An interview with Laura O’Brien

Carmen BryceBlog posts

Each month, we will be bringing you an interview with one of our MyMind therapists.

This week, we’re talking to MyMind Limerick therapist Laura O’Brien about her approach to therapy, the challenges it brings and what couple’s counselling is all about.

What attracted you to the world of counselling and psychotherapy?

I have a background in various businesses and I always found I had a great rapport with people. However it wasn’t until I did my Masters in Women’s Studies and decided to do a narrative thesis that I first realised I was attracted to counselling. I was talking to all of these women and they were bearing their soul to me, yet I was giving them nothing in return. At that point I did an introduction to counselling skills.

What challenges do you face as a counsellor? 

I think the biggest challenge a therapist faces is being non-judgemental because as human beings we instinctively make a judgement call. You have to be aware of that, you must put any judgement to one side. 

What in your opinion are the rewarding aspects of being a counsellor? 

For me, the most rewarding part of being a counsellor is during my last days with a client – when they say to me ‘I am happy and ready to move on now. I can face life and cope with the challenges of life.’ As a therapist, you can’t ask for any better than that.

What would you say to someone who says talk therapy is a waste of time? 

We’re all human and we all like to make a connection to others. We need someone who is going to listen to you attentively without judgement and be unconditional. Our well meaning friends love us and listen to us and they give us loads of advice. But this isn’t what we need. We need to be heard and we need to be attended to. If it was as simple as just talking, people would do it with their friends.

You use Integrated Reality Therapy in your approach. Can you tell us about this? 

I studied the William Glasser’s method – Choice Reality Theory – which is a very practical method of counselling. It follows the theory that we are all the result of our past but we don’t have to be a victim of it. Even though we talk about some of the things that happened to us in the past that make us the person we are today or created some of the problems we have today, it doesn’t have to define our present. We can go from this day forward. I like this practical approach and I think my clients respond well to it because it gets down to the problem and then we see what we can do about it. It is designed for shorter term therapy rather than the longer, analytical approaches.

You practice couples counselling. What are the biggest challenges facing couples today?

The biggest problem facing many couples today is financial pressures. If a relationship is in any way rocky and there are financial burdens, this can lead to blame, resentment, disappointment. Usually one or the other decide to come to counselling and this can be difficult as if both aren’t engaged, there will be no movement or progression.  Also, in a modern age, we have the internet – which is a wonderful thing – but it gives young people unexpected values and levels to attain which are more fantasy than reality. 

Can you outline what a couple’s counselling session would involve?

The first session would be an assessment, or a series of question that I’d ask each individual in the couple. When they first talk about therapy, you will get an impression of who is pushing therapy more. When you go through the questions, you need a positive response to each question, for example ‘Why are you here?’ The response I’m looking for as a therapist is, ‘To improve my relationship, or to save my relationship’. If they say, ‘because she or he made me’ – right away we have to go back to the beginning and start from there. We firstly need to lay out the perimeters of why they’re there and then go over the five basic needs every human has. This is a practical thing to look at where their basic needs meet or don’t meet, and this is often where the conflict occurs.

What is most important aspects of healthy relationship?

I think to share the same values and basic needs. I think the need for love and belonging should be very strong in a relationship and the need for power needs not to be oppressive to someone. If you love someone and want to share a life with someone, you don’t want to control them. I think that power is a controlling aspect, and to have a healthy relationship, this need to love has to outweigh the need for power.