by Tricia Norris, on behalf of the staff, Board members and alumni of the Irish Gestalt Centre
Hank O’Mahony, co-founder of the Irish Gestalt Centre (IGC), died on 21 October, 2016. Together with Joan O’Leary, Hank was a pioneer of psychotherapy training in Ireland. Since 1983, the Centre he co-founded has trained more than 300 therapists who have been influential in their practices and in developing the professional field in Ireland and the UK.
In an interview with Sarah Kay in this journal (Kay, 2013), Hank described his background as a priest active in the American Civil Rights movement. He brought his experience of injustice and discrimination into his work as a trainer and, alongside a rigorous theoretical grounding, instilled in IGC students the authenticity and inclusiveness which he himself demonstrated in every aspect of his work and personal life.
One of the highlights of Hank’s year was playing St Patrick in the parade in his home village of Spiddal. That was a brief moment of public visibility for a man who did so much so quietly, to support his community, professional colleagues and students. His wake and funeral brought together people from many different backgrounds and all recounted stories about the positive impact knowing Hank had on their lives and work.
Hank had a profound belief in the efficacy of experiential learning and the active linking of practice and theory. His conviction that the quality of the relationship was the crucial factor in therapy led him to develop training which emphasised the personal development and authenticity of the therapist. For Hank these were not merely abstract notions, they were the ground of his being and the foundation of his approach. Integrity, kindness, openness were his defining characteristics along with a healthy tendency to question the status quo.
We at IGC have received many letters of condolence and one comment touched us all and expressed the core of our feeling about our founder:
‘he had that unique ability to make us all feel understood and never diminished.’
Hank deeply touched the lives of his many students, supervisees, clients and professional colleagues. He will be sorely missed by IGC staff, students and alumni and by the wider professional field.
Kay, S. (2013). Hank O’Mahony in conversation with Sarah Kay. Inside Out, 71, 2-20.
Sarah Kay’s interview with Hank can also be read online at https://iahip.org/inside-out/issue-71- autumn-2013/hank-omahoney-in-conversation-with-sarah-kay