered the unseen work that the all the staff in the IACP team are involved in and developing the future for our profession. I hold the view that our profession will continue to grow and the IACP will continue to influence positive change for members into the future.

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

Despite training, I have noticed that not everyone will succeed at becoming a therapist, not everyone can hold the space, and many will not operate a full-term practice. I believe that this is one profession where you have an innate ability in you to do this work or don’t so not everyone makes it. What is needed is self-belief, aptitude, resilience, business and marketing acumen, people skills, and an abundance of patience.

What key piece of learning has the Pandemic taught you?

I have found the pandemic to be enlightening personally as it was a leveller of all us human beings on the planet. It allowed for reflection, appreciation, adaptability, hope and the ability to transcend fear. In my own case as an EAP provider for many nursing homes and hospitals such as the Mater, St James and the HSE, I had the responsibility of working directly with all frontline staff affected by the COVID-19 crisis and I guess my key piece of learning is that humans can overcome adversity when we think positively and have adequate supports such as counselling in place.


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