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Roebuck – A Personal Account

The MayoNews
Tuesday, 30 October 2007

“She said if I paid her €200,000, she’d turn it into €2 million in two years by fine-tuning my skills”

Personal Account
Denise Horan

WHEN Michael Kean’s wife, Catherine, told him the centre at which she was training to be a psychotherapist required the fees for her next two years before she had even completed her first, he thought little of it. Catherine was well into her first year at the Roebuck Counselling Centre, and was enjoying the experience. So when, on April 1 last, Claire Hoban told her that if she paid the next two years’ fees up front, she would receive a discount of €800 (the annual fee was €3,300 or €5,800 for two years, paid in advance), her husband readily agreed.

Only when the persistent phone calls and text messages began did he start to feel uneasy. “Catherine told me she [Claire Hoban] wanted my number and wanted to talk to me. I said I didn’t want to speak to her because I had no involvement with the centre or with the course. She rang me on a Sunday evening asked me if I’d like to become a facilitator through the [Roebuck] centre. I said ‘no’,” Michael, a farmer from Claremorris, told The Mayo News last week.

“She kept texting me every day, telling me it would be beneficial and that there was more I could be doing for Catherine. Sometimes she’d text and say she’d ring at a particular time and tell me to be available to take the call at that time. I didn’t like that, the idea of someone telling me to be available to take a call, and I told her that.”

On Thursday, April 5, Catherine went to Dublin and paid the €5,800 fees for the following two years of her course. While there, Ms Hoban said she would like to meet both Catherine and Michael together, so on Friday, April 13, the couple travelled to the centre to meet with Ms Hoban.

Following this meeting, Catherine attended an appointment with another counsellor in the centre, while Ms Hoban asked Michael to call back to her ‘for a chat’. It was during this ‘chat’ that the question of larger sums of money was first mentioned. “She talked about me investing in my relationship [with Catherine]. She went on about me knowing the value of property and land…I knew she was going to ask me for money.

“She asked me how much money could I raise in the morning if I had to. I said it would depend what it was for. She asked if I could raise €200,000 and I said I probably could if it was for the right reason. She said that if I paid her €200,000, she’d turn it into €2 million in two years by fine-tuning skills that she could see I had. She said she could see that I had an eye for a bargain. She told me that she could guarantee the future happiness of my family.

“I said that if I got the €2m first and paid her the €200,000 after that would be fine, but she said ‘no, it doesn’t work like that’. I said ‘well, it doesn’t work the other way for me’. At that point I stood up and told her the meeting was adjourned, and I left,” says Michael.

In spite of his abrupt departure, Ms Hoban sent him a text message the next day asking if discussions on the matters from the previous day could continue. The messages continued for a couple of days until Michael rang her with an ultimatum.
“I had sought legal advice and I told her I would be taking legal action if she did not return the fees we had paid in advance within 14 days. The fees came back within that time,” he explains.

Since then the Keans have had no contact with the Roebuck Counselling Centre, and Catherine has quit her course there. Michael looks back on the experience as an unpleasant one and believes that regulation of such centres is necessary.
“We’re well out of it and we didn’t take out any loans and didn’t pay over any money. But the whole thing is so unregulated, that’s the worst part of it.”

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