Seán migrated to New Zealand in 1975. His contributions to psychotherapy in Aotearoa have been far reaching and innovative, starting with changing the culture of the conservative custodial hospital environment he encountered to a modern therapeutic environment, by co-leading a new way of treating young people and organising training for psychiatric hospital staff. With the late Dr James Hannah, he founded the Methadone Clinic in Dunedin in 1983, and was a member of the National Drugs Advisory Committee.
Seán says that ‘to understand people and a culture you must understand their language, because language is the key to the way people think’. He employed the Otago Area Health Board’s first Mãori social worker. He embraced Mãori language, gaining a Dip. Grad in Mãori Studies. In 1983 he was a founding Trustee of the Downie Stewart Foundation, which runs the Moana House therapeutic community, and has worked there since 1987 as a counsellor and group therapist, then as a psychotherapist and latterly as kaihaumanu (clinical specialist). He is a founding director of the NZQA registered Moana House Training Institute.
Seán trained in Transactional Analysis, becoming a full member of NZAP in 1993. In 1998 he gained a Master’s degree in psychotherapy, and in 1999 he qualified as a teaching and supervising Transactional Analyst. NZAP benefitted from Seán’s fluency in Mãori, inviting him to assist with põwhiri at conferences, a role he has continued. Seán has held many responsibilities within NZAP, including serving on the Admissions Committee, participating in marking panels and assessment interviews. Elected to Council in 2003, he edited the NZAP Newsletter between 2005-08 and again in 2012-13. Seán also served as NZAP’s President in 2010-12. He has served on the Boards of the Western Pacific Association for Transactional Analysis (chairing their Ethics Committee) and the International Transactional Analysis Association, and is on NZAP’s Ethics Committee.
Seán has presented papers on a wide range of subjects, at branch level and at conferences and he has published numerous articles. He edited the book “Selected Articles from the Transactional Analysis Journal 1981-1990” and co-edited “A History of a Decade 1997-2006”, released to celebrate NZAP’s 60th birthday in 2007.
Seán’s contributions to the life of psychotherapy in Aotearoa NZ have been considerable and he shows no signs of stopping. We are grateful for his commitment, passion and willingness to challenge conventional thinking.