Families in Cork turn to counsellors to try to convince vaccine-hesitant family members to get jabbed

Pat Dermody, who works as a psychotherapist and counsellor supervisor said he and others in the field have been contacted by families affected by rifts as a result of vaccine hesitancy.
Families in Cork turn to counsellors to try to convince vaccine-hesitant family members to get jabbed

Pat Dermody, who works as a psychotherapist and counsellor supervisor said he and others in the field have been contacted by families affected by rifts as a result of vaccine hesitancy. He said that while most couples share the same beliefs, opposition from a single family member can have a profound impact. File photo of a patient receiving a Covid-19 vaccine booster.

A CORK psychotherapist described how some families are turning to counsellors as a last resort in the hope of helping loved ones refusing to be vaccinated.

Pat Dermody, who works as a psychotherapist and counsellor supervisor said he and others in the field have been contacted by families affected by rifts as a result of vaccine hesitancy. He said that while most couples share the same beliefs, opposition from a single family member can have a profound impact.

He added that parents have called him desperately hoping for a solution.

The Cork man has already worked with a number of clients who have expressed vaccine hesitancy as a result of severe anxiety.

Nonetheless, he stressed that is not the job of a counsellor to sway existing beliefs.

"You are getting parents contacting counsellors saying that their kid-who is 18 or in their early twenties-doesn't believe in Covid and is refusing to be vaccinated," he said. "They're asking if you can try to change their mind but what they don't understand is you are running up against a belief.

"I have had experiences with clients where there is vaccine hesitancy. In these cases, clients are looking at the fear and anxiety around the hesitancy as opposed to any kind of belief. These are people who want to get the vaccine but are terrified because of all the misinformation on social media they have to deal with. This is absolutely within the ballpark of what a counsellor does but if they don't want to get the vaccine then you find yourself asking them 'did you come or were you sent?'

"There is nothing you can do about a person's beliefs from the point of view of counselling. 

"If their minds are going to be changed then they'll either take on board the information they are presented with or they won't."

Misinformation

He spoke of how misinformation is contributing to anxiety around vaccines.

"There is personal choice and then there is social responsibility," he said. "Uninformed people can set themselves up as experts by using terms like 'I've done my own research.' Anyone who has spent time in college knows that research is not something you google. There are a lot of worried people out there. However, there is also the other client who doesn't want it at all but a family member wants them to have their mind changed. You don't do that as a counsellor."

He said that family members will often have explored different avenues before contacting a counsellor.

"When you are in a position like this you are reaching out to anyone for any kind of support. They are frightened for themselves or another family member who is vulnerable. 

"In a way, they are trying to get you to do the job that they weren't able to do themselves but if a child doesn't listen to a parent there is nothing to say that they are going to listen to a counsellor. In many cases, it's not the person who is vaccine-hesitant who has the real issue, but the family member who doesn't like it."

Mr Dermody said that, overall, attitudes to vaccines have been positive.

"There are only around 300,000 in this country who haven't been vaccinated so we are among the best in the world when it comes to social responsibility. Very few families are being ripped apart by this and that's something that needs to be highlighted."

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