Alumni Spotlight

Dr James O'Mahony, University Lecturer/Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

23 Jan 2020
Dr James O'Mahony, BSc 2004, PhD 2015, MBA 2016.

Dr James O Mahony has worked in the area of mental health for over 20 years, in both clinical and management roles in the HSE. He works with the HSE National Clinical Programme for the assessment and management of patients presenting to the Emergency Department with self-harm. He was also involved in establishing a dialectical behaviour therapy programme (DBT) - a psychological intervention to work with those experiencing self-harm and suicidal behaviours. Other roles include Director of Operations with the mental health charity, State of Mind Ireland, as well as teaching on UCC’s Mental Health Nursing courses and the Clinical Psychology doctorate. He is currently Programme Lead for the university’s MSc in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy.

Course/subjects studied in UCC:

Dip/BSc Psychiatric Nursing (2002/2004); PhD Medicine & Health (2015); Masters Business Administration (MBA) (2016).

Best memory of UCC:

There have been so many great memories in UCC. From the friends I made to the different degrees I was fortunate enough to study over the years. A memory that stands out in my mind was a field trip to Italy with my MBA class. There we learned about the automotive and ceramic business (I love cars, so I loved seeing the performance cars) while also enjoying Italy and socialising with the class. It was a turning point in how I understood work and balancing work with living life. I remember reflecting on this on a terrace in Bologna with the sun shining down on us over a glass of wine. We were discussing the importance of doing what drives us and enriches our life while also living our life and attending to important relationships with family, friends, colleagues and our community. This led to a change in job which turned out to be much more engaging and rewarding for me.

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?

My time in UCC has most definitely shaped the life path I have taken. I talk above about how it is important for me to work at something that is engaging and enriching. I am aware that my education in UCC has allowed me to make decisions occupationally over the years that have allowed me to engage and reengage in the various occupations I have had. I am conscious that not everyone has the privilege to choose jobs that are engaging and enriching to their lives. The education I have received in the School of Nursing and Midwifery (SON&M), Graduate College of Medicine and Health, and the Graduate College of Business and Law have allowed me the opportunity and freedom to make those decisions. This has resulted in allowing me to work as a psychiatric nurse, as a Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist, as Area Director of Mental Health Nursing (and a few more) and more recently as Programme Lead for the postgraduate course in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy in the SON&M in UCC. My educational journey has allowed me to come full circle, moving from education as a student to industry and back to education again as an academic.

What is your advice to current UCC students?

See your journey in UCC as a journey, it will form part of your life experience so enjoy it and try not to rush it. Avail of opportunities that arise academically and also socially. Remember what you study now will become part of your life journey but does not have to define the path that you take indefinitely. You will most likely change direction a number of times throughout your life and so acknowledge that reality. Postgraduate education will prepare you at any time to change direction. Do what makes you happy, not what makes others happy. Remember that you are allowed to change your mind. Also, don’t let your education or subsequent job define who you are. It contributes to who you are most certainly but remember you are more than the degree(s) you hold and the work you do. Enjoy your course and your fellow students.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?

There were a number of professors in the SON&M that had a very positive impact on my life. The support, guidance and education I received were invaluable. This started once I started my undergraduate course all the way through to my PhD. From these relationships, I developed a lifelong relationship with the school, the university and the academics. It allowed me to develop academically, occupationally and as a person, of which I am most grateful. Another person that significantly impacted on me was the Director of the MBA, Cork Business School, Dr Joan Buckley. How I thought about work, business and life changed. I began to look differently at how I could work so that I could create income so that I could have more time to do the things I wanted to do and spend time with the people I wanted to spend time with. I had thought (as do many) previously that I would educate myself, secure employment, get a mortgage (and other loans) and work to service these debts. She made the class and me question, how can we create wealth to create further wealth so we can work less and do more of what we want to do. That shift in thinking has been very helpful and a very positive influence in my life.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?

I was involved in and tried a number of clubs and societies during my time in UCC. I tried the fencing and archery clubs for a while which were fun. I went to a salsa dancing club with my housemate, I was terrible but was worth a go. I was also part of the SON&M society. Our class were very close, so we spent a lot of time socialising which was a great experience also.

Favourite UCC legend or superstition

From the beginning I was very aware of keeping off the grass in the Quad so as not to fail my exams. I still won’t walk on the grass. Who knows what degree is next!!

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