Supporting mental health in the South of Ireland

Cork Counselling Services is one of the many social enterprises across Cork benefiting from the supports being provided by Cork City Council through its EU-funded Atlantic Social Lab Project. Here they tell us about their work
Supporting mental health in the South of Ireland
Cork Counselling Services L to R: Mr Tony O’Riordan, Mr Tom O’Brien, Ms Kathleen Lowney, Mr Eamon Kiely, Board Of Directors.

CORK Counselling Services was founded in the early 1980s. It was one of the first centres in the country to provide a professional counselling and crisis intervention service to the community regardless of their finances, religious beliefs, race, sexual orientation or educational background. It has been situated at 7, Fr Mathew Street, Cork for most of that time, and we are busier than ever.

My name is Eamonn Kiely and, in a voluntary capacity, I am Chairman of the Board Of Directors of Cork Counselling Services. Our organisation is rising to the ever greater challenge of supporting mental health in the south of Ireland.

Counselling is a professional relationship where clients explore and understand their lives, tell their story, get listened to, and find respect and acceptance. Over time people can work towards healing emotional pain, distress and trauma. This process can also help people to look at themselves in a new way, gain confidence and take charge of their own lives. Early intervention allows real issues to be addressed long before a crisis such as suicidality might ever emerge.

Where suicide is a possibility, our crisis Intervention service can provide short-term support. The aim is to bring the crisis to an end and to guide the client back to normal functioning. Crisis intervention also involves a review of the coping skills used to deal with the crisis in order to prevent a new crisis developing.

Our service is a registered charity and a not-for-profit organisation, receiving less than one third of our income in grants from Tusla and HSE. It is also a social enterprise — an organisation that applies commercial strategies towards advancing social ends. To support us financially in making counselling affordable to all, we also undertake the profitable work of providing accredited professional training to would-be therapists. The profits go directly to our counselling service at community level. We believe this model for mental health intervention really works.

Our training enterprise is exciting in that it has attracted degree level university accreditation from Coventry University, in Cork’s twin city. It has also received the validation of IACP, the largest counselling professional body in Ireland, and is one of its longest standing training centres. We have almost one hundred students learning to become professional counsellors, they learn from the real world of a counselling service and it benefits from their ongoing research, creating what we like to call “a virtuous circle”. (See our website for course information.)

In the last year, Cork Counselling Service has been supporting mental health in the community in a low key but effective way. We provided ongoing therapy for 239 new clients and met with 400 clients in total, delivered 2938 hours of professional one-to-one counselling, ran a successful Positive Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Programme for over 500 secondary school children in conjunction with the ESB and Ireland Funds.

We have been tackling issues such as Anxiety, Anger Management, Bereavement, Bullying, Crisis Pregnancy, Coping with life as a teenager / adolescent, Depression, Discrimination, Domestic violence, Grief, Loneliness, Major illness e.g. cancer, H.I.V., A.I.D.S., Hepatitis C, major life changes, Panic Attacks, Psychological, sexual, emotional abuse, Rape, Relationship problems e.g. Parenting, Separation/Divorce, Sexuality. Stress and work related problems, Suicidal thoughts and attempts.

As a not-for-profit social enterprise with an annual turnover of approximately half a million our income (based on 2018 estimates) comprises of earnings which are 46% by our own enterprise (including 8% by client fees and 38% by professional education) 21% by private grants and fundraising (at no cost to the state) 33% by public grants (HSE,Tusla) And our expenditure comprises of 56% wages 44% general expenditure (premises rental, maintenance, business administration, insurance, professional and accreditation fees etc.)

A social enterprise has to have a strategy. Currently we are working to bolster our profitable education enterprise by developing our new and exciting partnership with Coventry University and enhancing our standing with IACP. This requires immediate investment, which we are trying to raise. We are looking to own and enhance our facilities and to increase the number of counselling hours we can offer to clients. We are currently looking for corporate sponsors to help us to increase our profile in the community and to highlight the efficacy of our cost effective and scalable model for mental health.

Our aim as a Board Of Directors is to:

Ensure the highest standards of Governance

Increase our social impact and traded income

Create more jobs and develop long-term, effective and sustainable mental health services.

Our social enterprise integrates education with provision of service, meaning that our therapies are always leading edge. Our social enterprise reinvests profitable enterprise into much needed social service so that the state cost is way less than organisations that do not operate in this way. Our social enterprise is embedded in the community, with a city centre presence since 1982 so that our waiting lists are short. We believe we model the benefits of social enterprise in a unique way.

You can contact Cork Counselling Services on 021-4274951, by going to or by emailing

You can find out more about the Atlantic Social Lab project by going to or emailing

Next week we take a look at the work of Cork Deaf Enterprises.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more