Dundalk Christian Counselling Centre

Annual Report 2015


The Centre was founded in 1994. It has since then been providing a service to the community, as an outreach arm of concern into the community by Dundalk Baptist Church. The church became increasingly aware of needs in the area of pastoral counselling and particularly for Family and Marriage counselling through its normal contacts in the community. In 1994 and periodically since, the church has had the benefit of having on staff Mr Jeff Whitfield MA a qualified Marriage and Family Therapist.

Jeff initiated a training programme for counsellors, and a number of people were trained as part time counsellors. The Director of the Centre (who would provide the bulk of counselling after Jeff’s departure) trained under Dr Stephen MacCauley. Dr MacCauley is a psychiatrist specialising in providing counsellor training to churches wishing to provide a counselling service with an Evangelical Christian ethos.

The Centre has as its main target the Evangelical Christian and Protestant Community who would be reluctant to use a service not compatible with their ethos.

The service is also used by members of the wider community- regardless of religious background. This is a scenario that the Centre welcomes. The service is provided free of charge although occasionally voluntary unsolicited contributions are received from clients.


When originally established it was recognised that the level of demand for services would be hard to anticipate. This has indeed been the case. With a small client base covering a very wide geographic area the Centre varies from periods of low activity to very high activity. This places severe demands on resources- both human and financial.


Funding for the Centre began with initial receipt of grant aid totalling IR£2,000.00 from the Department of Equality and Law Reform. This gave a much needed lifeline. Latterly, the Family Support Agency, and now Tusla have provided this auxiliary funding. Decreased funding to the amount of € 5,450.00 was provided in the current year. This covers approximately 18 % of the Centre’s costs which are over € 30,000

Among other helps it enables materials to be bought which otherwise might be beyond the reach of many of the clients. It enabled the provision of adequate office and ancillary services which other wise might be beyond the reach of a small Counselling Centre.

Grant Aid in the coming year will help cover the extra costs involved in the provision of a child counselling service, bereavement counselling services as well as increased costs in secretarial, computer and other ancillary services. The Centre shares a Web Site with Dundalk Baptist Church. On the site prospective clients can investigate the Centre and it’s services with both privacy and accuracy.


Travel Expenses ensure that the service is brought to those who would find difficulty coming to the Centre in Dundalk. An examination of the Travel Log would show that over 1,800 miles were covered in bringing the service to families, couples and individuals from North Meath through Louth into East Monaghan- as well as South Down and South Armagh. This is a decrease on last year. Yet the fact remains that it would be very difficult to bring the service to the community that is availing of it, apart from the Counsellors being willing to get out and meet the clients in geographically scattered locations.


The Centre has from its inception trained a larger number of “lay” or volunteer counsellors from local church groups in basic pastoral counselling skills. Some have gone on to further training in are such as bereavement counselling. This is in line with both the Christian ethos of the Centre as well as its professional approach to counselling, to seek to maximise the training quality of those working in the counselling field. The feedback from this is encouraging. Many problems are being encountered and dealt with at an informal level, while the lay counsellors a re skilled to recognise those who will need either more in depth counselling or even professional help.


The training structures and contacts that Jeff established will continue to be used in the years ahead. In particular the Christian Counselling and Education Foundation – with which both Jeff and the Director trained – will be a source of on-going training. The courses “How people change” & “Helping people change”, will be the core training module for the Centre. A Course is now in place for 2016 that will be offered to other Counsellors/ Centres involved in Christian Counselling throughout Ireland.


The Web Site has generated some extra demand for services since it’s launch 2007. Currently the Centre sponsors a programme on Dundalk FM -our local Community Radio Station. This gives further exposure to the Centre and it’s services to the Community. This project was just launched in January 2011 and some increase in demand for services was noted as a result. Sponsorship is scheduled to continue into 2017.


The Centre provides a service specifically for counselling children in marriage break up situations. We were encouraged by the availability of a professional in the child-care area who is available on a voluntary, part time basis for child counselling.

The Centre now can provide a dedicated area specifically for child counselling. It is particularly important when counselling children to do so in an environment that is child friendly, using resources that help the child to communicate when seeking to address very hurtful and stress related issues. To this end the Centre had decided to refurbish a special room , appropriately decorated and furnished to provide the necessary environment for child counselling. The estimated cost was

€ 5,000.00 This has been supplied by the church and completed in 2008 and continues to be used.


Substance abuse appears as both causal issue, and in other cases as resultant issue, in many clients that present for counselling. In Marriage problems it is often a key causal issue. In other cases, sexual abuse for example, many of the victims have gradually resorted to various forms of substance abuse- alcohol being by far the most common. In dealing with troubled teenagers in marriage break up situations alcohol and increasingly other substance abuses are evident.

To this end the Centre is increasing the profile of the services it produces in this area. The Director has been involved with helping teenagers in a rural area of the County where an opening to help with this issue has developed.


With the introduction of Divorce it was anticipated that demand on the Centre’s resources inthe area of marriage Counselling would increase. Since mediation, counselling etc. are required to prove every effort has been made to maintain the marriage it is anticipated that demands on the service may increase for this reason alone.

There is a real urgency among those seeking help. Many couples or individuals in relationships are actively considering separation/divorce. There is likely be an increase as the cases are processed through. In particular it is anticipated the demand for child counselling for this area will increase


There continues to be demand for counselling in the area of sexual abuse Both the victims and the perpetrators of sexual abuse (in the family context) have been counselled. While counsellors are trained in detecting signs of abuse and dealing with basic counselling in this area, it is often necessary to refer to specialised Counsellors.

It is the policy of the Centre to report all cases of sexual abuse to the local HSE.


The Centre was made aware of the “Peacemaker” conflict resolution programme. This Christian based programme, developed by Ken Sande, a lawyer and committed Christian, is designed to help individuals and groups face up to and resolve conflict using the biblical principles available. Both the Director and the Training Consultant have now trained in this method. This has enhanced the range of counselling now on offer – particularly the marriage and family area.


Reports for the last few years noted that the Centre was represented by the Director at the FSA Networking Conference in Athlone back in January 2005. Like most of the participants the Director felt it was helpful. It is hoped that the issues raised can be taken forward and the relationships between the Agency and the Counselling Centres developed. A similar type of “get together” is probably well overdue! Hopefully resoources can be found to facilitate one.


Dundalk Christian Counselling Centre is now a Training Centre for Biblical & Pastoral Counselling. An Inaugural Training Course is planned for June 2016 with Trainers from BCTC of Arizona, in the USA. More than 20 trainee Counsellors have already enrolled from all over Ireland.

The need for specific training for this type of Counselling in Ireland has been recognised for some time, and linking with a credible training & accrediting body has been a challenge.

The Director established contact with the BCTC of Arizona who not only provide Counselling, but are also accredited for training Counsellors to the relevant accreditation level for the Association of Certified Biblical Counsellors.

Stephen Murphy,


January 2016