ST. ALBANS – To understand why Gillian Ireland does what she does – outside of raising a family and cultivating her creative side as a photographer – consider her childhood home on a back road, in northern Franklin County.

Gillian vividly remembers various people dropping in and out of her childhood home over the years and sharing their lives with her parents, Ramsey and Glenys Joughin, who came to Franklin County from Great Britain.

“I listened to some pretty serious issues discussed at our kitchen table and around our wood stove,” Gillian said recently, at The Traveled Cup, in St. Albans.

This is probably where Gillian Ireland learned to listen, and, from middle school on, she would hear firsthand of the issues she would later address in her career: drug abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, poverty, murder, suicide, and mental illness.

“At times, our house was kind of a hub. It’s where people went, for some reason,” Gillian said. “I could write a book about the conversations we had at our kitchen table. It probably made me want to help people.”

Gillian has worked in the mental health field since 1994. For the past four years, she has operated a private practice from an office on Fairfield Street, in a building populated by other therapists and Franklin County Caring Communities.

Historically, Gillian has worked with children, but she would like to receive more adults into her practice, especially expectant and new mothers.

In recent years, Gillian has used technology to work with children, particularly teens. For example, she will sometimes hop on YouTube with children and teens, to explore lyrics from their favorite songs.

“Music is therapy in itself for teens,” Gillian said.

More therapists are choosing to work in different settings, outside of their office, when they can, and Gillian is one of them. She is willing to arrange home-based visits for people with disabilities, or people who struggle with being in public.

“Sitting in my office is not always my thing,” she said. “I go to all kinds of places.”

Gillian sees between 24 and 26 clients weekly, and her standard technique or philosophy (in addition to addressing clients’ specific issues) is to help each client discover “the real stuff that people never thought about themselves before” – the artist, the storyteller, or the survivor, for example.

“I’m not talking about empty praise or fake self-esteem,” Gillian said. “That only leads to Narcissism. I’m talking about really looking into people and helping them discover who they are meant to be. It has to be genuine, or I’d be out of work.”

Gillian, 48, knew counseling would be in her future when she was 18, working at Camp Daybreak, a camp for disabled children with severe emotional challenges, now in Fairlee, Vt.

“That was so awesome,” she said. “That’s when I decided what I wanted and needed to do.”

Gillian earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Vermont, in 1988, and her master’s degree in counseling from UVM in 1994. Her local career also includes positions at King Street Youth Center, Northwest Counseling and Support Services, Missisquoi Valley Union High School, and the St. Albans City School.

Gillian is also skilled behind the camera lens. Locally, her photography is on sale at What A Yarn, Rail City Market, and Maple City Candy.

“Photography is an outlet for me,” she said.

Gillian and her husband, Russ, have three children, ages 15, 11, and 8. They live in St. Albans.

“I never seem to get enough time with them,” Gillian said.