The wealth of wellness
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"People are always searching for happiness and love and a sense of self. There's a huge hunger for self-acceptance."
That's according to Christine Moran, a Westmeath woman who is the founder and director of a new college in Athlone which takes the holistic approach to mental healing.
Christine was busy with last minute preparations at the International College for Personal and Professional Development in Garden Vale, before term begins next week. After 15 years as a psychotherapist and running the counselling service 'New Beginnings' in Drumraney with her husband Tom, the Miltownpass native has taken the next natural step - training people to take a holistic approach to counselling and psychotherapy.
After growing up on a farm, Christine continues to live in the countryside in Ballymore, with Tom. Together they have nine adult children, six are hers and three are his. They have 13 grandchildren.
It is clear that Christine celebrates and appreciates the simple things in life. But why set up the college in a recession?
"We have a conviction, we're so passionate about the quality we provide," she said, adding that classes are filling up. "We only moved in on July 12 and the college was only an idea in January. We had the idea and then support came for it, the right people turned up at the right time."
The foundation, diploma and masters courses in counselling and psychotherapy start next week and the three-year diploma leads to a professional qualification. There's a mix of men and women of all ages taking the various courses. She said that there was a great interest locally in the classes offered and she's enjoying the experience of setting up a business in the centre of Athlone.
"The college is a living, breathing counselling experience," she explained. "People are being trained and then downstairs people are offering counselling. We're not just talking about it, we're living it."
Christine, who also holds a Masters in humanities, and Tom will both be lecturing, while they also employ two staff-members. Training at ICPPD focuses on personal development as well as the tools needed to become a counsellor. With holistic counselling, there is a key focus on personal development, creativity and spirituality.
"Our focus, it's an integrated approach of body, mind and spirit... It's cosy, more intimate and personal," explained Christine. "I felt the creativity and spirituality is being lost in traditional training. You have to look at it holistically, of course you have to have academic standards but it's equally important if not more, is the ability to be able to sit with someone in their own distress."
She said that she found traditional training was all about the client and the ability to meet their needs, but with holistic training, the counsellor is more self-aware of how their own abilities can help the client. She said that the holistic counselling also believes that the client themselves has the answer to their problems, using their own wisdom, they just need awareness and guidance to reach that place.
Christine said that there's been a huge growth in both the demand for counselling services and services on offer over the past ten years. She also said that out of every ten clients around 80% were women, whereas nowadays, the male to female ratio is 50-50.
"There is a whole normalising and acceptance now," she added. "The whole idea of wellness is normal... People talk to each other more, they will tell someone they've been to counselling or can suggest counselling to a friend. In the past, it was seen that you only got counselling if you were in big trouble."
Christine stressed that the human spirit needs kindness and that people need to feel precious and loved.
"Self-esteem can be a major issue at different times or for different reasons. If we can appreciate our abilities, our inner-strength and resourcefulness and know we've loved just because we're born, we'd be fine. But the reality is different and we forget," she said. "People can get caught up in achievements or materialism, which are important but now that we have less there's a appreciation now maybe of what we have - a job, a good relationship, friends. People are going back to gardening, growing veg, they're going back to community."
She said that it's important for people to reflect on what's really important - such as your health or happiness. She said that a lot of her counselling deals with a sense of loss, whether it's the loss of a relationship, a job, power, a bereavement; which in turn results in a sense of loss of oneself.
"The ups and downs of life are all stages of life experiences, but if a whole load of crises comes at the one time, there's a sense of loss and uncertainty," she added.
And in the spirit of embracing life and all it offers, Christine has been busy with other projects as well.
She is the proud author of a book published last December by local company BookHub Publishing. Called 'Dear Precious Being', it consists of personal reflections written by Christine to herself in letter form.
"It's a personal journey and personal awareness, I didn't do it to get it published," she added. The book is very personal and full of spiritual reflections on life and how to be happy. Its message is simple - appreciate your family, friends, life and the world.
Christine also appeared in the hugely-popular documentary film 'His and Hers'.
She spoke about her son, who at the time of filming, was soon to be married. She spoke about letting go, and hoping that she'd done a good enough job in raising him.
Her daughter had signed her up for the film, and Christine was really impressed with the director Ken Wardrop and the effort that went into producing the film. She didn't bother telling her family, because she wasn't sure if she'd appear in it, or whether it would be screened locally. However, once the awards started coming, Christine decided it was time to warn her family! They attended the Athlone premiere and were struck by its simplicity.
It was yet more thoughtful reflections from a woman who has learned, benefited and gained from all the experiences of her life and wants to pass some of that wisdom on to others. "In a time of recession, I suppose my message is; if I can do it, anyone can. I've been up and down, but I really trust that I'll be taken care of, that's my belief. All I have to do is my best."