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Dec 2014 by PCI College

An inclusive therapeutic space - where a client can be themselves

Ahead of her CPD workshop on Saturday 13th December in PCI College Dublin, Dil Wickremasinghe asks 'how can a client have a healing therapeutic experience if they feel they are unable to bring all of themselves into that space?'

It all started in 2006 when I had my own mental health crisis. I had just walked out of the GP’s office with a prescription for anti-depressants. It took less than 5 minutes for him prescribe. I knew that my problems could not be resolved by simply taking a pill. I had experienced sexual abuse as a teenager at the hands of a teacher, I had failed my junior cert and subsequently I was expelled from school. In addition to this I came from an abusive home and my parents rejected me when they heard I was gay and threw me out of the family home at the age of 17. I was homeless for 3 years. I was fired from my first job because of my sexuality and was forced to emigrate in search of a country that would accept me for who I am. How could a pill possibly help me understand and make peace with the injustices I had experienced?

A friend suggested that I should talk to someone like a counsellor or a psychotherapist. I didn’t know what that involved or even what the term “mental health” meant. I was scared to open my can of worms but I also felt I was running out of time as the notion of suicide was occupying my mind.

I went on line and looked for a counsellor. Even picking up the phone was a huge effort for me as I was battling a deep sense of shame around having to ask for help. I was very conscious of being a lesbian migrant with considerable experience of trauma. I was plagued by questions, was there a counsellor who could help me? Would they be prejudiced against me? What if they were homophobic or racist? The thought of opening up to someone who would not understand me or made me feel welcome scared me deeply. Most of the counsellors I found didn’t have websites and those who did didn’t indicate they worked with migrant or LGBT clients. I ended up meeting ten different therapists in my search for the one that I felt I could work with. Most seemed unaware of LGBT issues and the stresses migrants’ experience. Some even seemed to be using me to learn from my experience! Thankfully, a gay friend recommended the services of One in Four and that helped my journey towards recovery.

Many years later I found myself thinking what if I had given up on my search for a suitable therapist, would I still be here? Were there others who found it difficult to find an inclusive therapeutic space? In 2012 I worked as a community worker in an LGBT resource centre and through my work I met so many service users who had been emotionally harmed by accessing services from counsellors who were not familiar with the complexities of LGBT identity. Then from a migrant perspective my work as board member of a migrant woman’s NGO made me acutely aware of the high levels of stigma migrants must overcome to even ask for help and when they do the services are sadly not culturally appropriate.

These experiences highlighted the importance of an inclusive therapeutic space which can only be created if the service providers train in the area of Diversity and Intercultural Awareness.

How can a client possibly have a positive and healing therapeutic experience if they feel they are unable to bring all of themselves into that space? As a mental health professional how can you build a trusting connection with your client if you are not fully aware of the societal issues that exacerbate their mental health? What if you don’t understand LGBT terminology, sexual practices or the equality issues that face this community? What if you are unaware of how taxing the Irish immigration system is and the lack of rights migrants have in Ireland? What about disability? Do you have a good understanding of the various types of disabilities, their on-going battle for independent living in Ireland and how this impacts on their mental health? Finally, shouldn’t these issues be part of the training that therapists undertake in Ireland?

These are just some of the issues that will be discussed in this one day course on 13th December in PCI College. I look forward to welcoming you to our Diversity and Intercultural Awareness workshop!

Dil Wickremasinghe (December 2014)

Dil Wickremasinghe will facilitate a one-day CPD workshop 'Diversity & Intercultural Awareness in a Therapeutic Space' at PCI College Dublin on Saturday 13th December. You can book your place online now.

About Dil:
Dil Wickremasinghe is a Journalist, Broadcaster, Social Entrepreneur and Trainer whose vision is to create an inclusive and equal Ireland.  She has over 13 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, 8 years in the recruitment industry as Senior Recruitment Consultant & Training Officer and 8 years in Irish media as journalist and broadcaster. The training programmes she has delivered are          
•    C.V. Preparation & Interview Skills
•    Diversity & Equality Awareness
•    Disability Awareness
•    Mental Health Awareness
•    Personal Development Training
•    Sexual Orientation Awareness
•    Dignity in the Workplace
•    Anti-Racism Training
•    Irish Culture Awareness
She is Co-Founder & Training Director of Insight Matters, Managing Director of Diversity & Equality Works,

a former Board member of Akidwa and VSO Ireland, a guest lecturer for the University College of Dublin, Trinity College of Dublin, Dublin Institute of Technology and a Broadcaster on Newstalk 106-108 FM since 2008, presenting "Global Village" every Saturday.

Dil was born in Italy and is a Sri Lankan national and moved to Ireland 13 years ago and is now an Irish citizen.

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