Nancy is a counselor, trainer, and a senior Couples Therapist with an impressive list of credentials.
"Fly Me" Therapist *
My parents both emigrated from Ireland to Chicago when they were very young. That’s where they met, and married each other six weeks later. They had both emerged from difficult backgrounds and they really didn’t have the skills to relate well to each other, so their marriage was characterized by strain and tension, and long periods of silences underlaid by secret grievances. I now recognize that there was a high level of tension when my parents were home together but as a child I accepted what was happening as normal.
Nothing was ever directly or openly addressed. I can genuinely say I never saw my parents argue. Not even once.
Their marriage ended when I was fourteen years old, the impact of which had repercussions that emerged when I was a young woman embarking upon marriage.
Now, I really see them both with great compassion, and I understand that the help that people can find nowadays wasn’t as accessible then.
Whenever my husband David and I argued early on, I would become very distressed. I had never seen a couple who loved each other argue, have different opinions, be angry at each other and then make up. Maybe reach a better decision as a result of it. I didn’t grow up in that kind of family, so learning to deal with and be comfortable with conflict has been a huge part of my own growth.
I found it helpful to realize that conflict is growth trying to happen. If only we can settle ourselves down enough to be curious about each other again, we can say: Why do you think so differently about this? I’m really interested to know why this is something you very strongly believe in.
If you can set aside your own opinion for a moment, you can really make the space to better understand your partner. This forms the core of what we’re trying to do. It’s not as much about the resolution of problems as it is about the understanding of each person’s perspective. It’s very powerful.
Maybe you are like me and grew up in a conflict avoidant family. Maybe you are afraid, deep down that arguments will lead to divorce. I used to believe that too. I thought that a happy marriage meant having to agree with each other. Give up my own point of view, or have David do so.
It took many years for me to understand that conflict is essential for growth and this realization changed every aspect of my life. So this is probably why I love helping couples to stop fighting by giving them the skills they need to have difficult conversations respectfully and effectively.
A few hundred years ago, there was a huge fire in Tullamore that destroyed most of the town. The town motif is the phoenix—the mythical bird that rises out of the ashes.
Tullamore is known internationally as the home of Tullamore Dew, one of the most popular and famous Irish whiskeys. For about thirty or forty years, Tullamore Dew was distilled in a different town. The company has since been bought by a Scotch whiskey company, and a state-of-the-art distillery has been built in Tullamore. We are producing our own whiskey again, and people come from all over the world to visit the beautiful Tullamore Dew Heritage Center.
Tullamore, Ireland has the most beautiful scenery right on our doorstep. Just ten minutes away from us is a peat bog, which has fueled fires for countless generations and is now being preserved. Close by is a nature reserve with gorgeous walking trails, wondrous scenery and wildlife. Nature is returning to this land. It's a place for people to now enjoy. We love to go out there to walk, cycle or just be, deep in the heart of nature. It’s something that I truly love.
In my own life, the most important change I’ve made was to raise my children in an environment that differs completely from the one in which I grew up. I made a conscious effort to prevent the legacy of pain from traveling to the next generation. When I look at my children, it feels miraculous to know that they never have experienced what I experienced in my childhood.
Every single one of us can be pivotal. We can’t change what has happened in the past, but there is a choice to be made, because we can certainly change how we are as people. And we have that choice all along the way.
Before I began working as a couples’ therapist, I worked in a cancer support setting and this was very inspiring. Some people made fantastic recoveries both physically and emotionally. Others faced the end of life with great dignity and honesty. This experience had a profound effect on me, as it helped me to appreciate how short life may be and how important it is to live the life you want to live.
I draw inspiration from people who really believe in the power of change and that change is possible—people who have a vision.
Alfred Nobel had the uncanny experience of reading his own obituary when it was printed in error in a French newspaper. At that point, his greatest achievement had been the invention of dynamite, and for this he would be remembered. Inspired to create a different legacy, he founded the Nobel Peace Prize. It relates so closely to therapy, because he knew transformation was possible.
I have seen this proven by my own experience. David and I were in our 20s when we married, and we started our family straight away. Because we were so young when our son and our daughter were born, we were still young when they flew the nest.
If you live in a small town in the heart of Ireland, it’s almost inevitable that your children will grow up to move away to cities and other places where there are a lot of opportunities, but I had never looked down the road—I hadn’t really pictured it. When I became an empty nester at the age of forty-two, it hit me very hard. The grieving process that accompanied this experience was instrumental in shaping me into the person I am.
What we understand about grieving and about trauma is that after a significant loss, people tend to go into a period of decline or a period of growth. In my case, doors were opened, and I found my life going in an exciting direction, down a path of personal development, which led me to become a couples’ therapist, and this is something for which I’m constantly grateful.
I work exclusively with couples. I find tremendous energy in this work because it can be a very powerful way of bringing about individual change. It requires great courage to look closely at the ineffective or hurtful things that you’re doing in the relationship and trying to understand where this behavior comes from. There’s no more powerful form of therapy than understanding how the course of your relationship and family histories have instilled certain patterns that affect your relationship in the present.
That’s why I’ve chosen to specialize in looking at the developmental course of a couple’s relationship. My clinical approach and my personal philosophy have been greatly informed by the Developmental Model, a model I’ve trained in since 2010. I've also taught this approach to couples therapists in Ireland.
A lot of the work I do with couples is also based on the work of John Gottman. His approach helps couples to address specific areas that are important to attend to in the relationship, including creating shared meaning and working together to achieve their life’s purpose.
I’m here to help both partners to look beyond the immediate stressors, demands and concerns, and to focus on the meaning of their relationship. I encourage them to take a step back and to look at the bigger picture.
The absolute greatest gift that you can give your children is a happy relationship between their parents.
Couple therapy is more likely to be effective if both partners are equally invested in saving the relationship. If they decide to proceed with therapy, they can approach it with the full force of their will. I can tell you there’s nothing more exciting than working with two people who are motivated to create a better relationship.
Nancy is that rare and wonderful combination of kind, compassionate, clear and focused. She is an amazing listener, but simply being heard (with past marriage counselors) has never been enough.
With her as our skillful guide, we were able to each get at core concerns and reach a deeper understanding of what we are bringing to the table. We also felt she was a cheerleader and totally in our corner. We had a difficult but wonderful weekend and left feeling changed and with new hope for our future together.
- Wife, Recent Couples Retreat Participant
One of the most exciting aspects of my work is meeting couples from all around the world, from places that I sometimes have to look up, because I’ve never even heard of them before. I love to work with each couple to come to understand, culturally, what’s important to them, and to help them with their relationship.
Many of my couples live far away from a city or town that would have a therapist, never mind a couples’ therapist. With the advent of the internet, they can tuck their children into bed at night and then have their online marriage counseling session. It’s an incredible opportunity to transcend the limitations and to share these therapeutic advances with couples. I find it wonderfully enriching.
I am also specifically trained in Discernment Counseling which is a contemplative process that takes place before a couple begins couples therapy. Discernment counseling helps couples to navigate the stage of precontemplation--when they’re trying to decide whether to try to work on the relationship and to try to restore it, divorce, or maintain the status quo. I work with each partner without forcing upon them a stage or a frame of mind that I think they ought to be in. It’s all about meeting them exactly where they are.
If one partner is truly leaning out or feeling very unsure of the future of their marriage, then it’s important to help them to identify the changes they would want to see in their relationship.
I look forward to the opportunity to work with both of you.
Nancy has certificates in Mindfulness, Bereavement Counseling, Cognitive-Behavior Psychology, and Psycho-Oncology, but her greatest love is working with couples.
She’s served in a Chair position on the National Executive Council of ACCORD. ACCORD is a well known, and respected agency that has more than 50 years experience working with couples and individuals supporting them in their Marriages and Relationships.
Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP)
National Association for Pastoral Counselling and Psychotherapy (NAPCP),
Nancy has trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and David Burns’ From CBT to T.E.A.M. Therapy.
• Achieving Clinical Excellence with Difficult Couples The Couples Institute
• Certificate in Imago Relationships Therapy Imago Relationships International
• Brilliant at the Basics Imago Relationships International
• Externship in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy ICEEFT
• Core Skills Training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy ICEEFT
• Healing Affairs through Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy ICEEFT
• Domestic Abuse Training Relationships Ireland
Certificate in Children and Loss, HETAC Level 9 (2014) Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin
Professional Certificate in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (2011) PCI College, Dublin
Higher Diploma in Counselling (Hons), HETAC Level 8 (2010) St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth
Certificate in Counselling Skills, HETAC Level 7 (2006) NUI, Maynooth
Leaving Certificate (1976) Honours in Higher Level English and Economics
EFT: 5-Day Externship; Core Skills Training; Healing Affairs through Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy
I am writing to express my/ our deep appreciation for Nancy St. John. We are a married couple of 24 years, and have been actively considering divorce for the past several months. As a last ditch effort, we let go of our previous marriage therapist and began working with Nancy, first in 3 sessions online, and then an intensive in Ireland. She has been an extraordinary support for both of us. Her style is both structured and flexible. She listens exceedingly well. She brings evidence-based research into the mix. Perhaps most of all, she is optimistic, though not in an unrealistic way. She has been instrumental in helping us develop new patterns of communication and engagement. We are very, very grateful.
- Husband, Recent Couples Therapy Retreat
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