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Thornton, C. Corbett, A. (2014). Hitting Home: Irish Identity and Psychotherapy in the UK. Brit. J. Psychother., 30(3):286-304.

(2014). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 30(3):286-304

Clinical Practice

Hitting Home: Irish Identity and Psychotherapy in the UK

Christine Thornton and Alan Corbett

We examine the work of icap, a clinic for Irish people in Britain, to describe an (Irish) idea of ‘home’ within a psychoanalytic/group-analytic discourse, and some aspects of its clinical significance in providing culturally-sensitive psychotherapy. Our work weaves through four axes of trauma: the dislocation embedded in all migration, irrespective of the social or economic circumstances of the migrant; the long domination of Ireland by England, and some of the resulting complexities in Irish migration to Britain; childhood abuse, within the ‘home’ and within the Church-run institutions sanctioned by the Irish state; and childhood neglect and deprivation. In clinical practice these levels interpenetrate and interact with each other. Early trauma followed by migration impacts on the patient's internalized ‘home’; culturally-specific loss and yearning are then central to the creation and maintenance of identity, and linked to narratives of ‘home’. In trauma ‘home’ can become frozen in an idealized and/or terrorized state, whereas the creation of a healthy internalized ‘home’ depends on a creative fluidity, a need intensified when actual departure from the home country requires identity adjustment. We touch on the significance of the physical body and external ‘home’. Composite case studies illustrate these clinical themes.

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