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 |
Couples and Family Therapy |
Cost, Length, and Frequency of Sessions |
Making a Payment |
Scheduling a Consultation |
E-mail Questions |
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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 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. 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.
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 occurring 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
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 despite your prayers if you haven’t resolved the unconscious
conflicts from your childhood that tie you to frustration and
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 matter of removing the psychological
obstacles that prevent a person 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
“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 objective—even when
informed by the Catholic faith—the 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 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.
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
connections through spontaneous associations to your intellectual memories
and through other techniques, such as
free association and
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, so that you can take full
responsibility for your life and ultimately
your parents and honor whatever good they have
done. Remember, so long as you have unconscious resentment for what your parents
have failed to do it will be impossible for you to honor any good they have
done—and trying to “honor your parents” 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-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
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.
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.
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
and appropriately to the situation.
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
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
haven’t 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 occurs
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
counseling, I use 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
Please read my
Spiritual Counsels to learn about the spiritual values
underlying my work.
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 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.
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
a person 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
Couples and Family
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.
and Frequency of Sessions
My fee is $175 per hour. Sessions are $200
per hour in the evenings (after 6:00pm).
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 minimium fee of $35.
Sessions can be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly,
or only as needed, according to your personal preference.
Please note that sessions must be scheduled in
and that my schedule does not allow for crisis counseling.
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 per statement) 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.
Note, however, that your use of insurance
will breach the confidentiality of your treatment because any employee of the company can
demand the details of your treatment. Furthermore, insurance companies
require a psychiatric diagnosis (which becomes an indelible part of your world-wide
Payment can be made through the mail by
cash or personal check, or through PayPal or Square (both of which accept all
credit/debit cards—click one of the links below.)
Send a payment through PayPal:
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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
Then contact me by telephone (see
below) or by
e-mail 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
or video calls and will provide the details through e-mail if you prefer to use
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 about five 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 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.
Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
1592 Union Street #83
San Francisco, CA 94123
(US only; I cannot return international calls)