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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I’ve considered going back to school—I also feel called to do so—for counseling/psychology. However, I was frustrated and discouraged by the secularism so pervasive in this field and have only recently become aware of graduate programs in different areas of the country that appear to deal with this issue. Your approach to psychological healing is precisely what I feel called to do, and I was hoping you might have some advice or insight on graduate programs you have experienced or would recommend for consideration.

Outline of the Answer
• Daunting Opposition
• One Primary Objective
• Lack of Understanding of the Unconscious
• Clinical Training and Managed Care
• What You Can Do During Training

 
You have good reason to feel frustrated and discouraged by the secularism in the field of psychology. Those who would practice Catholic psychotherapy today face daunting opposition.

 
One Primary Objective

In general, there are powerful hedonistic forces within modern culture that have one primary objective: to glorify the “self” in its lust for unhindered pleasure. One primary aspiration of this agenda is to strip sexuality of its reproductive function so that an image of sexuality as sporting entertainment can be projected onto the culture. And one means to this end is to firmly establish pernicious conduct such as abortion, artificial birth control, remarriage after divorce, fornication, and a perversion of marriage so as to undermine the family values that would obstruct the activist agenda.

Consequently, you will find that most graduate schools of psychology function today primarily as propaganda mills for the liberal plan, both in their academic curriculum and in their clinical training programs.

Considering the above, here are some issues that a Catholic student of psychology will face.

 
Lack of Understanding of the Unconscious

Consider for a moment what the most important aspect of Christianity is: to repent your sins and surrender yourself totally to God’s will. Now consider what most so-called Catholics fail to do: surrender themselves totally to God’s will. Then consider what the task of Catholic psychotherapy is: to help clients overcome their unconscious resistance to surrendering themselves totally to God’s will.

In other words, even though most Catholics know what the Church teaches about the day-to-day aspects of doing God’s will, because of their spiritual blindness—which is itself supported by psychological defenses—they either refuse to accept Church teaching or they hold secret fears in their hearts about putting Church teaching into practice in their lives.

To facilitate healing for such persons, therefore, it is necessary to have a working understanding of the unconscious and its defensive structure.

But how can a student of psychology learn these things if psychology schools fail to teach about the unconscious?

For the most part, psychology schools today primarily teach Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Why? Well, this form of psychotherapy is most amenable to propagating the activist agenda. That is, CBT doesn’t deal with truth as much as it deals with getting people to do what you think they should do. Now, please don’t misunderstand me here. CBT is a valuable tool in psychotherapy, but when you lose a focus on the underlying psycho-spiritual reason for doing anything you really cannot heal the soul—you can only manipulate the brain.

Moreover, even when the unconscious is discussed clinically, it is usually done so (at least in the US) in the context of Object Relations Theory, a theory that idealizes a “caring” (almost maternal) relationship between the client and psychotherapist. As such, the human bond between two persons is glorified. This makes psychotherapy into a mothering process of caring for the needs of the client, and it reduces the “therapist” to a paid friend—or nanny. And what does this result in spiritually? It implants in the mind of the client the subtle belief that a “caring” mother-child bond with another person is more important than a fathering relationship that points to the mystical relation with God the Father.

Just as healthy emotional development depends on a father coming between the mother and child, to sever the child’s emotional enmeshment with the mother, good psychotherapeutic work must let the unconscious come between the client and psychotherapist. This means that the psychotherapeutic process must always involve a symbolic fathering by which clients are led to recognize and overcome the illusions of their unconscious identifications with others and, in the process, to heal the aggression and hostility that underlie those identifications.

 
Clinical Training and Managed Care

Only when you become licensed to practice independently will you have the freedom to choose to practice in faithful witness to your faith. Until you have established a reputable practice of your own, supported by clients who are willing to pay out-of-pocket for something more than mediocrity, and that truly safeguards confidentiality, you will have to cope not only with clinical internships but also with the Managed Care system.

In any clinical internship, you will have no choice in the clients given to you, and you will be required to treat their problems as directed by a clinical supervisor. In short, you can be required to accept abortion, birth control, divorce, and lifestyles defiant of chastity as valid aspects of “diversity.”

The Managed Care system is similar, in that unless you treat all the clients given to you and treat their problems as prescribed by the authority of the system, you will not get paid. Managed Care has no concern for the soul; it has concern only for the bottom line of economic profit.

 
What You Can Do During Training

In spite of all the obstacles, there are still some things that you can do to minimize the spiritual damage of secular psychological training.

Attend a graduate school at a Catholic university, if you can find one. Or attend a private graduate school [1] that teaches psychology from within the perspective of the Catholic faith.

In addition to the academic training provided by any school itself, seek out your own personal training at your own expense. Attend training and continuing education seminars in subjects such as psychoanalysis, psychodynamic psychotherapy, the use of hypnosis and metaphorical language, and so on. But, in all of this, filter out any New Age ideas from the core concepts.

Enter into personal psychotherapy with a psychologist who practices within the Catholic faith.

In order to comprehend the psychological aspects of Christianity, ground yourself in the true mystical basis of the Catholic faith. Study the mystics who understood how to make religion into a vibrant spiritual lifestyle. Then follow their example.

Rely on prayer and fasting to help you endure the difficulties you will face, to seek protection from all that would attack you, to overcome the opposition that will be thrown in your path, and to detach yourself from identification with the secular world

In essence, your disciplining yourself to accomplish your task of training without compromising your faith will actually prepare you to guide your future clients into the same discipline that can help them heal their psychological problems.

 
One Fundamental Rule

Whenever you encounter clients whose moral standards (or lack of moral standards) conflict with your own sense of moral conduct, you will be tempted to tell them that you will not accept them as clients. To reject a client outright like this, however, can get you sued for discrimination.

So what can you do?

Well, keep one fundamental rule in mind whether you are a student in training or a licensed professional:

 Never reject a client. Let the client reject you. 

You can adhere to this rule if you treat the moral issue like any other clinical issue. For example, if someone came to you seeking treatment for depression, you might say, “There are a variety of treatments for depression. You could take medications to suppress the symptoms. You could try Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to control the symptoms. I work from a theoretical perspective that tries to understand, rather than get rid of symptoms, so I look for the underlying meaning of things. You’re welcome to work with me to get to the unconscious roots of your depression, or you might want to see someone else with a different theoretical perspective.” Then you would let the prospective client make his or her own decision to accept you or reject you.

In a similar way, if someone came to you seeking encouragement and justification for behavior that you know is sinful, you could say, “I work from a theoretical perspective that sees this particular behavior as morally disordered and sinful. There are other psychotherapists who think differently. You’re welcome to work with me to learn how to change your behavior, or you might want to see someone else with a different theoretical perspective.” Then let that person reject you. At least you have done your Christian duty to give a warning about sin, but you haven’t rejected anyone. This, after all, is precisely the way Christ treated everyone.

 

Who wrote this web page?
 

Notes

1. The Institute for the Psychological Sciences offers graduate training in clinical psychology that is grounded in Catholic values.

 


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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.