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Jan 2011 by PCI College

Counselling & Psychotherapy, 20 Years On

This year sees our 20th year here at PCI College.  From the early days when the late Liam McCarthy, along with Josephine Murphy, had the foresight to set up training in the field of counselling and psychotherapy with one group, to where we are today with classes in Dublin, Kilkenny, Athlone, Limerick and Cork is quite a leap! 

Liam and Josephine laid a solid foundation academically for students of what was then the Personal Counselling Institute, the basis for what was to become PCI College.

Josephine Murphy & the late Liam McCarthy, Founders of PCI

My own first experience of PCI was when I attended a module on Art Therapy in the early 2000s.  Even then PCI was cutting edge and provided options at a high academic standard for those seeking continued professional development in this subject.  It was back then that I first met Colm Early, who is now our Clinical Placements & Supervisor Coordinator.  I’m sure as we participated together in class, coming to terms with what our psyche was giving us to express through art, little did either of us imagine that we would be working together in our present roles with PCI College all these years later.  iPhones had not yet been invented otherwise I might have been able to provide a few images from back in the day. It was also at this time that I met Pauline Macey who I am pleased to say is still with PCI College today providing class participants with an experience of the exploration of personal awareness and self expression through art media.

Technological advances and their impact within the therapeutic space

When I reflect on what life was like twenty years ago compared with now, the first thing that comes to mind is the vast improvement in technology and the implications this has had for some of those presenting to us for counselling and psychotherapy.  In 1991 there were hardly any mobile phones, and the ones that were in existence might be somewhat similar to a brick in comparison to the sleek machines of today that allow instant access to people around the world.  Of course such continual access is not without its problems.  Cyber and text bullying is an unfortunate but common presenting issue for some people, especially younger people.  Twenty years ago bullying was present; however it was usually confined to the immediate environment one was in, such as work or school.

With the improvements in technology, internet addiction is also a serious problem facing both young and old clients who may present for therapy.  Bebo (image 1) is a social networking site popular with younger people; it allows photographs and other personal information to be uploaded and to be saved to their page very easily.   Unless they are familiar with privacy and what that means many young people are leaving their information wide open to all that have internet access and the dangers that poses.  Parents may face a real problem if internet access is left unsupervised for their young person.   Facebook (image 2) is used by a wide age group and has fast become a social networking phenomenon.  Again, unless the user is familiar with privacy settings similar problems may emerge.  In one case a teenage female in the United Kingdom was murdered as a result of connecting with a stranger through a social networking site and then meeting them in real life.  It is very easy for unsuitable individuals to present on the internet as someone they are not.  The internet has many positive aspects too, such as easily accessible information at the touch of a button. The easy promotion of self through personal websites is now cheaper and very user friendly.


Most people now have mobile phones that have the ability to connect to the internet allowing the user independent access to social networking sites as mentioned earlier.  This in turn may pose difficulties for parents or guardians who are attempting to monitor and limit the young person’s access to certain internet sites. These phones also take video and photographic images which gives the user ease of access to publishing these images on either their own social networking page or the pages of others.  Young people who are having intimate relations with each other have been known to take personal photos of each other believing this to be a private shared experience.  However, many of these “relationships” end badly and a number of these private photographic images have then been sent to multiple recipients, a trend known as ‘sexting.’

In 2009 in Pennsylvania USA a photograph showing a young teenage girl getting out of the shower and wrapped in a towel from the waist down was distributed to other students leading to a federal prosecutor seeking to charge the teenage girl (fourteen years of age) who was believed to have started this event with the full extent of the law, including the charge of possession of child pornography. Gil Kaufman (2009) reporting for MTV tells of three other incidents of young teenagers distributing sexually explicit images amongst peers and of one case where a young teen posted naked images of herself to a website for her boyfriend to view.  I believe It is important that psycho-educational space is provided for young people in order that they fully understand the implications for self and others regarding internet and phone use as outlined above.

Here at PCI College I believe we are still at the cutting edge in the higher education training sector as internet addiction forms part of the curriculum covered here for those completing the BSc Degree in Addiction Counselling.  As one who led the way in Ireland with his forward thinking in this field I’d like to think that Liam would be pleased to see that the work he began twenty years ago is continuing and progressing with the ever changing times.

Linda McGuire
Programme Leader

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