in the Catholic Mystic Tradition
Psychotherapy and Spiritual Counseling
Spiritual Counsels |
Psychotherapy in the Catholic Mystic Tradition |
The Difference Between Psychotherapy and Spiritual Counseling |
Following the Spiritual Counsels |
Telephone Work |
Cost, Length, and Frequency of Sessions |
Making a Payment |
Scheduling a Consultation
E-mail Questions |
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
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:
Including the cost of treatment and a description of my professional credentials,
training, and experience
IN THE CATHOLIC MYSTIC TRADITION
ONLY true psychotherapy
in the Catholic mystic tradition is prayer and
combined with a sincere study of the faith. Its
that simple. If only we did exactly what Christ told us to doto turn
away from the satisfactions of the world so as to renounce sin,
pray constantly, and live chaste and
lives filled with loving sacrifices for the
salvation of other soulswe 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. Its 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 Gods 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 its a sad truth that
in todays 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
If your boat is
tied to the dock, no matter how hard you row you still wont 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 havent 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 dont know whether its
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
Well, when you want wisdom as much as you want to
breathe, the philosopher told him, then you shall have it.
Between Catholic Psychotherapy
and Spiritual Counseling
Psychotherapy (often referred
to colloquially as therapy) has as its objectiveeven when
informed by the Catholic faiththe resolution of psychological
conflicts that produce psychiatric
These symptoms are created by
emotional resentments that begin in childhood and become the core of your
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 dont really
desire to serve God. Deep in their hearts they
use the name of God only as an excuse to serve their own
pridethe 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 dont 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 pridethe pride of doing everything your way.
Now, many various
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.
techniques, for example, focus specifically on changing thoughts and behaviors.
Note that vocal prayer is the pre-eminent form
of Cognitive-Behavioral therapy.
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
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
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
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  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
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 deliveranceand
formal exorcism, if necessarycan 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 lifeespecially novicescan 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
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. Its no wonder, then, that most people
fear psychotherapyand fear psychologists.
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
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.
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 symptomsand then the
medications can be discontinued.
Therefore, in the form of
psychotherapy I practice, and as I describe on this website, you can be
guidedthrough the sacraments, vocal and mental
prayer, fasting, study,
and the insight resulting from the psychotherapeutic relationshipinto
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, its not enough
just to know intellectually what
happenedit 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
connections through spontaneous associations to your intellectual memories
and through other techniques, such as dream
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
your parents and honor them. Remember,
so long as you have unconscious resentment for your parents, it will be
impossible for you to honor themand trying to honor them without
admitting your unconscious resentments for them is just a lie.
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
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.
Lets 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.
Lets say youre 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 involvedand this understanding gives you the ability
and appropriately to the situation.
if someone says something that hurts you, you can say to yourself, OK.
Im feeling helpless and abandoned. In the midst of these feelings,
you can recognize how you responded
to similar feelings as a child. Then you can choose an appropriate,
non-defensive, mature, and psychologically
response to your current feelings.
But if you
havent done your psychological work, instead of naming your feelings
you will just feel a vague yucky inadequacy and
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 seeks to,
well, direct a person in ways that bring him or her closer to living a holy
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
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
When I conduct spiritual
counselingeven over the telephone (see below)I use some of the
same techniques for working with the
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
Many persons ask me, Do
I have to follow all the spiritual counsels in
order to consult with you? Well, no, you dont 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
dont follow all the counsels. But its all your choice.
I cannot conduct
over the telephone for two reasons. First, because my professional
license has been granted by the state of California, I cannot claim to provide
clinical psychological services to anyone outside the state of California. Secondly,
and even if a person were located in California, psychotherapy has
to be conducted face-to-face to minimize the tendency of my being deceived by a
clients dishonesty. Without this face-to-face
contact, it isnt possible, for example, to make a clinical assessment
of a persons 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
For all practical purposes,
spiritual counseling often amounts to the same thing
as psychotherapy, but because I can
assume that a person of faith is not deliberately
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
and Frequency of Sessions
I make my living providing
psychotherapy and spiritual counseling, so I have to charge for my time according
to the going rate for a professional of my
in San Francisco: $150 per hour.
Office visits are usually an hour, but when
I conduct spiritual counseling over the telephone sessions can be 30 minutes ($75) or 60
minutes ($150) or 90 minutes ($225).
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.
If you would like to use insurance for an
for more information about my office policies. Note, however, that insurance companies will not
approve payments for spiritual counseling.
Payment for office visits
can be made with cash (to ensure financial anonymity), with a credit card, or by personal
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
the Square Market
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.
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.)
I made my websites so that anyone
in the world can learn from my writings free of
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 knowledgein contrast to
Catholic dogmais 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.
Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
55 New Montgomery Street, Suite 420
San Francisco, CA 94105-3429
(US only; I cannot return international calls)
Map to my
Entrance to my
Center Parking (City Garage)
Bank of America with
clock on the corner
5th and Mission
The Palace Hotel
and taxi stand
BART station access locations
Bus stop on 30/45
lines from CalTrain depot
Cable car line