When devoutly faithful people need help dealing with emotions or relationships, it can present some unique challenges. Some believe that their faith should be enough. They believe they should be able to pray their problems away. After all, God is all sufficient, isn’t He?
Others fear that talking about their family members, or others who have hurt them, means they are engaging in gossip or detraction and hold themselves back- not wanting to fall into sin. Several more fear that therapy will undermine their faith as New Age beliefs and practices have greatly infiltrated the field of psychology.
Each group has a legitimate point and concern. Let’s take a look at each concern and see how it actually plays out in therapy.
Faith is Enough
Hmmm…it would certainly seem faith is enough. After all, God can heal and restore anything. But since the fall of man, all of creation, and especially human relationships have been compromised. Weeds made their entrance into the garden and the once harmonious relationship between man and woman was strained. And the effects have rippled down through the centuries. And just like disease and injuries require medical attention at times, feelings and relationships need professional intervention sometimes, as well. To sit back and expect divine intervention to change things without any effort or insight on your part can be presumption. We work together in the Body of Christ and when help is required there is no shame in seeking it out.
That being said, by integrating the faith into the therapeutic process, clients can expect greater and faster results from therapy. Relying on the help of a therapist for a time is fine, but ultimately, good Catholic therapy will help you to transfer your dependence on the therapist to God and the faith. Therapy can help heal the wounds and impediments to healthy relationships and that relationship with God is the basis for true happiness. And taking the risk of starting therapy is an act of faith in and of itself. It says that you believe that things can change and that you can have a happier life.
Talking about Family Members and Family Matters is Wrong
This sentiment is certainly commendable. It shows a sensitive heart and a strong moral compass. But, it can also indicate a dysfunctional family pattern of keeping dark secrets. Talking to a therapist about the people in your life and your feelings in their regard is not a sin. Quite the opposite.
Your purpose is to process your feelings and gain a deeper understanding of yourself, why you respond to life the way you do, and to overcome destructive emotional patterns that may have affected you. The ultimate goal is to forgive the hurts of the past so you can move freely into a better future.
But you can’t forgive until you know what you feel and why you feel it and that starts with talking it out. Remember, therapists have heard it all and understand that even the best parents make mistakes. Their role is to help you heal and move forward and not to make judgments. Also, what you tell your therapist is privileged and confidential so you don’t have to worry about what you tell him or her getting back to your family or anyone else. It’s a safe place to express your feelings, overcome them, and let them go.
Therapy will Undermine my Faith with New Age Errors
Unfortunately, this last one can be a problem if you choose the wrong therapist. Psychology is not a hard science like biology or biochemistry. There are many theories and techniques developed based on philosophy and observational studies. Because of this, ideas and practices that are not consistent with Judeo-Christian faith traditions have infiltrated the mainstream in this field. And as society in general has largely moved away from traditional faith practices and truths, unorthodox ideas abound. Certain buzz words like “energy” healing, the god or goddess within, the “Loving Universe,” past life regression, and reiki healing are red flags that should alert you that a therapist’s philosophical beliefs are in opposition to divinely revealed truth and head for the hills.
The process of therapy itself is not New Age, at all. It’s simply about processing feelings, observing patterns, and learning new coping and communication strategies. By inviting God into the process, healing can occur on a deep level, and truly set you free. Choosing a Catholic therapist who is committed to their faith and faithful to the teachings of the Church is your safest bet for avoiding New Age influences.
The Truth to Cling To
Remember, God created you for happiness, both here on earth and, most importantly, eternally in heaven. As we make our way through this fallen world, we often get hurt, hurt others, and can get derailed. But God’s desire and plan for your happiness doesn’t change. He will use all of your pain and regrets for your ultimate good. Therapy is one vehicle He uses to help you move from a painful past into a happier future. Don’t let your fears get in the way. He has a plan!
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