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About me, Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn

Therapy/counselling is all about deep, respectful, genuine and caring contact between therapist and client. This is the crucial element in any therapeutic relationship. In fact, the relationship is the therapy! And I like to think that my life's experience is continually opening me up to this awareness. More about this, later.

I guess prospective clients need to have some formal idea of my background. Here it is.

From 1969 to 1971 armed with a B. Com degree, I completed a post-graduate diploma in computer technology and I worked as a systems analyst for a computer organisation for 14 months, designing and maintaining stock systems.

In 1971, I changed careers, moving to a large manufacturing organisation where I became involved in administration and human resources.

I went back to study, part-time, at night, and in 1975, I qualified as a lawyer and I became Legal Director and Director of Human Resources of the organisation, a position I held for 13 years.

In 1988, I emigrated to Israel, learnt a new language and re-qualified as a lawyer and practiced law there for 3 years before setting up an tour-operator organisation which placed young backpackers on kibbutzim in Israel. This enterprise became very successful and the organisation soon became one of the top three El Al tour operators, placing thousands of young adults onto various kibbutzim. It was my work in this field which would ultimately lead to my becoming a psychotherapist in my later years. A large part of my activities in the kibbutz placement program involved attending to the well-being of these wonderful young back-packers, and being a party to their unfolding and flowering, from young teenagers to independent, confident young adults, as the months went by. I was personally directly responsible for the more than 5500 young backpackers whom I welcomed at the airport, briefed, processed and placed as volunteers on kibbutzim in Israel. Of these, a substantial percentage needed support of one kind or another and thus apart from arranging the placement and processing of these backpackers, for about 10 years I was continuously counselling these young adults during their difficult periods.

I was deeply involved both on an individual level and on a family level - there were numerous instances where I had to deal with parents thousands of miles away, on the telephone, as well as facilitating consular assistance.

In addition to all the above, from 1989 to 1993, I helped to organise and run a furniture and clothing distribution centre for newly arrived Russian immigrants but soon the centre became a counselling support centre for these immigrants and I became extensively involved in this area, having to learn to speak rudimentary Russian in order to facilitate closer contact with them in my counselling role.

All the above were to seed and nurture my interest in the ‘helping’ profession.

In 1997, I emigrated to Australia and since arriving here, I have been drawn to focus much more on the personal and social dynamic of people. To this end, I initially became involved in working with men, having taken an active part in several men's organisations - policy design co-ordinator of the Odyssey Group, a well-established men's organisation, and I was a founder member of COMO - Confederation Of Men's Organisations - a national body representing men's organisations throughout Australia. I helped develop a program for fathers and sons, and have presented this many times at different venues.

Since 1999, I became more involved with general counselling, and I began to specialise in anxiety disorders and mood disorders, working particularly with groups of anxious and depressed people. Currently, each week, I run about 9 groups for anxious/depressed people and I run CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), Process-Driven Therapy Groups and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) groups either at a private psychiatric clinic where I was employed for about 2 ½ years, or in my own clinical practice. My groups are well-known in Sydney and have proved to be popular, particularly the community-based groups which I run twice a week. I am well-established at the Black Dog Institute and the various Mental Health Organisations in Sydney. In my work with immigrants, facing the inevitable difficulties in readjusting to their new environments, I run work-shops on the stresses of immigration, and the effects on the family and on each member of the family and part of my work involves preventative programs to deal with immigration issues - to effectively handle the evolving new realities before they become crises. I have also given many workshops to various organisations, all involving the stresses in migration and work around these issues.

To formally equip myself and comply with pending Australian regulations covering the counselling and psychotherapy profession, I completed a Graduate Diploma in Counselling at the Australian College of Applied Psychology and then completed my Master's degree in Counselling at the University of Western Sydney, specialising in Trauma work and Narrative Counselling.

I have also completed a formal Group Leadership course through the Institute of Group Leaders in order to formally hone my wide group experience over the years.

Apart from my group work, I also run a private practice which I run from rooms in Bondi Junction, where I offer one-on-one, face-to-face psychotherapy to clients and couples. I also run my private practice from my home in North Bondi. Finally, I offer internet therapy to various people over the world, either to new clients who find me through search engines or to existing clients who move or who go away on holiday but want to maintain contact with me.

Finally, I should mention that over the last 7 years, I have become much more focussed on the Mindfulness aspects of my life having became involved in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy work. Apart from my clinical practice and apart from my own meditation practice, I run Mindfulness (Vipassana) groups – formal Meditation groups every week (Mondays/Thursdays) at which I also give a Dharma talk. I have been invited to present at International ACT conferences and have run many ACT workshops, as well as having run ACT training workshops for practitioners.

This is the formal me in a nutshell!

I believe that as a therapist, I draw on some singular advantages which I am able to offer my clients - I have lived life in the full in several different environments, different cultures and different countries, all of which have opened up unique windows for me in cross-cultural awareness and expanded empathy. I have successfully immigrated twice and have made the necessary adjustments in each case, re-inventing myself in different career paths, all of them successful. I have worked as a corporate lawyer and a human resource director. I have been a travel agent/tour operator and have won a national award for my achievement. Finally, I have become a psychotherapist. I have done all this in the space of my life so far. It is this broad exposure to life which has made me what I am and my experience of having to re-invent myself and acquire and nurture a new identity in each of my new environments has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. I have learned to grab life and make things work and that is one of the most valuable perspectives I can offer my clients. I believe I am able to offer this to my clients in terms of 'helping wisdom' which implies my own self-knowledge; some maturity; a readiness to admit mistakes; a psychological and human understanding of others; insight into human interactions; the ability to see through situations; avoidance of stereotypes; the ability to spot flaws in reasoning; and being a counsellor who both challenges and frustrates.

The last few lines have been taken from Gerard Egan's "The Skilled Helper" and it does embody something which approximates the person I think I now am becoming.

But most of all, my counselling is my passion - it offers me challenges, laughs, a real dip into life and deep, deep fulfilment as I engage with my clients from whom I learn so much each day.

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