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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 | Couples and Family Therapy | The Nature of the Treatment | Cost, Length, and Frequency of Sessions | Making a Payment | Scheduling a Consultation | E-mail Questions | Free Help | Address and Map |

 

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 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, modest, and humble lives filled with loving sacrifices for the salvation of other souls—we would be spiritually and mentally healthy.

Through the ages Christians have found healing for their emotional pain in this way. But, in times past, individuals were surrounded by an ostensibly Christian culture, and more often than not they would tend to draw upon Christian virtue when afflicted with emotional distress. All around them the Christian imagery of art, literature, and music provided inspiration—at least unconsciously. But today we live in a culture of insanity; children are brainwashed from infancy by movies, television, magazines, popular music, sports, and social media that are all awash with the Satanic vices of aggressiveness, competition, defiance of authority, disobedience, hatred, anger, revenge, and lust. Today, these vices, rather than Christian virtues, unconsciously motivate our behavior. Consequently, when many individuals experience emotional distress today they are drawn to unhealthy defenses of self-indulgence to hide and numb their emotional pain. In today’s culture of insanity the fundamental Christian principle of dying to the self  has so lost its meaning that even most Catholics find the concept to be incomprehensible. And, sadly, all the while this is occurring, most of us are blind to it.

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.

  

Hence it can be said that Catholic psychotherapy is a bet that you make that getting close to your unconscious will remove the psychological obstacles that prevent you from loving God with a pure heart.

  

 
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 RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CATHOLIC PSYCHOTHERAPY
AND SPIRITUAL COUNSELING

 
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

All the psychotherapy techniques that I use are evidence based, but the evidence does not come just from scientific experimentation; much evidence comes from ages of experience and wisdom.

Many various psychotherapy theories and techniques have been developed since the early 1900s when Sigmund Freud formulated the concept of psychoanalysis. 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 occur 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

Demons are everywhere, trying to influence everything. Primarily, they affect our behavior by trying to affect our thoughts, so as to discourage us and lead us into doubt and despair, and our task is to resist such temptations. In some cases demons can affect circumstances, but only with God’s permission; in these cases, our task is to surrender to God’s will.

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 through psychotherapy. 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 unconscious resentments underlying the psychological disorder.

  

In the proper circumstances deliverance prayer or exorcism can be a valuable adjunct to psychotherapy. But keep in mind that prayer—even deliverance prayer— cannot cure a psychiatric disorder because prayer alone cannot reach into the deep unconscious part of the mind that desires disorder and resists healing. This is why fasting—that is, detachment from dysfunctional behaviors—must be added to 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]

It’s important, then, to keep in mind 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.

  

Note carefully that the use of psychiatric medications therefore poses a grave spiritual danger. If someone uses medications merely to suppress symptoms, rather than use psychotherapy to renounce willingly the morally disordered inclinations underlying the symptoms, he or she can be in a perpetual state of unrepentant mortal sin, much like a clean, shiny grain of wheat that, when broken, is full of dirt inside.

  

 
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 occurred—it is important to feel the pain and then be able to identify and “name” the emotions associated with your pain.

This process occurs 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 free association and dream interpretation.

 
Click here to learn about the common problems and conflicts
that can occur during the psychotherapeutic process of emotional healing.

 

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. To do this work, it is necessary to bring to conscious awareness the many emotional injuries that your parents inflicted on you. Only then can you can take full responsibility for your life and ultimately forgive your parents and honor them for whatever good they did do. If you don’t do the work, then your anger at your parents will get stuffed down into the unconscious where it will stew in unconscious resentment. So remember, as long as you have unconscious resentment for your parents, trying to honor them is just a lie.

  

 
The Reason for Emotional Awareness

Some persons will say that they want nothing to do with “touchy-feely 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. This all occurs because interpersonal conflicts result from failed emotional communication.

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. So right there you have abandoned purity of heart and fallen into sin. This all occurs because behind every temptation is an emotional reaction to some event that has shaken your self-confidence.

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 guide someone 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 afflicts 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, you may find it difficult to make a total surrender to God, and so you will discover that education and reasoning do little to overcome that difficulty. 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, I use 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

Please read my Spiritual Counsels to learn about the spiritual values underlying my work.

You might 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 might object, and this will give you a clue as to the unconscious 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, really aren’t willing to do anything it takes to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

 
Telephone Spiritual Counseling

For all practical purposes, spiritual counseling uses the same techniques as psychotherapy and 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 someone of faith is not deliberately attempting to hide anything from 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.

 
Couples and Family Therapy

Generally, I do not work with children nor do I provide couples and family therapy. For clients already established in individual counseling I have occasionally conducted joint sessions with a spouse or a parent, but my role in such sessions is simply to be a facilitator of healthy communication.

 
 
CLINICAL PRACTICES

 
The Nature of the Treatment

My work is ordered to spiritual counseling rather than to the simple relief of psychiatric symptoms.

I conduct all clinical sessions by telephone (or by Skype audio for clients outside the US and Canada).

 
Cost, Length, and Frequency of Sessions

My fee is $175 per hour. Sessions are $200 per hour in the evenings (after 6:00pm my time).

  

If, because of rising costs, I have to raise my fee, I will not raise the fee of current clients; but any client who leaves treatment for more than a month and then decides to return to treatment will be charged the new fee.

  

Sessions are usually an hour, but they can be any length, calculated at $175 per hour (with rounding to the next highest $5) and a minimum fee of $45.

Sessions can be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or only as needed, according to your personal preference.

 
Practice Notes

Please note the following:

Sessions must be scheduled in advance.

You will be billed for sessions canceled without 24 hours advance notice.

You will be billed for missed sessions.

If you are late, you will be billed for the entire session.

My schedule does not allow for crisis counseling.

I do not schedule sessions on Sundays, and I generally do not return phone calls, text messages, or e-mails on Sundays.

 
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 me for each session in full. Then, if you request, I will provide you with a statement (for a $25 fee per statement) which you can submit to your insurance company for a reimbursement to be paid to you. This statement will include your clinical diagnosis, the procedure code, the number of sessions for the time period you request, and the amount you have paid me for each of those sessions. 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.

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

 
Scheduling a Consultation

To schedule a 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 email and we can arrange a day and time for the first session. For the session itself, 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 email if you prefer to use Skype.

 
Making a Payment

Payment can be made through the mail by check or money order, or through PayPal or Square (both of which accept all credit/debit cards—click one of the links below.)
 

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Please note that sending a payment without contacting me to schedule a session
does not guarantee the booking of a session.

 
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 email and also make a payment to this website. I will answer your question within about five 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 regard 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 regard 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 (cannabis) 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.

 

 

 

 
Mailing Address

Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
1592 Union Street #83
San Francisco, CA 94123

USA

 
 
Telephone

415

-979

-8005

  (US only; I cannot return international calls)

 

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A Guide to Psychology and its Practice
 

 
Copyright © 1997-2021 Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
 

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