Choosing A Therapist

At TESSA we aim to provide a therapy service accessible to adopters throughout Northern Ireland. We have a small group of therapists throughout the province, with their own specialisms and areas of interest, and all of whom fit the TESSA criteria for standards of good practice.

Only you can choose the right therapist for you. Most practitioners are happy for you to phone and ask questions to help with your decision making. At TESSA we recognise that parenting a child with a trauma history can take its toll on us and our relationships. This service exists to validate your role and to provide a supportive space where you can be open about the challenges and the joys of adoptive parenting. After speaking to a therapist ask yourself if you feel comfortable telling this person intimate details about yourself and your family. Do you feel safe with them? Do you like their manner? Could you be completely open with them? When you have made your choice (it may be worth having a second and third choice), please get to myself or Claire so we can arrange for the counsellor to contact you.


Sheila Lavery




Name: Neil Foster
Location: Belfast
Registered/accredited with:

HCPC, Registered member

NISCC, Registered member

Code of Ethics observed:

BACP Ethical Framework

NISCC Standards of Conduct & Practice


· BA (hons) [Royal Conservatoire of Scotland]

· MMT [City University, Nordoff Robbins, London]



Neil Foster is an HCPC registered Music Therapist currently working with children, young people and adults in the County Down and Belfast area.

Having trained as a classical musician, Neil worked as a session musician, community musician and music educator for a number of years before training as a Music Therapist, gradating with a Masters in Music therapy (MMT) from the Nordoff-Robbins centre (London) in 2006.

Since then he has worked across a range of social care and educational settings as well as in private practice, publishing research on new music therapy approaches within the fields of trauma and life threatening illness, and pioneering new music therapy services for organisations such as Mencap, the National Autistic Society, Combat Stress and the Royal Marsden NHS Trust.

Neil moved back to Northern Ireland from London in 2015 and has since worked locally for Lifeline, Contact NI and Victim Support NI, offering crisis support through creative arts and music therapy for young people and their families, particularly those affected by domestic violence, early abuse and neglect. Through this work, Neil gained several years experience of supporting looked after and adopted children through complex family litigation, working closely with social services and the family court system.

Neil has supported adopted children and families with complex needs in a range of settings since qualifying in 2006. His main areas of specialism are trauma and additional learning needs, and he employs a creative, play based and child centred approach.


 Please contact TESSA


Name:   Ellen Bowler-McCartney
Location:       Belfast, Ballymena or Glengormley
I am registered/accredited with: HCPC & BAAT
Code of Ethics observed: HCPC & BAAT
My qualifications are: MSc Art Therapy Dist
Msc Criminology & Criminal Justice
BA Hon Eng Lit & Philosophy
Special interest/experience: Art Therapy
I work with: Children, young people and adults
Additional Information:
Hello, my name is Ellen Bowler-McCartney and I am so happy you are considering me as your Art Therapist. It is a big step to look for support and I’m sure you have lots of questions about me, my experience and qualifications and how Art Therapy actually works.   Let me tell you a bit about me. In 2008 I began a two-year MSc in Art Psychotherapy from Queen Margaret University Edinburgh, in which I earned with Distinction in 2010. Since coming home to Northern Ireland I have facilitated groups and provided one-to-one Art Therapy with both adults and children. To help you decide if Art Therapy might be useful for you and your family I would like to give you some idea of what it is and how I work. Broadly speaking Art therapy is about using art and the relationship between the client and the therapist to support personal growth and expression. A typical session can involve drawing or painting but it can also be about building or destroying, playing and storytelling. Whether you are a child or an adult, it is not always easy to come to therapy or to talk about how you feel, especially when you have no words to describe what you have been through.   So Art Therapy sessions can also be quiet, calming spaces, where we try to find safe ways to deal with difficult feelings. The things made in Art Therapy do not need to be pretty to be meaningful and everything from the smallest drawing to the messiest painting is valued and kept safe. Among other things Art Therapy can help to raise self-confidence and lower stress levels, improve communication and improve self-esteem. The collaborative and spontaneous nature of Art Therapy can be wonderfully freeing to clients. It helps to build trust and encourage choice and decision-making skills, all of which are vital to a positive sense of self. I do my best to encourage clients to connect with me and with the art materials in a way that will be meaningful and beneficial to them. Together we have discovered many imaginative ways to untangle some of the messiest feelings associated with love, loss and attachment. It is always a privilege to work in this way with clients. I hope this has answered some of your questions. Please feel free to get in touch if there is anything else you would like to know.
Name Frances Armstrong
Location Enniskillen/Omagh and surrounding areas
Registered/Accredited with PTUK
Code of Ethics observed PTUK
My Qualifications ·       Provisional Post Graduate Diploma in Play Therapy

·       Post Graduate Certificate in Therapeutic Play Skills

·       Level 1 Award in British Sign Language

·       Diploma in Baby Yoga & Toddler Yoga

·       Level 3 Certificate in First Line Management

·       BTEC Higher National Certificate in Early Childhood Studies

·       NVQ Level 3 Early Years Care and Education

Some other short training courses I have completed are:


·       Designing Programmes for Early Learning

·       Media Initiative for Children – Respecting Difference

·       Facilitative Leadership

·       Caring for Children with Special Needs

·       Working with Parents in Challenging Situations

·       Grief Trauma and the Helping Relationship

·       Transition from Conflict

·       Skills for a Helping Relationship

·       Mental Health First Aid

·       Early Movers: Promoting physical Activity for the Early Years

·       Calm Confident Soles (Reflexology for 0 – 5 years)

·       Incredible Years – Parents, Teachers and Children Training Series

·       DELTA Developing Early Listening and Talking Abilities

·       Elklan and Hanen Speech and Language Support

·       Peep for Practitioners (Supporting Parents/Carers and Children to learn together)

Theoretical Approach Art Psychotherapy, with training in talking mats and play therapy.
I work with: Parents with babies from 3 months old doing Baby yoga or Yoga with babies. Toddlers again with parents or carers for Toddler yoga, both of these can be individual or in groups.

In Play Therapy I work with children from 3 years, individual or with parent/carer. Parents and children, or groups of children.

Special interests and experience:
I have worked with children for over 30 years. I have worked in play groups and nursery. I was a registered childminder, looking after children in my own home. I volunteered in youth club, summer schemes and I was a Sunday school teacher for 24 years.
I develop/provide classes and fun activities for parents/carers and children using the Peep Learning Together Programme. This is an early intervention which supports parents to understand more about how children learn – and to do more of the things at home which make a difference to children’s outcomes, like singing, sharing books and stories and talking about a wide range of ideas, thoughts and feelings.
I facilitate Baby and Toddler yoga classes. These classes enhance playful interaction and communication between parent/carer and child. Promotes their healthy development through touch and movement, by doing simple exercises together, they get to know each other better, increasing their ability to cope positively with new situations and social relations over the early years and beyond. Joint relaxation is beneficial for both the parent and the child as it enhances non-verbal communication between them.
I co-facilitate Incredible years parent programmes for babies (0-1 year), toddlers (1-3 years), preschoolers (3-6 years), and would like to facilitate the school age children (6-12 years). This parent programme focuses on strengthening parent-child interactions and attachment, reducing harsh discipline and fostering parents’ ability to promote children’s social, emotional, and language development. In the preschool and school age programmes parents also learn how to encourage school readiness skills and are encouraged to partner with teachers so that they can promote children’s academic as well as social skills and emotional literacy.
I organise day trips and fun events for families to enjoy some special time together.
I enjoy the outdoors and provide activities for parents and children outdoor as much as possible, as it promotes physical development and well being.
Additional information I am very fond of animals, have lots of pets and I enjoy helping out on the family farm.



Name: Oonagh Campbell
Location:       Southern Health & Social Care Trust Area
I am registered/accredited with: BAAT, HPC, NISCC & Aura-Soma Academy
Code of Ethics observed: BAAT, HPC, NISCC & Aura-Soma Academy
My qualifications are: Dip Psycho-Social Counselling
PG Dip Art Therapy
Art Foundation Course
BSC Hons Social Work with CQSW qual
Special interest/experience: Art Therapy
I work with: Children
Additional Information: From as long as I can remember making art to communicate has been my passion. Therefore, it is my delight and privilege to have been practicing as an art therapist since 1999 with children, parent(s) adults and groups for greater wellbeing and healing. I am indebted to all of those who chosen to work with me over the years.

Much of my experience has been with children and their families in Looked After Care and Adoption which is where my professional life began as a residential child care worker in 1992. I am skilled at working with participants who are traumatised by identifying the survival patterns they are operating out of and facilitating ways in which they can understand and regulate their emotional states. The need to engage creatively to meet the needs of young people in the care setting was the impetus for me to train as an Art Therapist.

Fuelled by my passion to make art making opportunities available to as many as possible. I established an independent service called, ‘Art – Well-Being for ALL’ in 2014.   The aim of this service is to provide opportunities to make art for therapeutic benefit in settings where this is not currently available. To enable this to happen I do not have a therapy room but liaise to provide therapy in locations that will best serve the needs of the individual or organisation who presents.

My development as a therapist continues to evolve. As a result the services offered by, ‘Art ~ Well-Being for ALL’ emerge from the professional trainings of Social Work, Art Therapy, Aura-Soma®Advanced Practitioner, Vedic Art®, ‘The Just Right State Programme®’ (Eadaoin Bhreathnach), and being a Professional Artist. I have completed training in Capacitar Multicultural Wellness Education which teaches “a core program of energy-based healing practices that awaken and empower people”. All of these methods and techniques are integrated into my art therapy practice in accordance with the needs of the child, parent, adult, group whom I encounter.

I look forward to the journey of working together, witnessing your art and listening together to the promptings and invitations that are beckoning to you at this time.

Name: Sharon Coulter
Location:       Ballymena & 25 mile radius
I am registered/accredited with: I am registered/accredited with: NISCC, HCPC & BADth
Code of Ethics observed: Same as above
My qualifications are: MA Dramatherapy
MA Social Work
BA (Hon) Modern & Contemporary History
Extra Mural Certificate – Community Drama
Post Graduate Certificate – Theatre & Performance Studies
Special interest/experience: Dramatherapy
I work with: children, young people, adults, families and carers, individually and in groups
Additional Information:
I have over 20 years’ experience working with young people, adults and families.
As a mental health practitioner in Child & Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) I have experience in working with parent/child attachment and young people affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
I’m particularly interested in how pre-birth and early childhood experiences affect emotional development and how the effects of negative experiences can be addressed by indirect playful interventions.I am a compassionate and empathetic therapist who believes that people can heal through the use of imagination and creative expression and that therapy has the greatest positive outcomes when there is trust and respect within the therapeutic relationship. My aim is therefore to create a non-judgemental atmosphere providing Dramatherapy structures that promote self-expression and an opportunity for self-exploration and healing.
Name:   Lizzie Devlin
Location:       Belfast/Greater Belfast County Antrim and Down.
I am registered/accredited with: Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
British Association for Art Therapist (BAAT), Member and approved by/registered with BAAT for Private Practice.
Code of Ethics observed: HCPC, BAAT.
My qualifications are:
MSc Art Psychotherapy with Merit (University of East London /Belfast Health and Social Care Trust) 2007-2010
Post Graduate Diploma in Arts Admin (UCD) 1992-1993
BA Honours in Fine Art (Painting, print-making/Art History (Leeds University) 1984-1988
BSL Stage 1, TEFL,Cert Com Dev 1988-1998
Ongoing CPD : Including Art Therapy and Treatment of Attachment Trauma, Level 2 Children Accelerated Trauma treatment and Intercultural Competency.
Special interest/experience: Art Therapy
I work with: Children, adults and groups
Additional Information:

I am a HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) registered Art Psychotherapist experienced in working with children,

young people and adults on a one to one and group basis.(MSc Art Psychotherapy, Centre for Psychotherapy Belfast and University of East London, 2011 ). I  have a background in Community Arts and my approach in Art Psychotherapy is Psychodynamic and Integrated.

Using art, play and creative expression is a natural language for children enabling them to communicate difficult and painful feelings.  Art Therapy can be particularly beneficial for children who have experienced early/developmental trauma and attachment difficulties. Art Therapy communicates when words simply cannot.

My experience of working with children includes: Looked After children, Adoption, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, ADHD and children impacted by Meningitis.

Specialist areas of clinical practice include early developmental trauma, Troubles related psychological and trans-generational trauma and PTSD.

I work with children and their Care-givers/Parents individually and jointly and with groups in many different settings both in schools and in the community.

Specialist training in trauma and attachment includes:

ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Train the Trainer Course (ACES Level 1 and 2) with the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland.

Dyadic Art Therapy training with the British Association of Art Therapists , a joint art therapy approach involving children and their Caregivers/Parents which offers creative and playful activities, which can facilitate communication, discussion and benefit the relationship.

Children’s Accelerated Trauma Technique, Level 2, a child-centred technique for treating traumatic experiences and PTSD  developed in partnership with children and based on children’s rights principles.

CPCAB Level 6 Creative Supervision Across the Ages.

Name: Andrea Harbinson
Location:       Belfast, Holywood
I am registered/accredited with: HCPC
Code of Ethics observed: HCPC
My qualifications are: PGDip Music Therapy
LTCL – piano performance
Special interest/experience: Music Therapist
I work with:
Additional Information:
My Music Therapy Experience

  • I set up the QUB – SSC Module ‘Music as Medicine’ on the Year 1 undergraduate medicine degree in 2013 with a view to educating the doctors of the future on the benefits of music as a therapeutic tool, but also for trainee doctors to work with the benefit of music for themselves as students in a very challenging environment seminars.
  • Crawfordsburn PS/Bright Sparks PreSchool – I hold sessions with three specific groups: early intervention group for children with speech difficulties, behavioural group, creative group for mainstream children. I run a therapeutic music making class with key stage 1 children, focusing on social interaction through music and the use of rhythm and rhyme in song to help with speech development and hearing specific sounds.
  • Riverside Special School – I set up and currently run a music therapy service for individual children and groups with a wide spectrum of disability (PMLD, ADHD, Autism, Development delay).
  • Singing for Health (BHSST) is a therapeutic choir made up of patients and healthcare professionals from a wide range of backgrounds. I established the choir primarily as a singing group to improve the lung capacity, socialisation and mental helath of patients with repiratory problems. It has expanded to include patients with general health conditions.
  • NI Music Therapy Trust – I have worked as a senior music therapist with         several patient/client groups developing experience in a wide range of clinical situations: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit – individual therapy with children newly diagnosed with Autism; group therapy with adolescents with pervasive developmental disorders (eating/behavioual); Royal Sick Children’s hospital – individual therapy work in Neurology/Haematology/Burns unit/cardiac surgical ward. Group work in Neurology with children post brain injury.
  • NI Children’s Hospice – individual & group therapy for life limtied children; family work with children with end stage cancer; work with adolescents with end stage cystic fibrosis.
  • Threshold Mental Health Charity – group work with young women suffering from borderline personality disorders.
  • Erne & Elmbrooke Special Schools – individual/group music therapy with children who have moderate/severe learning difficulties.
  • Glenveagh Special School – individual/group music therapy with the autism and special needs unit.
Name: Lynda McGill
Location:       Co Antrim
I am registered/accredited with: NISCC , NAGALRO
Code of Ethics observed: NISCC, NAGALRO
My qualifications are: Diploma in Social Work 2002, DIPHE in Social Work 2002, BSC Professional Development in Social Work 2007. PQ 1-6, Specialist Social Work Award completed and Strategic and Leadership Award ongoing.
Dyadic developmental psychotherapy (DDP) Levels 1 & 2
Theraplay Level 1
Accredited in Sensory Attachment Integration and Just Right State Programme
Trainer in the Foundations for Attachment programme by Kim Golding.
Currently undertaking further SAI training with Éadaoin Bhreathnach as a coder of arousal states.
Special interest/experience: Narrative work with children and families, sensory attachment integration approach, parent/child attunement, Theraplay, exploring contact issues.
I work with: Children
Additional Information:
Since qualifying as a social worker in 2002 I have worked extensively with children and families. From 2007 I worked as a Senior Practitioner specifically within the   area of Looked After and Adopted Children. I currently work as Team Manager for the Therapeutic Team for Looked After and Adopted Children (NHSCT). Main areas of work have included:
· Therapeutic parenting support to adoptive and fostering families
· Direct work with children around adjustment to care or adoption
· Parent/child attunement through PACE
· ‘Talking through the Tough stuff’ a narrative approach with children and families
· Enabling self and co regulation through Sensory Attachment Integration approach.


Name:           K Mosley
Location:       Belfast/Lisburn
I am registered/accredited with: BACP, PTUK, IACC
Code of Ethics observed: BACP, PTUK, IACC
My qualifications are: Dip Counselling Supervision
Cert Child Parent Relationship Therapy (filial therapy)
PGDip Play Therapy
PGCert Therapeutic Play
Cert Integrative Counselling
MA Pastoral Care and Counselling
Special interest/experience: Filial therapy
I work with: Children and young people ages 2-18, parents, young adults, therapy students and supervisees
Additional Information:
I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to offer filial therapy via the TESSA project!  I had the privilege of training in Child Parent Relationship Therapy under Sue Bratton all the way back in 2007 and have always found it to be the highlight of my therapy practice.  I have over over 20 years experience working with children and families in the helping professions, 13+ years supervised counselling/play therapy practice, 9+ years experience in filial therapy and 2 1/2 years experience as a clinical supervisor.
I have worked in the voluntary sector at the Oasis Counselling Service as a play therapist/youth counsellor and Children’s Project Co-ordinator and New Life Counselling as a play therapist/youth counsellor and Assistant Community Team Leader with both the OKAY (Only Kids and Youth) and Family teams. I have also run a small private practice called Shepherding Lambs Counselling and Training service since 2008.
I have worked with individual children and young people and groups using play therapy and counselling and do love training as well but the reason I love filial therapy so much is that it combines psychoeducation and practical sessions to teach parents how to do therapeutic play with their own children.  It enhances attachment, helps repair developmental trauma, and builds resilience in children and parents.  And it is all based on parents conducting play sessions with their children for just 30 minutes a week!
The best bit is that because it involves having such a fun, positive experience together, it can significantly reduce the impact of any difficulties you might be experiencing as a family unit.  I have used it not only as a therapist, but also as a mother with my own children so I have seen the positive results first hand.


Name: Norma Patterson
Location: Castlerock and Belfast
Willing to travel? no
I am accredited with BACP
Code of Ethics Observed BACP
My Qualifications are Degree in Psychology
Diploma in Person Centred Counselling
Diploma in Gestalt Psychotherapy
Diploma in Play Therapy
Certificate in Creative Supervision
Special interest/experience Play therapy/ counselling adolescents/ suicide/bereavement.
I work with Parents and children
Name: Tania Watson
Location: Dromara/ Dromore Co Down
I’m registered/accredited with: The National Counselling Society
Code of ethics observed NCS Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling
My qualifications: Diploma in Trauma & Addictions Counselling Level 4 MNCS (Registered Accredited Member )
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Certificate
Level 6 Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator
Child Protection Training
Special interest/experience in: Fostering & Adoption (Parents & Children)
Adults & Young People
Attachment & Trauma
Additional information: My main areas of work include:
• Attachment focused work with parents and children using Theraplay and Filial Coaching
• Enabling self and co regulation through Sensory Attachment Integration approach.
• Therapeutic parenting support to families
Direct therapeutic work with children
My theoretical approach: Person-Centred, Integrative
I see: Children and Adults
Any other information:
I am registered as a Counsellor & Equine Therapist with the National Counselling Society (NCS) and have full professional membership with NCS. Equine Therapy is an innovative approach to counselling for social emotional & behavioural difficulties in individuals who find room based counselling all too much.   EFP/EFL supports clients of all ages in addressing therapeutic goals, with horses as co-facilitators and teachers, in this process.   Horses are non-judgemental and honest; these are invaluable qualities to have for people who have been through traumatic experiences.
Equine Therapy offers an alternative way of communicating verbally & non-verbally, better understanding & building on relationships, develop self awareness and gain a better understanding how our behaviour impacts on others around us.   Equine therapy also allows clients to express feelings & emotions in a non judgemental & safe environment while enjoying the outdoors.
I have extensive experience working in the Fostering and Adoption sector, working with children and families. I also work as part of a team with other professionals from the Northern Health & Social Care Trust. I have 40 years horse experience, I have enjoyed riding horses out bush in Africa and the outback of Australia.What is the difference between EFP & EFL
EFP uses equine-facilitated activities to explore the way a client sees and relates to themselves and others, their patterns of behaviour and survival as well as their gifts and strengths, and may include the exploration of past experiences and traumas.
EFL uses equine-facilitated activities as a tool for self development and education, with a focus on the present moment. Skills include non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, relationship skills, confidence and resilience.


Name: Julie Virtue
Location:       Portrush
I am registered/accredited with: HCPC
Code of Ethics observed: HCPC
My qualifications are: Currently completing CPCAB Level 5 diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapeutic Skills and Theory
Currently completing MSc Autism Spectrum Disorders
Fundamentals of Equine Assisted Growth and Learning
MSc Art Psychotherapy
UU Diploma in Counselling
Level 3 OCN Community and Drugs Awareness training
BA Hons Art and Design
Special interest/experience: Art Psychotherapy
I work with: Children and adults
Additional Information:
I have been working as a counsellor and art psychotherapist for the past seven years. I am particularly interested in working with difficult-to-engage client groups using creative approaches.  I use the art materials to provide a safe and supportive environment for clients to safely express difficult emotions and work through problems.
Therapy Experience:
Sessional Art Psychotherapist and counsellor with Wave trauma centre
– providing counselling and art therapy sessions to individuals affected by the Northern Ireland Troubles.
Art psychotherapist and counsellor with Contact NI – manning the crisis helpline and providing one to one short term counselling and art therapy sessions to adults and children affected by suicide or self-harm. I also work on the ART project, which is a longer term service, supporting children affected by aggression related trauma.
Trainee art psychotherapist HMP Magilligan – as a trainee art therapist I provided an art therapy service on a one to one and group basis.
Trainee Threshold – As part of my training I provided group and one to one sessions to adults with long term enduring mental health issues as part of a therapeutic community.
Support worker SHAC – Supporting vulnerable tenants of a housing association to maintain their tenancy.
Part-time outreach worker and youth council coordinator – working in the community with young people to encourage engagement in youth programs and prevent antisocial behaviour.
Currently available to cover Portrush, Portstewart, Coleraine and Ballymoney