I’m often asked this question by both Catholics and non-Catholics. To put it simply, the use of the term, “Catholic therapist,” encompasses the scientific and spiritual approach that guides the work I do in helping people overcome their emotional and psychological difficulties by working towards making the changes to improve their daily lives.
As a therapist, I am trained in the social science of psychology. This discipline is concerned with the study of human behavior and learning. I use the findings of this discipline to help people alter thought, behavioral, and emotional patterns to alleviate the effects of stress.
However, there is a certain art to psychology that makes it more of a “soft” science. Human behavior cannot be neatly described by mathematical equations—our ability to think and choose allows even the most routine person to surprise us. Psychology is also full of theories that can’t adequately be tested through the scientific method.
In a sense, there is an element of faith embedded in psychology. This faith affirms that human beings are greater than the sum of their parts, such that understanding who we are always takes on a spiritual dimension. It is here where another perspective gives direction to my work.
Catholic tradition holds, as psychology asserts, that humans are social beings. Even the most isolated of persons remains social in nature. Catholic tradition also affirms that knowing ourselves happens through relationships with others, and ultimately with God through the person of Jesus Christ. Facilitated by our social nature, we derive a sense of meaning and purpose, which I believe are intimately tied to faith, hope, and charity, both in a generic and theological sense. This spiritual quest for meaning is vitally important to understanding human behavior and mental health, which are fundamentally linked to our interactions with others.
Putting these scientific and the spiritual perspectives together, I, as a Catholic therapist, employ scientific knowledge that points to truths affirmed by Catholic tradition regarding the nature of the human person. Further, I work with people in a way that respects their dignity according to the strict ethical guidelines of my profession as well as the wisdom of Catholic thought.
Being a Catholic therapist, however, does not mean working solely with “Catholic” individuals, couples, and families. Developing good relationships and discovering meaning and purpose are endeavors meant for everyone.
Thus, I work with anyone who simply shares in the human condition, respecting their spiritual background and the level of comfort in discussing it during therapy as they choose to do so. How I see my clients as persons and their concerns, however, is naturally through a Catholic lens. While that fact might allow me to make particular connections with Catholic clients, it does not restrict me to working only with Catholics.
In the end, all therapists are guided by some philosophy. Catholic therapists, like myself, are informed by scientific knowledge and Catholic wisdom.
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