Celebrity healer Derek O’Neil has been helping people improve their mental state and sense of wellbeing from a young age.
The Dubliner, who didn't go to school until he turned 23, took up martial arts at the age of five. That sparked a lifelong journey and education in the art of eastern philosophy which has led him to where he is today.
Now, at the age of 52, O’Neill is a highly successful and internationally respected psychotherapist, motivational speaker, author and martial arts sensei.
Although still based in Dublin, he currently has clients all over Britain, Ireland and the US, and regularly jets across the globe to give his much sought after, undivided attention to some of his more notable clients.
“I started my business 27 years ago, and I have became somewhat sought after by celebrities along the way,” he told The Irish Post.
“During my career I have met and worked with many people. Professional people, A-listers, some of the most powerful people in the world. You'll see pictures of me out there with the likes of Bruce Willis, Simon Cowell or Christina Aguilera, these are just some of the people I've met along the way.”
Whether treating a celebrity or a regular person, O’Neill could be helping them address all manner of conditions that they are struggling to deal with.
“I turn no one away, no matter what they are dealing with, so it could be anything – from people with phobias, to people with weight issues, those exploring mindfulness to others dealing with alcohol dependency, drug abuse, depression or panic attacks. Panic attacks is a big one.”
Although he started his business nearly three decades ago, the Dublin healer, who hails from the Liberties area, admits he has been giving people advice for far longer, and claims when it comes down to it his job is really about helping people to be happy.
“My mission in life is to give people the tools to get through life as happily as they can,’ he says.
“Basically I am a mind coach and a wellness coach offering support based on spirituality and psychology.
“I have practiced martial arts since five years of age, so I was exposed to eastern philosophy from a very young age. I actually didn't go to school until I was 23 – but I wasn't made for school. I was brought up in nature. I was educated by life. And through martial arts I learnt compassion - for people and nature.”
Pretty soon O’Neil realised that his compassion and understanding of human nature was a commodity of huge value to others.
“Over the years people would often come to me for advice and after a short while I thought I could do this for a living,” he said.
“So I went and got a degree in psychotherapy. Now the service I offer my clients is partly talking therapy but I also give them some very powerful tools. For example, if I am seeing someone with an alcohol or drug dependency I tell them they are a perfectionist.
“It's the first time anyone has said anything like that to them, but I explain that they were living their life with a perfect world view and something happened which destroyed that. “They couldn't deal with life not being perfect and so they took to self-medicating, whether that be with alcohol or drugs. “Putting that perspective on their situation for the first time allows them to really open up. They begin to tell you things they have never told anyone, maybe about childhood abuse or some other incident that may have occurred in their life. I give them tools, rebuild them and send them away as new people, on a journey to find out what life is really all about.”
With so many years in the industry now under his belt, O’Neil has helped his clients overcome many traumas, and – as is the case with all psychotherapists – he regularly sees a supervisor to ensure his own mind is not negatively affected by the cases he deals with.
That said, O’Neill has dealt with personal tragedy throughout his life, first as the survivor of childhood abuse and later as he lost two of the people closest to him.
“I have experienced tragedies in my own life,” he admits.
“My wife died seven years ago. She had never been sick a day in her life and was mad into fitness. She was also a martial arts expert but one day she had a bad headache and ended up going to the hospital to have it checked out. They sent her home telling her it was a migraine. But it got worse and I flew home from a client to be with her. As her soul mate, I knew as soon as I saw her that something was wrong. I took her to the hospital and told them she needed an x-Ray. They did one to pacify me really, but it showed she had had a small stroke. However, the time that had now passed meant it had done enough damage to her brain that she died two days later.”
But O’Neill had experienced trauma in his life long before the sudden passing of his wife in 2008.
“I was badly sexually abused when I was a child, so was my brother,” he admits.
“In fact my brother was one of the first to bring an abuse claim against the Catholic Church in Ireland. When he was about eight years of age he got up on a butcher's bike to give it a go. The butcher reported him and he was given two years detention at a juvenile detention centre. He was raped every day that he was there before he escaped. He eventually turned to alcoholism and drug dependency.”
O’Neill explains that bis brother remains his hero to this day, because he refused to let the Church get away with their crimes, but he wishes he could have helped him come to terms with what had happened to him.
“It took 18 years from the time he told his story for him to get his day in court. When he finally got it he was finally listened to. He received and apology and was told he would be awarded a sum of money as compensation.”
He added: “He left the courthouse that day so happy to have finally received an apology. He went to get something to eat, had a heart attack and died two hours later. He spent all of his energy in his life fighting for justice, to have that moment. He became a hero of mine, as he refused to let them away with it, but I always wish that he had been a client of mine. I would have got him through it.”
Instead, O’Neill, who has two children, aged 33 and 31, and two grandchildren, has spent the best part of his own life helping others; something he claims continues to bring him great satisfaction.
“The most rewarding thing about my work is seeing people going from disempowered to empowered or stuck to unstuck in a couple of hours,” he says.
As well as his one to one work with clients, the entrepreneur opened a Wellness Centre in Co. Wexford eight years ago, offering head space for busy professionals and executives.
More recently launched he launched the MumsListLegacy.com website, which he describes as a platform for “an international collection of 60 teachers to facilitate powerful workshops to assist attendees to deal with traumatic or stressful situations in life”.
That allows his trainees to spread the O’Neill method of healing further into the world, at prices that are accessible for all.
However, the healer has plenty more plans in the pipeline and hopes to grow his business and brand even further in the years to come. “My ultimate plan is to build myself as a household name, as the go to person for health and wellness, he adds.