Kedron has recently opened in Edenderry, Co. Offaly. Its Director, Dr. Jim O’Donoghue, talks to Mavis Arnold about the inspiration behind it and how it came about.
‘We chose the name because Kedron was the brook which Christ crossed before entering the Garden of Gethsemane. It represents an intensely spiritual phase of his journey as he tries to come to terms with the suffering in his life. He prayed that it would be taken from him but flight was not possible from this suffering. It was very embodied suffering, intensely psychological: bodily stress so great that he sweated blood. I met a client once who had this kind of experience.
‘In setting up Kedron we are trying to take into account people with very intense suffering and with whom it may be difficult to do the depth work which is required work before they can become sufficiently grounded to return home to their families and communities. We are very aware of the amount of support which these people may need. We have always had in mind a place where they could stay for a short while until their process was fully integrated. We modelled our concept of such a place on the work of the late Frank Lake and his residential centre at Lingdale in Nottingham where people could come and stay for five to ten days.
We were also motivated by our work with priests, sisters and brothers over the years. We were aware of increasing numbers w ho went to England, to Houses of Affirmation, for six months or a year during which time they went through a programme based on the need for growth, psychospiritual help and renewal. These men and women were having doubts, anxieties and depression which previous formation and training did not deal with, and which surfaced in mid life after they had finished the first part of then lives including their academic training and first pastoral appointment. This can be a time when the energy and idealism which kept them going begins to flag and there may be an eruption of intense loneliness. Changes have taken place in the structures of the church and in ordinary people’s response to the defined religious rules with which they grew up. These religious often find that people with whom they work pastorally no longer give allegiance to religious practice. This can leave those committed to this work totally frustrated about its meaning and value but with no place to go. At this time they need space to allow unattended aspects of themselves to be discovered, and opportunities to integrate their previous experiences which may have resulted in much pain and suffering.
‘Many of them were questioning their original training and they were leaving the priesthood and religious life and ministry in a poor state of psychological and spiritual health with very little support. Three or four years ago we were asked could we do something about this. We were willing to consider it, and we had several offers from different Religious groups offering premises. We saw this as an opportunity for a valuable use of buildings which were no longer required because of the fall off in vocation, and one which tied in with our own mission statements. Therefore the opportunity for premises to be used for our work seemed both valuable and healing.
‘Early in 1997 the St. John of God sisters invited us to look at their convent in Edenderry. The number of sisters was very small and this made it impossible for them to keep a convent as a viable religious community m such a big building. We chose it because of its location – 40 miles west of Dublin – and because of its excellent condition. It was in a quiet location and seemed to have a peaceful energy around it. The sisters were prepared to offer it on terms which made it possible for us to buy it, even though we had to incur a large bank debt, and there was quite a risk for us in this. Having weighed it up we decided that, because of the needs of both religious and lay people, it was worth this risk.
We moved into the premises at the end of 1997. Since then we have been preparing the building for our purposes and we will take our first residents this month. In addition to the residential aspect of the work we are also offering the midlands the same kind of service we have offered in the Dublin Counselling and Therapy Centre since 1990 and the Dundalk Counselling Centre since 1982. This means we are particularly committed to offer professional psychotherapy and counselling, most especially for those who are poor and who cannot afford to go to private practitioners. Since we opened the Dublin Counselling Centre we have had many people from the Midlands coming to Dublin. Having a centre in the Midlands will make it much easier for them. The Dublin Centre is funded from Training Courses. Initially, Kedron will be funded from our bank loan, but when t he Residential Unit gets going, and there are workshops and outside work, lecturing etc. our funding will come from that.
‘We also have a voluntary management committee who raise funds for us. In addition to this, we would hope that the Health Board, Government Agencies and private trusts will support the work. There is a growing recognition among those in need of the value of individual/couple/family therapy, most especially in disadvantaged areas.
It was this that led to the foundation of the Dundalk and Dublin Centres. We welcome the opening of a number of other centres: New Day Family Counselling Centre in the South Inner City, Northside Counselling Centre in Coolock and, more recently, the Newlands Institute in Clondalkin and Hesed House in Inchicore. All of those Centres are finding huge demands on their services. All have waiting lists for clients and, since we opened in Edenderry, we already have waiting lists of very distressed people who know that what they need most is someone who will listen attentively and help them work through their inner struggles so that their lives can flow more peacefully and with more meaning.
‘In Ireland we have had, unfortunately, a large increase in numbers attempting and committing suicide. It is significant that in the short time we have been in Edenderry we have met with a number of people who have attempted or are feeling suicidal. Through careful psychotherapy and counselling we are able to bring these young people through this difficult crisis in their life. That in itself is an enormous contributon to the health of the community in which these people live.
There is a problem for all of the Centres I have mentioned. We are all struggling financially – this leads to many distressed people being turned away. With what would be a very small financial commitment on the part of statuory bodies towards these Centres not only could lives be saved but many young married people and single parents who are in dire need of help could be enabled to get their lives together so that the next generation – their children – would not have to experie nce the same intense pain and end up as a huge cost on the medical services. In addition to healing human suffering, it makes economic sense to provide the small financial help that would enable these Centres to employ more professional therapists and meet the needs of our community. ’
Kedron will take 12-14 residents at any one time, together with professional staff. We have designed a programme of 10 to 12 weeks which can be renewed. Our emphasis is on a more intense, shorter stay programme to enable people to return more quickly to pastoral work. We are not an addiction centre. When people present with addiction problems we assess them and refer them on for residential care. Different kinds of therapy cannot mix.
With regard to sexual offenders, such as paedophiles, there is a very special environment for them in the Grenada Institute in South County Dublin. There is very little therapy provided for paedophiles and this is proving a huge problem because of the rate of recidivism. However, in Kedron we will not be providing such therapies.
‘We are also open to lay people. We offer individual psychotherapy, group therapy, art therapy, narrative and story telling group therapy, spiritual awareness groups, lifestyle enhancement groups, lecture programmes and healing. There will be physical therapy where required. The Centre will have the services of a general practitioner and psychiatric back-up.
In our therapy programme we will be laying great emphasis on commitment to the development of healing relationships in people’s lives so that the wounded will learn to appreciate the value of developing and contributing to healing relationships so that people can rediscover their place confidently in family and society. Within this approach we will be taking into account the whole person, not just the psychological aspect but also the spiritual, physical and social aspects of person. Our programme will also highlight the importance of integration and self care.
‘Kedron is a project of Dublin Counselling and Therapy Centre, not a separate organisation. Many of the team in the Dublin Centre will be working in Kedron. We are also bringing new people on to the staff, some of whom have experience in Houses of Affirmation in England. The whole ambience will be a team approach. We have already employed support staff of five people through FAS Community Employment Scheme helping in administration, domestic duties and maintenance. We also have a full-time voluntary administrator. Support has been promised by some religious congregations and orders and we will be sending out an appeal in that regard. Of immediate importance to us financially is to repay our bank loan so that we can get on with our healing work without the inhibition of financial pressure. We are a charitable, non-profit making organisation and we keep costs minimal for those who are marginalised or excluded, those for whom the Celtic Tiger is a threat rather than a loving family pet.’
Jim O’Donoghue is a director of the Dublin Counselling and Therapy Centre