Interview with Alison Byrne
by Aine McKenna
With stress levels soaring and general health at an all time low, people are
looking towards a more alternative approach to health and wellbeing. Statistically there has been a 102% increase in the number of day cases seen in public acute hospitals since 2002. The shocking numbers have caused people to question their health and their treatment possibilities. Many insurance companies are now covering Reflexology, Acupuncture and Homeopathy such as Aviva, VHI and Laya Healthcare.
In this interview Alison Byrne gives us an insight into her own personal journey: from her first experience of a healing to the fact that she had to keep the ‘funny stuff’ to herself in the beginning. Alison Byrne dip ITEC, a very
experienced healer and teacher with a wide variety of holistic spiritual therapies. Her work in the Holistic community spans 20 years.
1) How did you get into the Holistic field initially?
I hurt my back in 1988, and naturally went down the traditional medical route seeking a cure. I was out of work for 9 months, and literally lying on the floor all day. I was told that the next step for me would be an operation – I knew of some people who had back operations, and I wasn’t impressed with the success rate, and so I was quite frightened.I visited an old friend, who asked me if I would like her to work on me. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she explained that she had done a course in healing, and would like to try it on me. I was very sceptical, but willing to try anything to escape the pain, so I lay down on her sitting room floor while she put her hands on various parts of my body.
When she had her hand on the sorest part of my back I felt a pulse going into me. It made me trust it a little. My friend told me that healing would take a number of sessions. I went back to her for a few sessions, but then it became inconvenient for her to continue healing, and she told me of a healing clinic in Stillorgan, where she had done her course. Now this seemed quite a monumental journey for me at the time. Don’t forget that I was in severe pain, and every movement was difficult. To get two buses to the clinic (and of course two home to Beaumont), feeling every rattle and bump, was very challenging. But the alternative was worse, so I became a regular at the clinic every Friday night. And every week the pain eased a little. I reckoned that the pain was easing because of “mind over matter”, but I was happy with that, as less pain is less pain, no matter how you achieve it. So one night I decided to test my theory, and lay down on the floor at home as if I were having a healing, for the same length of time (20 minutes), determined to get up with slightly less pain. But when I got up I was no better! I had to accept that something real was happening during those healings. So then I just had to know how it worked, and so began my initial training.
I have taken many course over the years, and developed various specialised healing techniques from working with clients. I hope to never stop learning, researchingand experiencing new things.
2) Did you find that there were many courses on offer at the time?
I had never heard of healing or indeed a healing course prior to my own experience, but I understand since that there was very little available in Ireland at the time. Indeed, the ladies I trained originally with are now considered trailblazers. Reiki, which has become quite popular now hadn’t reached Ireland at that stage.
Of course, the more “orthodox” of the complimentary disciplines were available i.e. massage, acupuncture, etc.
3) Did you encounter any negative responses to your chosen path at that time?
I didn’t encounter any negative responses originally, as I kept this “funny stuff” I was getting involved in very quiet for a while! When I began to speak about it I was surprised to discover how many other people I knew were also involved in healing/spirituality in some way, but also keeping it quiet.
Of course, I also experienced a lot of derision, but learned to accept that this path is not for everyone, and to respect others’ opinions, even if they didn’t respect mine! It is par for the course.
Nowadays, of course I am happy to talk about what I do with anyone – the days of hiding it are long gone. I was quite happy to appear on national radio and television, and I’m always ready to share with others the wonder of the help that is available to us.
4) Do you think the attitudes of the Irish people has changed towards Holistic Therapies in the past few years?
There has definitely been a big shift in how people view holistic therapies over the past few years. More and more people are taking responsibility for their own health and well-being , rather than simply relying on doctors to fix them. We are more inclined to do the simple things such as look after our diets, rest, exercise and stress levels than ever before. We see different therapies working for people, and are inclined to try them - not only to alleviate problems, but as a preventative/maintenance policy too.
“Many other people I knew were also involved in healing/spirituality in some way, but also keeping it quiet”
I find that in the past most people who came to me were seeking relief from physical difficulties, but this is changing. While people still come because of disease or pain, others are coming to find relief from stress (work-place bullying is a huge problem at the moment), or to find some kind of happiness, direction or meaning to life. More and more people are beginning to realise that they deserve more than just an absence of illness: They want to enjoy life. This is so wonderful: And as more people again adopt this attitude, it will seep into the rest of society until practically everyone sees good health, energy, lifestyle and relationships as their birth-right.
5) There is an increase in the awareness of Alternative Therapies and health in general in the media at present. Why do you think this is so?
I must stress that holistic therapies are complimentary to the orthodox system, not alternatives to it. Of course, in some cases you can make a direct choice, but in many cases both models working together is the ideal. For instance, anyone unfortunate enough to break a bone will want to know that there is a hospital to take care of them! And they may follow this up with hands-on healing to speed up the healing process and minimise or eliminate pain.
There has been a converging of both traditional and complimentary systems over the recent years. Many medical centres offer both services. The National Maternity Hospital recommends reflexology for its patients. A GP asked me to work in her practice as “she can only work with the symptoms, whereas Healing can get to the source of the problems”.
In 2012 the Department of Health and Children approved Reiki as a viable therapy in Ireland. Some insurance companies now cover Reiki, while others are considering it.
Ireland is making steps towards fully accepting complimentary therapies as an integral part of our healthcare system. In September 2012 HETAC (The Higher Education and Training Awards Council) have verified five complimentary therapies and have provided a more advanced national framework compatible with countries such as Italy, New Zealand and