Workshop! Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Mental Wellness (Sat 23 March 2019)


I am delighted to announce that myself and author Claire Hennessy will be holding our third ‘Creative Writing for Self-expression and Mental Wellness’ workshop on Saturday 23 March.

As before, it will take place at Big Smoke Writing Factory (Harcourt St, Dublin 2), and aims to marry myself and Claire’s dual passions for creativity and good mental health. Various writing forms are used to explore and expand one’s emotional vocabulary, offering a supportive environment for creative experimentation and sharing.

Participants training or working in the counselling field may find exercises potentially useful in their practice, particularly around the use of imagery as a tool to further understand the client’s unique frame of reference. The writing forms outlined may also be incorporated into the practitioner’s own self-care and reflection routines.

The workshop will run from 11am to 4:30pm, with a lunch break. No previous experience of writing is required.

Students on PCI College’s BSc (Hons) in Counselling & Psychotherapy can count attendance as 4 CPD hours – if this applies to you, just flag with me on the day and I will organise an attendance certificate.

For further info or to  book a place, please visit Big Smoke’s website by clicking the text below:

Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Mental Wellness

Please feel free to share with anyone who may be interested!


You are queer enough

Fab blog post from Karen Pollock on the exclusionary processes that can exist even within communities that have an innate sense of being “outside” – and affirmation on how to stand up to these.

Counselling in Northumberland

The idea of there being only one way to be queer, and that there is a hierarchy, where some people are better queers than others seems to permeate the LGBTQ+ community. It reminds me of the concept of “trueness” which is sometimes discussed in the Kink community (and of course no community exists as an island). True subs, or dominants, believe they have found the one and only way to do BDSM, and can often be found online telling everyone else where they are going wrong. I believe the label comes from the idea of there being “one true way”. One of my tutors, Olivier Cormier-Otaño recently used the word Queerarchy, and I recognized that process of exclusion, othering, and group forming which it seems even those communities which have direct experience of exclusion are not immune to. 

This kind of behaviour is not limited to kink or LGBTQ+ people however…

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Workshop! Creative Writing for Self-expression and Mental Wellness (May 19th 2018)


It will be my pleasure on Saturday 19 May to co-facilitate a one-day experiential workshop with long-time friend, old work colleague, and fabulous writer Claire Hennessy. Taking place at Big Smoke Writing Factory (Harcourt St, Dublin 2), the day aims to marry myself and Claire’s dual passions for creativity and good mental health. To quote from Claire’s post on the Big Smoke website:

This one-day experiential workshop… is ideal for anyone interested in creative writing as a tool to help express themselves and as an activity that can contribute to mental wellness (as well as being fun and rewarding in its own right).

Co-facilitated by writer Claire Hennessy and counsellor Simon Forsyth, this workshop invites participants to engage in a variety of exercises with an emphasis on:

  • demystifying creativity
  • finding a vocabulary for emotions
  • becoming more comfortable with committing words to the page
  • sharing (if so inclined) creative work in a safe and supportive environment

No previous experience is required.

For further info or to  book a place, please visit Big Smoke’s website by clicking the text below:

Creative Writing for Self-Expression and Mental Wellness

Please feel free to share with anyone who may be interested!



The Creativity of Therapy

Beach House meadow pic
Beach House

Several months ago I became aware of a niggling feeling that my life was lacking in a sense of creativity. Corresponding with an actively artistic friend in the US, I lamented that the most tangibly creative thing I had done in what felt like an age was compiling the mix CD I was shortly going to post to her. Now don’t get me wrong – I put a lot of time and care into that mix CD and actually got a great amount of pleasure from listening to it myself afterwards, but somehow it didn’t seem enough. I was reminded of a feeling I had in my late teens – while a large portion of my friends were busy displaying their creative chops in various bands, I occupied the more sedentary position of musically-ungifted music-obsessive. You could ask me anything about Björk’s latest offering or the hot new band to come out of New York (this being the post-Strokes early noughties), but in more actual terms my creativity on that front was seemingly confined to the curating of, again, mix CDs. It seems this vague sense of ennui had persisted on some level since then – dissatisfaction at being the perennial audience member but never the creative driving force.

More recently, however, I have been reassessing this somewhat one-sided view of things, opening my mind to the wider scope of different ways one can be creative. For example, writing this blog is creative, but so is making up a nonsensical song in the shower. Chief among these explorations was the realisation (and something I had never concretely conceived of before) that therapy, as a process, is a deeply creative endeavour – and this is something I engage in with other people every single week. I was inspired to this thought after reading an interview with one of my favourite bands, Beach House, in the aptly-named article:

Beach House on creating your own world

Equally apt was the fact that it came from The Creative Independent, a Brooklyn-based initiative whose goalis to educate, inspire, and grow the community of people who create or dream of creating.’ That’s a whole lot of creativity going on.

Like the typical therapeutic relationship, Beach House is made up of just two people, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. Starting with that principle, I was struck by some of the similarities between the pair’s musical and songwriting partnership and the partnership I aim to establish with my clients – one of equality and respect that is also constantly evolving. As Legrand elaborates,

It’s always changing and it’s also always surprising us, too. I think we are still finding new ways of working together. It’s not something predictable. Yesterday we were talking about this, I was saying, “Isn’t this funny how we’re doing this now?” Or, “This is different than it used to be. I like this. I’m glad we’re doing things this new way.” I think you never stop getting close to somebody. In any partnership it’s a lot of hard work, but when you get past the fact that it’s hard work, there’s this nice oasis where it does feel effortless and you get these little surprises.

To me, this is very much akin to how the therapeutic relationship gradually deepens over time, from early days possibly characterised by a sense of optimistic apprehension to a freer sense of shared intimacy, where being oneself with another feels more comfortable, less scary. And this is creative. Therapists help their clients to explore, challenge, accept, adapt, plan, move, and so much more. We can aid them in reassessing a life situation, give perspective on how they can reform or reject the status quo, and then bear witness as they reshape their pasts into a more satisfying present. Doing so is not as simple as merely sitting across from someone and asking them how they feel (in spite of the enduring therapist stereotype). It requires curiosity and creativity from the practitioner, and an equal dose of the same from their client – after all, what could be fundamentally more creative than forging a new or more authentic path for oneself? As Legrand expands, from a musical standpoint:

It’s really just a journey for each individual… Maybe you’ll discover through music that you’re actually a painter, so maybe you should do that instead of trying to be a rock star. Maybe you’re something else. I think that it’s just about asking questions, but also producing things and making stuff. It’s the only way, really, to find out who and what you should be… Being creative, making things, figuring yourself out—that’s never a waste of time.

Ultimately, the spirit of creation and creativity, of embarking on a journey into the unknown, of asking questions and figuring things out, or, to paraphrase David Bowie, turning to face the strange (ch-ch-changes), is really at the heart of the therapeutic encounter. Now all I need to do is create a mix CD that sets these ideas to music… Suggestions?


Beach House’s latest album, B-Sides and Rarities, was released in June of this year. Listen to its lead single below:

Beach House – ‘Chariot’