Counsellor confirms she sought €100,000 from two people

Counsellor confirms she sought €100,000 from two people

People dealing with a counselling centre were asked for large sums

Irish Times/October 20, 2007

By Roisin Ingle

Self-employed Dubliner John Hanrahan is one of a number of people who The Irish Times has confirmed was asked for large amounts of money during their dealings with a Dublin counselling centre.

A month ago Mr Hanrahan paid €3,300 to take part in a counselling training course at the Roebuck Counselling Centre in Rathgar, Dublin, which came highly recommended by friends.

He said he then came under pressure from a counsellor, Claire Hoban, to pay €100,000. “She promised the earth, wealth beyond my wildest dreams, but I had to pay €100,000 to be coached in this direction,” said Mr Hanrahan.

Ms Hoban has since resigned from one of the programmes run by the centre, but not from the centre itself.

Mr Hanrahan said he came close to paying the money, to a named charity as opposed to the centre, which Ms Hoban had indicated was acceptable. He changed his mind at the last minute after seeking advice from an accountant.

“I divulged sensitive and personal information to a woman who used this to try and get money out of me,” he said.

He said he received two text messages this week from Ms Hoban which, he said, made him feel threatened that should he go public with the story, details of his personal life would be exposed.

Ms Hoban was also recommended to a Dublin-based businessman as a good mentor to help develop his start-up business.

“She asked all sorts of questions, asking me would I commit €100,000 to my future business success. She asked what my bank manager would think of me asking for that money and when would I be in a position to go to the bank to get it. The whole thing was bizarre,” he added.

Dubliner Suzanne Campbell called Ms Hoban looking for one-to-one counselling. During a telephone conversation she said Ms Hoban asked “what is your happiness worth to you?” and “How much would it cost to set you up for life?”

Ms Campbell thought it was a joke and replied “about half a million”. “She said if I gave her 10 per cent of that, €50,000, she could make all my dreams come true. . . I was only looking for counselling,” she said.

The Irish Times met Ms Hoban to discuss these allegations. She accepted that she asked Mr Hanrahan, the Dublin businessman and another woman who sought counselling for €100,000, but says she only asked Ms Campbell for €10,000.

Ms Hoban talked about fulfilling people’s life dreams whether that involved “buying a Ferrari”, “moving to Barbados” or “buying a Morris Minor.”

She said: “The jump from counselling to €100,000 or €50,000 and all your dreams come true sounds quite strange and you have to understand that these conversations take place in a particular context. It’s not simply ‘do you want to give me €100,000?’ ”

According to Ms Hoban, the Roebuck Counselling Centre is “not simply a counselling service”. Ms Hoban’s biography on the Roebuck Counselling website describes her background as being in counselling and therapy.

“We have programmes that are not directly related to counselling at all,” she said. “I am trained to help people in response to what they are saying they want.”

Asked what or who the money was for, Ms Hoban said: “I work in a company on the basis that there are other costs . . . the biggest distinction with this and counselling is that counselling is one hour a week and that’s the end of it. In the context of the centre, people have been used to getting a service where they can access most people when they want to, it’s unusual in that way.” Asked to explain why she sought money, she said: “Look, if you can understand the risk that I will take with somebody, the place someone is talking to me from. I am looking for their motivation in life.

“If they want a Morris Minor and if that’s the thing that is going to make them happy it doesn’t matter a damn to me if that’s what motivates them to get up in the morning, that is what I am trying to do . . . in the past most people will have said ‘I don’t have the money to do it’ but Irish people are now saying ‘If I really wanted to do it, I could do it because I could sell my house or do whatever.’

“It’s a very different world now and that’s the context that I join with people.”

Ms Hoban claimed that she was being “set up” by those who have made complaints against her. “It’s the perfect set-up,” she said.

The following day, Ms Hoban left a voice message on this reporter’s mobile saying she was “resigning from the programme . . . on condition that you don’t write the article.”

Earlier this week, Ms Hoban, who is a member of the National Association of Pastoral Counselling and Psychotherapy (NAPCP), sent a text to Mr Hanrahan expressing her concern that “intimate, shaming details of your life will now be exposed with consequent implications for your life and work.”

Another former client of Roebuck received a similar message from Ms Hoban by voicemail at his place of work. Another woman who sought counselling and was asked for €100,000 has since declined to tell her story because of the tone of the texts.

When contacted to ask why one of her employees had been asking people for €100,000, the director of Roebuck Counselling Centre, Bernie Purcell, said it was in relation to a “Life Mentoring Programme” which she said was designed for “ambitious, astute people.”

According to Ms Purcell, if the participants haven’t made €1 million in a two-year period, their €100,000 is refunded. “We have made at least 20 millionaires in that time,” said the businesswoman and former director of the Rape Crisis Centre in Dublin.

Ms Purcell, who also owns a nursing home in Co Wexford and co-founded the Women of Wealth organisation, said participants of this programme, some of whom are “well known in society”, have flourished.

She was “astonished” that none of the people who spoke to The Irish Times were made aware of the “Life Mentoring Programme” and described Ms Hoban as “an extremely responsible person.”

There are no details of any such programme on the centre’s website.

John Farrelly, who is a board member of the NAPCP and sits on an ad-hoc committee which is calling for the statutory registration of counsellors, said incidents such as this demonstrated the need for more stringent regulation of the industry. “Counselling is based on meeting the human being, not manipulating the human being,” he said.

Mr Farrelly said the NAPCP would be investigating the cases raised by The Irish Times.

“She promised the earth, wealth beyond my wildest dreams, but I had to pay €100,000 to be coached in this direction” – John Hanrahan

“She asked all sorts of questions asking me would I commit €100,000 to my future business success. She asked what my bank manager would think of me asking for that money and when would I be in a position to go to the bank to get it.” – Dublin businessman

“She said if I gave her 10 per cent of that, €50,000, she could make all my dreams come true. . . I was only looking for counselling”

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