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Psychotherapy and Spiritual Counseling

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Introduction | Psychotherapy in the Catholic Mystic Tradition | The Difference Between Psychotherapy and Spiritual Counseling | Techniques | Following the Spiritual Counsels | Telephone Work | Cost, Length, and Frequency of Sessions | Making a Payment | Scheduling a Consultation 
E-mail Questions | Free Help

 

Y OU can coast into hell on an empty fuel tank, but an uphill climb is required to attain “justice, peace, and the joy that is given by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). So what more can be said?

Do you have the need for help from Catholic psychology? Are you seeking psychotherapy from a Catholic psychologist?

If you need more than the self-help provided on this website, I can provide you with professional guidance through spiritual counseling or through traditional psychotherapy.

If you are interested in contacting me, be careful to read through all the information on this web page; also review the following information about my professional credentials and office policies that is found on my associated website A Guide to Psychology and its Practice:

 

Office Policies
Including the cost of treatment and a description of my professional credentials, training, and experience

 

 
ABOUT PSYCHOTHERAPY
IN THE CATHOLIC MYSTIC TRADITION

 
THE only true psychotherapy in the Catholic mystic tradition is prayer and fasting [1] combined with a sincere study of the faith. It’s that simple. If only we did exactly what Christ told us to do—to turn away from the satisfactions of the world so as to renounce sin, pray constantly, and live chaste and humble lives filled with loving sacrifices for the salvation of other souls—we would be spiritually and mentally healthy.

Many individuals through the ages have found healing for their emotional pain in this way. But such healing requires total surrender to God. It’s all or nothing.

  

Psychotherapy in the Catholic tradition requires that you take up relentless, persistent prayer to God (and to the saints and angels for their intercession) that you will grow in holiness, and, at the same time, you must force yourself to maintain a calm trust in God’s protection and guidance despite your fears of admitting your own helplessness and despite your impatience with things not happening as quickly as you want.

  

And it’s a sad truth that in today’s world, despite our prayers and confessions, many Catholics do not live lives completely ordered to the commands of Christ. We are afraid of making the total surrender to Him that Christ asked us to make. Despite our best conscious intentions we constantly encounter psychological obstructions that hold us back from living holy lives.

  

If your boat is tied to the dock, no matter how hard you row you still won’t go very far until you untie the rope. In a similar way, no matter how hard you try to improve your life, you will be obstructed with self-sabotage and failure if you haven’t resolved the unconscious conflicts from your childhood that tie you to frustration and resentment.

  

Accordingly, many individuals today need psychotherapy to help them overcome the unconscious resistances to doing the very things they know consciously they should be doing.

 
A Story About Desire

I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but the story goes that a man came to an ancient philosopher desiring to learn wisdom. The philosopher took the man out into a river and then suddenly wrestled him down under the water.
     Just at the point of drowning him, the philosopher hauled him out again and said, “Now, what did you say you wanted?”
     The poor guy was just gasping and wheezing, begging for air.
     “Well, when you want wisdom as much as you want to breathe,” the philosopher told him, “then you shall have it.”

 
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CATHOLIC PSYCHOTHERAPY
AND SPIRITUAL CONSELING

 
Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy (often referred to colloquially as “therapy”) has as its objective—even when informed by the Catholic faith—the resolution of psychological conflicts that produce psychiatric symptoms.

These symptoms are created by emotional resentments that begin in childhood and become the core of your unconscious psychological defenses. Such defenses have an original purpose of protecting you from intense emotional pain by hiding your resentments from conscious awareness, but as you get older these resentments can so erode your confidence and self-esteem with feelings of victimization, hate, self-blame, and self-punishment that they affect not only your mental health but also your social health and spiritual health.

In fact, individuals caught up in their unconscious defenses don’t really desire to serve God. Deep in their hearts they use the name of God only as an excuse to serve their own pride—the pride of believing that they are “in control” of their lives.

  

And why is this? Well, you may not want to admit this to yourself, but all of us have dark and hateful thoughts and imaginings that we keep shrouded in secrecy and don’t want to reveal to anyone, especially not to a psychologist. How many times have you said to yourself, “If people knew what I was really like, they would never want anything to do with me”? But the more you try to hide the truth of your life from others, the more you hide it from yourself, and the more you fall into pride—the pride of doing everything your way.

  

 
Psychotherapy Techniques

Now, many various psychotherapy theories and techniques have been developed since the early 1900s when Sigmund Freud formulated the concept of psychoanalysis. All of these techniques have one basic objective: to help us do the things we would like to do, but, by ourselves, cannot manage to do.

Some of these techniques are based in conscious, rational thought processes.

Cognitive-Behavioral techniques, for example, focus specifically on changing thoughts and behaviors. Note that vocal prayer is the pre-eminent form of Cognitive-Behavioral therapy.

Teaching and reasoning are also forms of psychotherapy. Note that this has been a preferred method of Christian psychotherapy, beginning with Christ Himself, continuing with the Apostles, and fully exemplified by men such as St. Thomas Aquinas, whose work is often recalled by modern Catholics in their practice of psychotherapy, and St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises.

Still, some persons develop such deep resistance to changing their lives for the good that psychotherapy must reach deep into their unconscious minds, well past their conscious thoughts.

Guided Imagery helps you visualize things that could or might happen so that you can achieve them or avoid them in the future. Note that St. Ignatius of Loyola anticipated this concept in his Spiritual Exercises.

Mental Prayer (or contemplative prayer) calls upon inspiration by the Holy Spirit to reveal and understand unconscious mental conflicts. Note that Catholic mystics through the ages have had much to say about this. 


Dreams [2] can be interpreted to help you understand emotional elements of your life that you have not yet recognized consciously. Note that the Book of Daniel provides a practical example of this, while the Book of Sirach (34:5) warns us that dreams are not meant to be taken as predictions of actual future events.

 
Demonic Influence

Some persons falsely believe that psychological disorders can be the result of demonic influence. The truth is actually the other way around. Psychological disorders result from emotional resentments that have been stuffed away into the unconscious, and then, if the resentments are especially strong, the anger and hatred underlying them will attract demons the way blood in the water attracts sharks. Remember a fundamental point here: demons cannot get into us unless we invite them in, and one clear invitation is through the door of hatred and lust. Consequently, prayers of deliverance—and formal exorcism, if necessary—can help to clear the path for further psychological healing. Note well, though, that the demons will keep coming back as long as there is hatred and lust for them to feed on. To stay free of the demons it will be necessary to resolve the resentments underlying the psychological disorder.

  

Even individuals in religious life—especially novices—can benefit from deliverance prayer or exorcism. Although some persons may say that unless a person can accomplish healing through prayer alone the person is not suitable for religious life, keep in mind that exorcism is prayer. And for that matter, psychotherapy, when conducted properly, is also prayer.

  

 
The Place for Medications

Psychotherapy is hard work. It will often seem counter-intuitive because it does not examine only what is on the surface of your life. To be able to cure the pain and confusion of your life, you really have to examine and change what motivates you to act in ways that cause pain and confusion, and, for the most part, this motivation is unconscious and under the surface of your life. Therefore, your true motivation cannot be examined directly. It must be examined indirectly by digging through all the dirt and filth hidden under the surface. It’s no wonder, then, that most people fear psychotherapy—and fear psychologists.

Consequently, psychiatric medication has a special appeal to it, an appeal that is seen more and more today in advertising. Rather than go through all the hard work of constantly monitoring your feelings, thoughts, and actions, why not feel better without having to do anything at all? Why change your lifestyle? Just take some pills a couple times a day and go about your life as usual. 

Now, the truth is, psychiatric medications are generally mandatory for the treatment of disorders such as schizophrenia and mania. For other disorders such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychiatric medications can, in some cases, be a helpful adjunct to psychotherapy. That is, medications can suppress debilitating anxiety or alleviate your depressed mood such that you can then feel comfortable enough to do the hard work of psychotherapy.[3]

  

Note carefully, however, that psychiatric medications are not curative. The medications merely suppress unwanted symptoms for as long as you take the medications. If you stop the medications, the symptoms will flourish again in full strength. But if psychotherapy is used in conjunction with psychiatric medications, the psychotherapy holds the possibility of a genuine cure by resolving the deep unconscious issues that lie behind the symptoms—and then the medications can be discontinued.

  

 
Putting It Into Practice

Therefore, in the form of psychotherapy I practice, and as I describe on this website, you can be guided—through the sacraments, vocal and mental prayer, fasting, study, and the insight resulting from the psychotherapeutic relationship—into understanding the roots of your unconscious conflicts; you can learn to identify the events of life that have wounded you and to understand the emotions surrounding those events.

That is, it’s not enough just to “know” intellectually what happened—it is important to feel the pain and then be able to identify and “name” the emotions associated with your pain.

This process happens through your speaking with your psychotherapist so as to interpret unconscious connections through spontaneous associations to your intellectual memories and through other techniques, such as dream interpretation.

Eventually, you can recover a full awareness of your emotional life that in childhood you learned to suppress as a psychological defense.

  

The goal of all this work is not to blame your parents for what they failed to do but to get past your hidden resentments at your parents for what they failed to do, so that you can take full responsibility for your life and ultimately forgive your parents and honor them. Remember, so long as you have unconscious resentment for your parents, it will be impossible for you to honor them—and trying to honor them without admitting your unconscious resentments for them is just a lie.

  

 
The Reason for Emotional Awareness

Some persons will say that they want nothing to do with “touchy-feeley psychology” and will insist that their lives are quite fine without it. Those who say this, however, have usually experienced family dysfunctions such as alcoholism, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. In an environment of lying, broken promises, arguing, and violence, they grew to fear emotions as something dangerous.

Nevertheless, in order to live a true Christian lifestyle, everyone, male and female, needs to be able to manage his or her internal emotional reactions to external events, so as to remain always in a place of Christian purity of heart. Two common “emotional traps” illustrate this.

1.

Let’s say that someone says something critical to you. Your immediate reaction, based upon learned behavior from childhood, will be to defend yourself. That can provoke more criticism, and more arguing, until you get so exasperated that you start saying hateful and vengeful things. And right there you have abandoned purity of heart and fallen into sin.

2.

Let’s say you’re on your way home from work and suddenly you feel a temptation. To stop at a bar and drink. To use drugs. To shoplift. To stop at a strip club. To get a “massage” from a prostitute. To masturbate. And right there you have abandoned purity of heart and fallen into sin.

Emotional awareness, therefore, is a psychological tool that provides protection from sin. Interpersonal conflicts result from failed emotional communication. Temptations do not just appear out of nowhere; behind every temptation is an emotional reaction to some event that has shaken your self-confidence. It is impossible to stay in the place of Christian purity of heart if you fail to understand your emotional reactions to the events around you.

Thus through psychotherapy you can learn to respond to every moment of the present with a complete understanding of the emotions involved—and this understanding gives you the ability to respond honestly and appropriately to the situation.

  

For example, if someone says something that hurts you, you can say to yourself, “OK. I’m feeling helpless and abandoned.” In the midst of these feelings, you can recognize how you responded defensively to similar feelings as a child. Then you can choose an appropriate, non-defensive, mature, and psychologically honest response to your current feelings.

But if you haven’t done your psychological work, instead of naming your feelings you will just feel a vague yucky inadequacy and then get angry or go off and drown the yuck with food or drugs or some other dysfunctional behavior. And the sad thing is that when you drown the yuck you drown the possibility of forgiveness with it.

  

 
Spiritual Counseling

Spiritual counseling seeks to, well, direct a person in ways that bring him or her closer to living a holy lifestyle.

In spiritual counseling you learn to surrender yourself to total trust in God so that, no matter what happens to you, you can bring the pain before God and ask for the strength and courage to deal, in imitation of Christ, with what needs to be done in any moment.

Because of deep psychological conflicts, however, many persons find it difficult to make a total surrender to God, and they discover that education and reasoning do little to overcome their resistances. In this case, psychotherapeutic techniques must be used to understand and overcome the fear that puts up an obstacle to the spiritual purgation necessary for living a holy lifestyle.

 
Techniques

When I conduct spiritual counseling—even over the telephone (see below)—I use some of the same techniques for working with the unconscious that I use in psychotherapy. Unconscious conflicts can often result in spiritual stagnation, so working to understand unconscious motivation can be a large part of spiritual counseling. But in spiritual counseling the resolution of such conflicts is directed toward ever greater trust in God, not just toward the specific relief of psychiatric symptoms.

 
Following the Spiritual Counsels

Many persons ask me, “Do I have to follow all the Spiritual Counsels in order to consult with you?” Well, no, you don’t have to do anything. If you follow all the counsels your healing will be less complicated, it will take less time, and it will cost you less than if you don’t follow all the counsels. But it’s all your choice.

Nevertheless, as you read the Counsels, note the things to which you object, and this will give you a clue as to the sins working under the surface of your conscious beliefs about yourself. Do you believe that you cannot live without television and movies? Then you are using entertainment and all of its illusions to fill your emotional emptiness rather than seeking the fullness of God’s truth. Do you believe that you cannot live without social media? Then you are using the pride of human fellowship for consolation rather than seeking a deep prayerful relationship with God. Do you believe that you cannot live without sexual activity? Then you are using lust to satisfy your anger at God. And so on. Once you see what is really there under the surface of self-deception, ask yourself if you are really willing to risk everything, and give up anything, for the sake of saving your soul. But at least be honest. Many persons, even those who call themselves devout, aren’t willing.

 
Telephone Spiritual Counseling

I do not attempt to conduct psychotherapy over the telephone because psychotherapy has to be conducted face-to-face to minimize the tendency of my being deceived by a client’s dishonesty. Without this face-to-face contact, it isn’t possible, for example, to make a clinical assessment of a person’s mental status, nor is it possible to assess the body language of deception. Although some psychotherapists will provide telephone psychotherapy, it can be problematic, and I simply elect not to do it.

For all practical purposes, however, spiritual counseling has some of the same goals as psychotherapy (in that a healthy relationship with God will produce psychological health), but because I can assume that a person of faith is not deliberately lying to me, spiritual counseling can be conducted over the telephone. In fact, the partial anonymity of telephone work can be quite similar to the anonymity of Confession.

 
Cost, Length, and Frequency of Sessions

My fee is $150 per hour, both in office and by telephone. Office sessions are $180 per hour in the evenings (after 6:00pm), and $200 per hour on Saturday evenings (after 6:00pm).

Office visits are usually an hour, but when I conduct spiritual counseling over the telephone sessions can be any length. Most sessions are one hour for $150, but other lengths are calculated at $2.50 per minute (that is, $150 per hour).

Office visits are most effective on a weekly basis. Telephone sessions can be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or only as needed, according to your personal preference.

 
Using Insurance

I do not accept Medicare or any managed-care plans. If you carry other insurance, please understand that my professional services are rendered and charged to you, not to the insurance company. This means that you must pay for each session in full with cash, a check, or a credit card. Then, if you request, I will provide you with a monthly statement (for a $25 fee) which you can submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. This statement will include your diagnosis, the procedure code, the number of sessions, and the amount you have paid me. It will be your responsibility to contact your insurance company to determine if it will reimburse you under these terms, and, if so, what percentage of the fee it will cover. (Be advised that insurance companies will not approve payments for spiritual counseling, nor will they pay for telephone counseling.)

Note, however, that your use of insurance will breach the confidentiality of your treatment because any employee of the company, even a secretary, can demand the details of your treatment. Furthermore, insurance companies require a psychiatric diagnosis (which becomes an indelible part of your world-wide medical record).

 
Making a Payment

Payment for office visits can be made with cash (to ensure financial anonymity), with a credit card, or by personal check.

Payment for telephone consultation can be made through PayPal or through Square (both of which accept all credit cards) or through the mail by cash or personal check.
 

Payments through PayPal

Payments through the Square Market
 

 
Scheduling a Consultation

To schedule an in-office or telephone consultation, first be honest about the value of your soul and send a donation for what you have already learned from my website. Then contact me by telephone (see below) or by e-mail and we can arrange a day and time for the first session. For telephone work, I will provide a telephone number for you to call; you will initiate all calls to me at the scheduled time. I can also use Skype for audio calls and will provide the details through e-mail if you prefer to use Skype.

 
E-mail Questions

If you need advice about your faith practices, relationship issues, work problems, your psychotherapy with another professional (Catholic or otherwise), or other personal matters, send your question by e-mail and also make a minimum payment of $35 to this website. I will send an answer to your question within a couple days of receiving the payment. (A payment by check is considered to be “received” when the check clears my bank.)

 
Free Help

I made my websites so that anyone in the world can learn from my writings free of charge.

 

Notes.

1.When prayer is combined with fasting for psychotherapy, it is important to understand both prayer and fasting in a very specific sense.
   In regards to healing, prayer must be more than “standard” formal prayers (such as the Rosary); prayer must be an intimate communication with God as an appeal for deep personal scrutiny (both psychological insight into past emotional injuries and psychological insight into the ways current thoughts and behaviors are affected by those past emotional injuries) and an appeal for the desire and courage to alter dysfunctional life patterns through a dedicated surrender to, and trust in, God’s will.
   In regards to healing, fasting should be considered to be an act of distancing oneself from anything that is not necessary for nurturing a state of life governed by total love for God. Hence we can fast from worldly activities (e.g., entertainment and sports) that bring material pleasure to life but that actually distract us—and often lead us away—from an awareness of God’s holy presence in our lives. In this regard, the most benefit will result from perpetual fasting. (Note that perpetual avoidance of mortal sin could also be considered a form of fasting, but this sort of fasting must be considered mandatory for every Christian.)
   We can also fast from food and drink that our bodies do not really need for optimal functioning. In this regard it is important to understand that fasting does not amount to a ruthless act of merely denying ourselves pleasure from good food; instead, fasting has two aspects. First, it can refer to cutting back on—and even eliminating, if possible—unhealthy foods (e.g., junk foods, sugary foods, processed foods). Second, it can refer to a selective reduction of the usual amount of food for a limited time, so as to effect a purging of physiological toxins from the body and also to stimulate a greater awareness of a spiritual hunger for the presence of the holy in our lives.

2. Note that a traditional Catholic guide such as the Baltimore Catechism claims that dreams are irrational and meaningless and should be ignored. But note carefully that this Catechism was written at a time when the psychology of the unconscious was not scientifically understood. It just goes to show that scientific knowledge—in contrast to Catholic dogma—is always limited to the current culture. If you want to believe the Baltimore Catechism about dreams you may as well believe that the world is flat or that the sun revolves around the earth.

3. Be careful not to be deceived by “medical marijuana.” Marijuana is an evil substance, and any use of it, for any reason, opens a hellgate to demonic influence. As politically correct as “medical marijuana” may seem, it’s all a demonic deception.

 

 
Address

Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
55 New Montgomery Street, Suite 420
San Francisco, CA 94105-3429

USA

 
Telephone

415

-979

-8005

  (US only; I cannot return international calls)

 
Map to my Office

Notes:

Entrance to my building

5

Moscone Convention Center Parking (City Garage)

1

Bank of America with clock on the corner

 

6

5th and Mission Parking
(City Garage)

2

The Palace Hotel
and taxi stand

Bart Stations

Montgomery Street BART station access locations

3

Hearst Parking
(Private Garage)

Bus stop

Bus stop on 30/45 lines from CalTrain depot

4

Sutter-Stockton Parking (City Garage)

Cable car line

Cable car line

 

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CATHOLIC PSYCHOLOGY

in association with
A Guide to Psychology and its Practice
 

 
Copyright © 1997-2017 Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
 

All material on this website is copyrighted. You may copy or print selections for your private, personal use only.
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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.