Psychology and/or Religion?

Priests are asked to bless many different things. I’ve blessed my share of homes and cars, boats and motorcycles, a Dunkin’ Donuts, corporate offices, animals, medals, sacramentals and of course people in all sorts of circumstances. This past week I was asked by a parishioner, Rick Beaupre, who is also a musician at St. Veronica Chapel, to bless his new counseling office called, “Journey, LLC” in South County Commons, as he has been called to minister to couples and individual adults experiencing difficulty. Praying there and with him made me think of what a good thing it was for the openness of the complementarity of psychological counseling and religion/spirituality. I loved the name “Journey,” an implication that no one is really alone in life.

Sadly, there exists great suspicion of both sides of the aisle in the conversation about the proper role and place of prayer, sacraments and spirituality. I know many in the counseling field have a negative, even aggressive negative stance towards religion, especially Catholicism. I know that their have been many who have suffered wounds so profound because of religious people and leaders, and their journey to integrate is especially sensitive and challenging. I also know religiously faithful people who do not respect the psychological profession and will not seek counseling in any circumstances. I remembered reading a book I had found fascinating in seminary by Dr. Paul Vitz, SJ called, “Psychology and Religion.” I recalled how while chaplain at Bishop Hendricken, we brought on staff professional counselors (one who is in our parish here now!) who did an outstanding job in fostering a nurturing of the young people within a Catholic school with an openness to the Holy Spirit, prayer and the healing sacraments. Sometimes I would recommend someone to the counselor, and likewise sometimes they would recommend a student to deepen their relationship with Christ and the Church. It was an easy complementarity, natural to caring for the entire person mind, body and soul. Never coercive, always supportive.

I have encountered faithful Catholics and Christians like Rick, who holds an LICSW, who live out a deeply intimate relationship with Christ and the Church, while having wonderful expertise, training and counseling gifts. While not every person or encounter is necessarily overtly spiritual, there is no doubt a lot of room for the religious community and churches, as well as faith-based groups, to integrate counseling and the well-spring of God, to help those that struggle with a variety of life circumstances. The sacraments of reconciliation and of the sick are of special worth as is a person’s personal and communal prayer life.

So in short, I was so happy to provide God’s blessing to Rick and his practice, “Journey, LLC”. And I pray, that all those who seek professional help know that this kind of faith-based counseling, which respects the Lord’s role in one’s journey, is another blessing and grace that God can, and at times, will provide.

Father T., Narragansett, RI