Address by President Mary Robinson

Good evening. I was very pleased to be be asked to come and inaugurate this International Convention of the Institute of Reality Therapy in Ireland. I should explain to the many delegates who have come from other countries that some people felt that inaugurating an international convention on Reality Therapy must have something to do with trying to bring the Irish back down to earth after competing in the world cup.

I see that this is in every sense truly an International Convention and your numbers seem to have been growing because, when I was kept in touch very well by the organising committee here in Ireland, I was told recently that it was anticipated that the number of delegates would be over three hundred and fifty but now I understand that more than four hundred and twenty delegates have registered and again my latest information before coming here this evening was that eleven countries including Ireland were participating. I now understand that it’s thirteen countries but I think it’s interesting to list the eleven and the two that are not listed can shout up if they want to.

Those who are represented (I’ll do it in alphabetical order): there are delegates from Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Japan, Korea, Norway, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, United States, and of course Ireland and indeed I’d like to extend a special welcome to those delegates who have come from Northern Ireland. So I have left out two countries because I wasn’t brought up to date on the growth of this international convention and I would be delighted to hear later what those countries are. I do welcome the opportunity to inaugurate this international convention.

Reality Therapy, as you well know, participating as delegates, was devised by Dr. William Glasser who very kindly introduced me. It stresses the importance of acknowledging reality as the basis for responsible behaviour which enables the individual to fulfil needs for love and worth and thus attain an effective success identity, a personal secure identity.

I understand that this international convention is the first that has been held outside North America although an international convention of this sort has been held on an annual basis ever since 1981. And so I think for Ireland it is a great honour and an acknowledgement of the fact that Ireland has taken very seriously the benefits of Reality Therapy and it acknowledges the fact that the approach adopted through Reality Therapy is considered to be an important therapeutic approach in modern day counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland.

As I understand it, Reality Therapy is used mainly in the fields of education and health care and I know that you represent a very wide spectrum of education and health care and caring services and from an Irish health care perspective it has been found to be particularly beneficial in the provision of counselling services for children and for young adolescents.

There has been a marked increase in the number of training courses available in Ireland in recent years which relate specifically to counselling. The Reality Therapy Institute has made a significant contribution to the training of health care professionals such as social workers, psychologists, nurses and counsellors who wish to augment their counselling skills.

The Institute plays an active part in the setting, protecting and maintaining of professional standards in training through its membership of the Irish Association for Counselling. And indeed, in view of the fact that counselling is offered by people from such a wide range of different professional backgrounds using many different therapeutic approaches, the maintaining of professional standards through appropriate recognised training courses is of vital importance to the health service.

Reality Therapy with its emphasis on the individual’s unique personal responsibility forms a solid basis for helping people develop or deal with their many difficulties in life. The structure and positive emphasis of this therapeutic approach is critical in obtaining a level of ease, a level of ease of relationship, between client and counsellor. We here in Ireland I believe are very lucky to have such highly trained and committed range of health care professionals which ensures the highest standards of service delivery.

Counsellors, as I have witnessed myself, as President travelling the length and breadth of this country and indeed, also enjoying opportunities to travel throughout Northern Ireland, counsellors work day-in, day-out with some of the most vulnerable groups in our society and groups who can be greatly helped by a sense of having individual responsibility, from being able to take a certain empowerment, a certain power in their own lives and being supported in doing that.

The task of counsellors demands a great deal of compassion and professionalism as they interact with those most in need. Reality Therapy, with its major emphasis as I said on children and young adolescents, is particularly relevant in this context. And having an international convention dedicated to Reality Therapy gives those participating a real opportunity which I am sure you welcome to highlight the importance of this approach and to explore with each other from so many different countries and exchange views and experiences on an international basis.

There is one dimension which I feel I should emphasize on closing which is very important in any international convention which would take place here in Ireland. We take our work seriously and you will find, I hope, very constructive opportunities in this international convention but we also place great emphasis on the social dimension of any international convention and I think it is perhaps fitting that this formal opening would take place to an extent in a social context. I can see from the way your convention and your programme is cast that there will be opportunities for hard and constructive work and a great exchange, a fruitful exchange of ideas. There will also I hope be opportunities to enjoy yourselves.

I want to extend a particular welcome to the delegates who have come from the many different countries. We have a way of saying it in Ireland which you will hear a number of times when you are here. We have a particular welcome, “Cead mile failte”, a hundred thousand welcomes and I think in your time here in Dublin and hopefully indeed for some of you an opportunity to visit throughout the island of Ireland, I hope you will find that our reputation for genuine friendliness and welcoming visitors is one that stands the test of this international convention which is my great pleasure to now declare open. Go raibh mile maith agat.

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