Imagine you’re driving along a road when you hit a patch of dense fog. You can’t see what’s in front of you. You can’t see what’s on either side of you. You don’t know where you are going. And it’s scary.

“But at that point, you invite me to sit into the car with you,” says Tom Meade, “so now, there’s two of us there. And initially, we are not sure where we are going either, but at least you’re not alone in it and together we start to navigate the route.

“And we say, ‘OK, let’s go this way’ and we get to the end of the road. And two or three miles down the road, the clouds start to lift and the sun starts to shine. And I hop back out; and you carry on, on your journey. But the support was there when you needed it.”

You might have guessed by now that Tom isn’t really talking about driving. But it’s an analogy he often uses to explain his role as a counsellor and a psychotherapist, in practice in East Cork.

Recently, Tom received the Southern Regional Award from the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) for his commitment to the profession. A role he balances with his other job: beef farming.

“Very few people have ever really heard of a farmer and a counsellor in the one person,” laughs Tom, who pursues both in Ballyglassin, near Killeagh.

Change in direction

Raised on a mixed dairy, tillage and beef enterprise, Tom explains that while he went farming full-time after agricultural college, he was always interested in personal development.

“Anytime I ever went into a bookshop, there was always two sections I’d be drawn to. I’d be drawn to the farming section… and I’d walk past every other book and I’d be passing the personal development/self-help section and I’d stop off there and say, ‘Jez that’s really interesting,’” he explains.

In 2005, however, he decided to take a leap of faith after seeing an advert for a certificate course in communications and personal development at UCC.

“It was scary, daunting; and exciting,” he recalls. “I had only landed in there for the first day and I knew I was in the right place.”

Tom Meade in his office at Ballyglassin House, Killeagh, Co Cork. \ Donal O' Leary .

Tom followed that certificate with a diploma in parent mentoring, before committing to a four year honours degree to qualify as a counsellor and psychotherapist, gaining his full accreditation with the IACP in 2013. This change in direction meant making big changes on the farm, however.

“I found it too hard to manage the dairy side of it, so I got out of the cows,” says Tom of his decision to concentrate on beef farming.

“This area around me is full of dairy cows, so I have a couple of local family members and neighbours and I buy all their Friesian bull calves and I bring them through to finish.”

Under pressure

He feels that his farming background stands to him in his counselling work though; recalling the fodder and drought crises of 2018 that saw many farmers come to his door for professional support.

“I was experiencing them [the difficulties] myself, so I was able to identify with farmers because I knew exactly what was happening,” he says. “It does make it so much more accessible for them because they are talking to one of their own.”

He feels that many farmers today are under more pressure than ever.

“It’s, ‘Run faster, be more efficient and keep running, don’t stop. And time is money and speed, speed, speed and efficiency.’ And it all equals stress and anxiety,” he says.

The solitary nature of the job doesn’t help either.

“The paper trail and inspections- it’s a massive stress factor for farmers- and that can be quite isolating for farmers, keeping all that into themselves,” says Tom.

“It’s a real problem for them then to share that with their partners, with their wives. Because sometimes what happens with people who are working on their own a lot in isolation is that becomes a normality for them.”

How does that manifest then? In Tom’s experience, new clients might come to him reporting trouble sleeping, high blood pressure or that a family member is worried and has asked them to get help.

“And sometimes with the anxiety, people just know, ‘I’m tired of living this way, something isn’t right and I don’t know what to do or who to talk to’. And they might appear on my step,” he says.

“Everyone has a different story to tell and every story is so important. And it’s all about safety. The confidentiality is huge.”

Tom provides support for issues ranging from anxiety and depression to grief, family conflict, sexual issues and more.

He also works with couples dealing with relationship difficulties and feels that counselling provides a safe place for both parties to voice their concerns; and also, to listen to each other.

“I think one of the things I would always say is we have two ears and one mouth for a reason,” says Tom. “Being heard and listened to is huge for couples, because when we don’t feel heard, resentment can come in.”

Working with parents is also a passion. Tom believes that children are under more pressure than ever “to perform”; but that parents are also feeling that burden.

“There’s a lot of pressure on parents nowadays too to get things right; and a good enough job is a good enough job. We’re not going to get it right,” he says. “But really, it’s to have fun with your children growing up, because they don’t be long growing up.”

Simple self-care

It’s important to stress that every person and situation is different and Tom will tailor their therapy accordingly; he uses an integrative approach that combines person centred therapy, CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), Gestalt therapy (a form of psychotherapy that focuses on a person’s present life rather than delving into their past experiences), and family systems therapy.

“Integrative is like having a tool box with the main different tools for different jobs,” he says. “As the saying goes, if the only solution we have is a hammer, we see every problem as a nail.”

But what about more general self-care tips that we can all practice in 2023?

He believes you can’t underestimate the power of exercise - especially if it means getting a physical break from the farm- healthy eating and starting a gratitude practice i.e. making a list of X many things that you are grateful for each day.

But perhaps the most important- and often most lacking- is self-compassion.

“We give ourselves a hard time nowadays. It’s all deadlines left, right and centre and we are under pressure to make it,” he says.

“Step back and give ourselves a bit of compassion. We’re actually doing our best. We’re doing ok. We mightn’t stay up with the speed of the world; but actually, we’re doing good.”

For anybody who is struggling, reaching out for help is so important.

“I think being able to share with someone is wonderful, because the isolation of having stuff held inside of us, that’s probably the worst place of all,” says Tom.

“Even sharing that we’re isolated, that’s huge, because suddenly it’s out there. You’re not trying to contain it inside of yourself anymore. You have the support. So, if you can find a family member or friend that you can share your struggle with, that’s fantastic.”

And for anybody who feels that they need more professional help, Tom stresses that making the appointment is half the win.

“A massive part of it is thinking about it, to making a phone call, to actually making the appointment, to actually coming in the door… that’s been a massive process on your own,” he says.

“So at least when you come in and get the support of a therapist, you’re not alone anymore then and you’ll get through whatever is happening then and at your own pace. That’s so important. The client is always in charge.”

Tom Meade offers counselling and psychotherapy in person and online. Visit

For details of IACP accredited therapists nationwide, visit

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