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Sue O'callaghan

My Story

During one of the most traumatic experiences in my life, I became frustrated with a medical system that offered only a 'diagnosis', talking therapy, or medication. As lovely as it was to have someone hear and validate my story for months on end, I could see no change in the way I dealt with life. I wanted strategies to work with intense anxiety, deep trauma, and hopeless feelings of paralysis.


Although the desire and desperation were within me to rebuild my life, there appeared to be little support to help 'cure' me. It was only when I discovered trauma therapy that my life began to change. Trauma therapy introduced safety into my chaotic world. It taught me to regulate my nervous system from dysregulation, and release the trauma held in my body. It also gave back the autonomy and choice I had been denied.


Realising that many of the traumatised individuals I worked with in schools and prisons never had access to any integrative mental health programme, I founded Teenage Toolbox in 2013. Since then I have witnessed a remarkable transition in not only teenage lives, but parents and adults too.

Hi! My name is Sue!


I have always loved teenagers! But then - to be honest - I'm not like most people! 

Firstly, I lived and worked with hundreds of teenagers in boarding schools for fifteen years. I get what works with teens!  I get their tenacity, their rebellion, their anxiety, pain and fear. I get their ability to keep on keeping on (I don't think my parents had it easy!). My precious mum also died when I was young and so I know what pain is like for a teen.

Secondly, I hate the status quo: I have never been good at the mundane! I believe life was for expanding, innovating, creating and change. Our teenagers need change! Teenagers need doors that will open - I am a door opener - I also get what they need to make life easier for their parents!


Thirdly, I'm a strategist. Give me a problem, and I'll quickly show you a solution. With Teens it's easy - you just have to know how!

During the past 35 years, I have held pastoral care and HoD positions in schools in the UK, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. 

My work in UK maximum security prisons laid the foundations for trauma work and training - as well as an understanding of the necessity of compassion and restorative justice in transforming lives.   

Twice published - my understanding of human resilience is expressed through my personal life story of trauma and complex PTSD in my first book called TAKEN. 

My second, co-authored book, HATE MYSELF HATE MY LIFE: A Teenage Guide to Finding Self-Confidence and Inner Love, is stocked in over two-thirds of New Zealand High School libraries.

For nineteen years, I single-parented four children. Not only did I raise four teenagers at once - but I also fostered - AND survived.  I know what it is to SURVIVE!

We are living in a Mental Health crisis. SURVIVAL is key! I believe survivors not only empower survival, but now more than ever, we need individuals with 'lived experience' to empower transformation in both adult and Teenage lives. 

My work is client-centered and includes:

  • Positive psychology

  • Transactional Analysis (TA)

  • Internal Family Systems (IFS)

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

  • Restorative Justice

  • EMDR

  • Strengths Assessments

  • Mindfulness

  • NLP, Somatic Experiencing

  • Sensory Modulation

  • Vagus Nerve Exercises (Polyvagal Theory)

  • Non-violent communication

  • Attachment theory

  • Guided Meditations and Trauma-Informed Inquiry

  • I have also studied Trauma and Compassionate Inquiry under Dr Gabor Maté. 

Sue O'Callaghan

I believe teenagers are the most adaptive, creative and valuable asset the world has. Yet they are also the most misunderstood, underrated and undervalued sector in society. Honor who they are, understand their needs, and mentor them with wisdom: Do this within a framework of solid boundaries, and they will rapidly rise to become the most innovative and inspiring force that will change the world.
"No one is ever a problem. We are all merely struggling to work through our pain, insecurity, and fear.
When individuals are heard, held, and empowered with strategies that heal - then we create lasting transformational growth!"  
Sue O'Callaghan

Let's Work Together

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