Institute of Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy (IICP)

IICP was established in 2003 to provide a comprehensive training service for those who wish to pursue professional and academic accreditation in the mental health services. The programmes encompass a multicultural and pluralistic approach with a core philosophical framework reflecting the principles and practices of Choice Theory/Reality Therapy, Person Centred Counselling and Multicultural Counselling and Therapy.

The location of IICP in Killinarden, Tallaght arose from a desire on the part of the founder, Dr. Marcella Finnerty, to locate the college in a community.

This had also been the motivation of Pat Jennings, a probation officer with the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform who had encouraged Marcella to open the college with a view to establishing a low-cost counselling service for Tallaght. The area is a large suburb of Dublin, made up of a wide variety of social and economic groups.

While counselling and psychotherapy are often thought of as processes that happen between two individuals in a therapy room, IICP placed itself in a broader context from the start.

“We consider that training in counselling and psychotherapy is an interdisciplinary endeavour, a combination of art and science to include, amongst others, the disciplines of philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology,” said Dr. Finnerty.

“The history of counselling and psychotherapy has been influenced and is inevitably intertwined with the social, political, economic and cultural climates within which it is formed. It is of particular relevance in times of crises or transition and can also be of help in problem solving. The recent rapid socio-economic and technological changes have resulted in the erosion of traditional social structures such as family, work, and community. As a result, the sense of purpose, belonging, and security associated with these structures, has been lost for many. It is in this context that the Institute of Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy operates its training programmes and counselling service, in collaboration with its sister organisation, the Village Counselling Service.”

IICP opened at a time of economic boom and this boom was seen as a major factor in the erosion of traditional structures. Ironically, the economic bust that hit the country within five years also played its part in putting huge pressures on traditional structures leading to a rapid increase in demand for affordable counselling.

Core to the ethos of IICP is the desire to continue to make links with and to situate its training and service delivery within a geographical area affected by educational and social disadvantage and marginalisation. While the old image of Tallaght as an area characterised mainly by disadvantage was never accurate and has become less accurate with the passage of time, the area has always had pockets of marginalisation which did not benefit from the economic boom but which suffered from the recession that followed.

The Professional Diploma programme reflected the core ethos, offering training based on Dr. William Glasser’s empowerment model, known as Choice Theory; on Person Centred Counselling in which respect for the client is paramount; and on Multicultural Counselling which recognises the diversity that exists between social and economic groups as well as between ethnic groups.

This contemporary and integrative framework offers a broad structure to professionals who are dealing with a diverse range of clients and presenting problems.  At the heart of the training provided in IICP lies the belief that people are experts in the story of their own lives.  The therapeutic process can encourage the client to make effective change in relation to life direction and the ensuing process of decision making.  IICP holds that it is not enough to simply teach the skills of counselling and psychotherapy.  Students are given the space to learn, practice and be supported as they develop for themselves a style and model of counselling which is both personal and effective.

From the start, the diploma course flourished and, three years later, it was given Recognition Status by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP), a process which involved a rigorous and detailed scrutiny of every aspect of the course. This meant that the course was recognised as providing training to a standard which would enable its students to gain accreditation with the IACP as soon as they had completed the post-graduate requirements.

In its early years, many people working in community services applied to take the training programme. As time went on, they were joined by increasing numbers of healthcare, social care and education-based professionals. Despite these developments, the growth in student numbers was deliberately kept to moderate levels in each class.

Validation by the then Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) in 2010 meant that IICP students could be awarded an Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy if they chose to continue their studies beyond Diploma level – a move largely driven by the demands of students.  This was a substantial achievement for a college that had started seven years earlier with 15 students in one room. The Diploma itself gained recognition by HETAC (now QQI) the following year, as did IICP’s proposal for a basic level Degree. By 2013, more than 500 students from throughout the country were undertaking Certificate, Diploma, Degree and Continuing Professional Development programmes at IICP. The number of people applying for places on the Professional Diploma programme was ten times greater than the number finally accepted. The restriction on the growth of IICP reflected a concern for both students and clients. To qualify for accreditation at a later date, students must have provided 100 hours of personal counselling, under supervision, during their training (and a further 450 hours after graduating). IICP, unlike some other colleges, has on-site placements and also takes responsibility for helping students find placements through a network of more than 50 agencies nationwide. This in itself places a limit on the number of students undertaking its programmes.

Of key importance, however, is the need to ensure that clients are seen by well-supported therapists. According to Dr. Finnerty, “People presenting for therapy are at their most vulnerable: psychologically; emotionally; spiritually and often times, physically. IICP recognise that due to the specialised nature of this training, ultimately, client well-being is an ethical and professional responsibility of the training programme.  It is for this reason that IICP has made a conscious decision to limit the number of places available and to provide a learner-centred environment with a structured system of mentoring, support and supervision.”

In 2014, IICP developed a Master of Arts in Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy Programme. It was submitted to QQI in January 2014 and, following the Panel Assessment in April 2014, the MA Programme was officially ratified by QQI. When developing the programme, IICP collaborated with the leading international academic, author, researcher and therapist in the field of Counselling and Psychotherapy, Professor John McLeod, who is affiliated with the Institute in a teaching role. Professor McLeod is Professor Emeritus at Abertay University in Scotland and a Visiting Professor at the University of Oslo and IICP.

Applications opened for the inaugural MA group in the summer of 2014 and a full cohort of learners commenced their training in September 2014.  The development of the MA is timely, as 2015 appears to be the year when CORÚ will open the statutory registration process for counsellors and psychotherapists.  IICP is known for its innovation and cutting edge approach to counselling and psychotherapy training. The MA continues this tradition, as the current students are the first group in the world to avail of a Masters in Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy.

In the autumn of 2014, Marcella was invited to chair the 2016 International Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) conference in Dublin.