Online counselling provider is Businesswoman of the Year
A pioneer in the field of online counselling, Mary McHugh has been named Network Ireland Businesswoman of the Year for 2020.
The owner of the Irish Online Counselling & Psychotherapy Service (IOCPS ), based in Castlebar in Mayo, Mary McHugh has risen to the challenge of quadrupling available counselling services and adapting new innovative means to reach people struggling with their mental health in 2020.
Covid cocooning and lockdown, as well as health, relationships and financial fears, have had a major impact on mental health, the counsellor says, combined with an inability to access normal face-to-face psychotherapy services or even GPs.
McHugh said: "People are sometimes reluctant to reach out in person, or they don’t want to trouble a GP or even their family. Our online services meet that need perfectly, and in 2020 we expanded onto social media with live advice sessions, meditation and just simple group chat to help engage with people struggling to get their feelings in perspective."
A qualified psychotherapist, Mary McHugh began her online therapy business in 2011, having volunteered with a suicide prevention online help service, which she subsequently ran.
The Irish Online Counselling & Psychotherapy Service was designed to help those struggling with debilitating anxiety who did not feel able to come forward for conventional face-to-face therapy.
She was joined by psychotherapists countrywide, and there are now 22 contracting with Online Counselling and providing services around the globe.
McHugh continued saying: "Apart from people in Ireland, living through Covid and other stresses, there are many who left Celtic Tiger Ireland to head abroad and are now lonely or homesick, often with relationship or addiction issues.
"Our motto is 'Wherever you are, we are', and we literally meet people who want to talk wherever they are at - emotionally, geographically, physically and also financially."
The online counselling business is modelled on conventional practice methods, and has gone from strength to strength, thanks to the convenience and accessibility of the service that can be accessed in private from anywhere, at a time that suits.
IOCPS was co-founded by Donijka Monk, who still works within the business with Mary McHugh, but has stepped aside from owning the company
Low-cost clients are accommodated, as part of the helping ethos, and the therapists themselves support each other, particularly in the current stressful pandemic times.
Live chat, Facebook documentaries, and a daily live Loving Kindness meditation are part of the new innovation that secured the prestigious business award for Mary McHugh.
Separate documentary series discussing domestic abuse and suicide have also been created to help those suffering, and their families, and to provide practical advice and sources of support.
The service is designed to break down some of the barriers to accessing support, including physical disability, anxiety, work or family commitments, or even geographic location. The IOCPS works with clients of wide-ranging ages, over 18, from small villages in rural Ireland to cities such as Tokyo, Sydney and London.
The judging citation for the national business award stated: "Mary’s service has provided a safe environment for people to talk in the comfort of their own homes. She reaches people where they are at, and has effectively adapted the psychotherapy service to modern communications platforms to help as many as possible."