PsychedCatholic » Where Catholics and psychology come together

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Recently I camephoto-1422728221357-57980993ea99across an article discussing how parents can help their anxious children. I thought article had some good recommendations and thoughts for parents of children with anxiety. I have included some excerpts from the article below and added my own thoughts and comments in red. If you would like to read the entire article 9 Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try by Renee Jain check out the link. Here is an excerpt from the article:

        As all the kids line up to go to school, your son, Timmy, turns to you and says, “I don’t want to take the bus. My stomach hurts. Please don’t make me go.” You cringe and think, Here we go again. What should be a simple morning routine explodes into a daunting challenge.

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photo by Clemson CC

photo by Clemson CC

Deciding to seek help is often the hardest part of actually beginning therapy.  In my last post, I addressed the mistaken stigma of seeking the help of a therapist, and doubts Catholics in particular might have about seeking therapy. Overcoming our own doubts, hesitations and preconceptions is hard enough.  After that, finding a therapist should be easy – just open the phone book, call someone and go.  Unfortunately, it is rarely that simple.  One aspect that often makes choosing a therapist more complicated is the intimacy of the work.  Going in, you know you are trusting someone to understand you, even the parts of yourself that you don’t usually share with others.  That can involve plenty of doubt and uncertainty.  Will the therapist really understand me?  Really get what is going on with me?  Really be able to help me?  For these reasons, those seeking help are often evaluating more than just credentials – they want to know if the therapist as a person is a good fit with them.

Because of my background, I am often asked to suggest a therapist or help in the process of finding one.  As often as not, the person who asks me is not the person going to therapy, but is someone who wants information to smooth the process for a friend or relative.   Regardless of who is asking, what I describe below is how I would approach the process.  There is no “right way” to choose a therapist, so my intent is to provide some information to help you ponder rather than laying out a perfect series of steps. Continue reading »

  • March 16, 2015 - 11:07 am

    Dawn - How about a tip to keep your expectations low? The therapists and their processes that I know seem to be like photography where you like 1 out of every 10 pictures, every picture costs $100, and the first 5 pictures are just to get to know you. So, if you are desperate enough to pay $1000 for one picture, then it may be worth the extra stress of finding a therapist, going through their psychological hula-hoops and getting that little epiphany. After several experiences of this I have realized that I get much further much faster with Eucharistic adoration, a walk, a glass of wine and sleep. Then I can take my $1000 and go on a picturesque vacation.ReplyCancel

depressed-hands-on-faceBy our nature as humans, we need others.  Giving and receiving help is as human as breathing.  God looked at Adam and said (essentially): “You’re gonna need some help.”  So He provided Adam with a helpmate.  Across our lifespan, we turn to others for help:  to our parents for nurturing, our teachers for education, our doctors for all our physical ills.  We turn to spouses and best friends to soothe us during the bruises of life, and we turn to our church community to revive our weary, broken, wayward souls.  We do not think twice about seeking help from these people, but there is one person from whom many people still hesitate to seek help:  a therapist (a.k.a psychologist, psychotherapist, or counselor). Continue reading »

  • March 10, 2015 - 8:34 am

    Barbara G Barrett - Great topic…please continue to address this topic and the idea of sharing our struggles, worries, etc. with our family and friends. I have known suicide victims who appeared to be happy, “worriless” persons and who were, in fact, drowning in a sea of despair. This seems to be a topic worthy of much more publicity, whether through op-eds or social media or “old- fashioned” books. This is a very serious problem. BBReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2015 - 8:51 am

    Gary - I have experienced everything said in the column to be true. Seeking, or even the willingness to seek help can be as treacherous as the illness itself. Societal norms compound the problem further. I was fortunate, for it took 3 suicide attempts and then hospitalization before I was “introduced” to the world of psychology. I was not a person of faith at that time, that came much later, but I was very ill mentally and did not know it, all my life , it turns out. Therapy is a long and difficult path, with unbelievable pain and suffering along the way. In fact, if I had told that I was going to experience the pain and suffering I was to under go, I would have stayed sick instead. Since my conversion, I had the need to seek profession help once and found, through intuition(God)a great therapist who encouraged my faith and we incorporated that into my work with her. Others have no been as fortunate as I and have horrific experiences with psychology, my heart goes out all who have. There is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding mental illness that it takes an immense amount of courage to seek, but as Jesus so eloquently puts it, seek and you will find. I pray all who need help find.ReplyCancel

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love…”- St. Therese of Lisieux

bsrOzgDkQhGRKOVC7Era_9X6A3584By now some of you have likely come across the New York Times article in which the author, mimicking an experiment by social psychologist Arthur Aron, tries to see if she can fall in love by following a few simple techniques.

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Why read a post about mental illness?

  • Demographics. Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population will meet criteria for some mental illness this year.  Mental illness touches everyone’s life.
  • Friendships. Maybe you want to support friends who are suffering.  Or you know that increased understanding means a decreased chance of hurting someone you care about.
  • Personal Impact. You want to reduce your own chances of experiencing mental illness or cope better with the situation you are in.
  • Charity.  Perhaps you are someone who wants to “Speak the truth in love.”  The more you know, the better you can reach and relate to someone who struggles with mental health.

Whatever your reason, here are five points that might shift your views on mental illness:

1. Mental illnesses are part of the spectrum of common human experience.

I can’t speak for you, but I know I experience anxiety quite often.  I remember anxiety over speaking in high school or asking someone on a first date.  Now I feel anxiety when others evaluate my work, or when I have to confront someone I care about. I am sure you have worried about some aspect of your life: “Will we have enough to retire?”  “Will the principal judge me if my daughter wears mismatched socks and shoes to school?”  “Is there something wrong with me if I see the dress as white and gold?”   Anxiety and worry are human experiences, but for some they are debilitatingly intense or pervasive. Continue reading »

  • March 4, 2015 - 6:46 am

    Vianney1100 - This is the second article concerning awarness of mental illess that I have read on a Catholic blog in 2 weeks. You make great points and I have increased my knowledge of mental illness. Something could be said for the oppostie view though. It is extremely difficult sometimes to deal with someone with mental illness. Especially if that someone is a family member who has had it all her life. For lack of a better way to put this, there are victims of those who have mental illness. The hardest part is when that someone thinks the problem is everyone else who does not see things the way she does. Think of hoarders who make life miserable for those who live with them and get upset when someone tries to do something about it. Or on a macro scale, those who suffer from same sex attraction and are now trying to force their view of reality on everyone else. We are starting to see the cost of not going along with this. I would love to read your thoughts on this side of the coin.
    God bless,

  • March 4, 2015 - 7:18 am

    KyCatholic - Interesting. I have finally come to terms that for some years now, I have been suffering from depression and it’s gotten worse. I am seeing a counselor, but am getting no sympathy from my siblings. They see me as just pretending. I can assure you, I am depressed and the loneliness and rejection is a big part of it.ReplyCancel

    • March 4, 2015 - 3:55 pm

      DOTT - KyCatholic, I will pray that you continue to see a counselor and that growth will result from your suffering. My siblings, everyone of us, has issues and each of us suffer from one or more forms of mental illness. I won’t get into the “why” but never the less we all suffer and consequently so do most of the people that love us and care about us. I particularly appreciated the response from Vianney1100 as it hit home with me and illustrated what my family (sisters and myself) has and continues to experience when we interact with each other. The lesson I”ve learned from the article and the few responses so far is that (we) are not the only ones with issues, problems and suffering. It has a name…”Mental Illness” and there is hope and healing if we only seek it. Good Luck to you and God Bless. DOTT in UtahReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2015 - 11:22 am

    Jay R. - I’m depressed but forge ahead. I’m angry but I continue to nod politely. I’m sad but I continue to smile. This is my life and many others.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2015 - 12:39 pm

    Tracy in Florida - There is a link to a pdf doc at PubMed in section four which I cannot reach. I can see the abstract, but not the document itself. Could a link to the document be provided? It seems it would be a very beneficial document to read.ReplyCancel

    • March 4, 2015 - 1:12 pm

      Ed - Try clicking the (pdf) link…if you are at the pub med page,they only have the abstract. I put in the separate link to the pdf on the authors professional website. If you cannot get it to work, google the author name or title from the abstract…ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2015 - 12:42 pm

    Greg - So many falsehoods and so much propaganda, it is difficult to know where to start to critique this harmful article.

    I’m at peace with the fact that there are those who peddle the false “sciences” of psychology and psychiatry, and I’ve come to accept the mass drugging of populations. We live in a Fallen World, and evil is a part of that world.

    However, I am not at peace with such deception being thrust into the faith community by those who seek to deceive and destroy faith.

    Psychology and psychiatry have NOTHING to do with our spiritual existence and our faith journey. Those disciplines attack the very premises of faith, and have no place in the spiritual conversation.

    It is time people of faith bar the door and send such peddlers of lies away.ReplyCancel

    • March 4, 2015 - 8:05 pm

      Ed - I am sorry that this post offended you. As a faithful Catholic, it is definitely not my intent to degrade Catholic faith. Quite the contrary. If you want to use the contact form to send me an email, I’d be glad to hear more about what you found derogatory to faith.ReplyCancel

    • March 7, 2015 - 6:07 am

      Greg - If it weren’t for Depakote and Attivan my brother would have succeeded in committing suicide. He attempted it three times. This medication has helped him tremendously So don’t knock medication that has helped others who battle mental illness. With mental illness, one’s perception of reality is skewed, including one’s thoughts about faith. If God did not want to help us through various channels, psychiatry would not exist. So don’t knock the means God uses to help those who are suffering from illnesses of the mind.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2015 - 1:24 pm

    jen - Excellent !ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2015 - 7:05 pm

    Gary - As a 57 y/o man who has suffered from Depression my entire, though, not knowing until I was 40, I am qualified to comment.
    First, the vast majority of people who claim to be mentally fit, cannot identify with mental illness. Second, the way in which mental illness is treat by insurance companies is embarrassing. Benefits usually are at least half of what the they are for physical illness. Third, society continues to shun people with mental illness, which only exacerbates the problem for the sufferer. Fourth, progress is slow in the treatment of mental illness. Medication seems to be the antidote, thus, we see story after story about a mentally ill person doing something outside of societal limits and a family member will invariably mention that the person has not been taking his medication. In doing so, we are asking a person who may not be capable of correctly thinking well of him or her self, to make the decision to properly follow all directions with their medications. I am not so unfortunate, but I know some who are. Fifth, I believe that many of the “demons” Jesus healed people of were in fact, mentally ill. Last, Since my conversion in 2012, the effects of depression have been alleviated a great deal. I still take my medication, and always will need it, and I still suffer from “bouts” of depression, but the Lord has blessed me with an understanding, so that I may be of help to others who suffer likewise.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2015 - 7:54 pm

    bob - I hate to sound terribly basic, but what in is the mind?
    Gotta define what it is before u can treat it.
    Too many models look mostly at the brain.

    I suggest that it is the interweaved brain and spirit, and that treating only one is akin to wearing only half of a hat.

    Modern therapeutic man believes in chemistry,while jesus’ primary medicine was faith. Not the faith of fundamentalist ‘faith healers, mind you, but faith that sees beyond physical conditions to the deep love that God has for them. Most of us have not even begun to grasp this level of trust He has called us to.ReplyCancel

  • March 5, 2015 - 11:23 am

    Mimi - As a mom of a teen with severe depression, I really appreciate this post. I can especially relate the analogy to the flu, having had the flu. It’s one of the hardest conditions to understand, and to bear as a young person, when life is supposed to be full of plans and hope and excitement for the future. My son is just trying to find good reasons to get to tomorrow right now. He is motivated to get better. He is not lazy, and is driving his own recovery. He goes to Confession every week, and prays the Rosary even when he feels like giving up. He is probably the bravest and strongest person I have ever met, because in the full fever of this “flu”, he gets up, gets to class, gets good grades, tries to be a good friend, and child of God. I am in constant wonder. He has said that he would gladly take cancer over this, because when you have cancer, life can stop until you get better. People can see that you are sick and the treatment is for something tangible.
    God is good. There are blessings and there is hope, but the mountain is high and the path is always very faint.ReplyCancel

    • March 5, 2015 - 11:55 am

      Ed - Mimi, I am glad you found this affirming! It seems you have also identified a core Catholic value that relates to mental illness: there is value in suffering. I hear that your son is a witness and inspiration to you in his struggle and perseverance and faith. I hope that more people can see his struggle for what it is and lend him support. May God bless you both and grant you healing!ReplyCancel

  • March 5, 2015 - 1:51 pm

    Stephanie - I’m glad you wrote this article. You seemed to focus exclusively on depression and anxiety. I think I know why, and understand, but if an article uses ‘mental illness’ in the title, it seems like it should address a broader scope.
    (My brother’s schizophrenia surfaced 10 years ago, and I was eager to read the perspective of a Catholic psychology student.)ReplyCancel

    • March 5, 2015 - 10:25 pm

      Ed - Stephanie, the examples I used happened to all be anxiety and depression related. But I think all five points apply to any mental illness. There were a few times I chose to emphasize that anxiety and depressive disorders specifically are real, because they are the most often dismissed. It is often easier for people to recognize illnesses like schizophrenia. I’m curious now as to what the reason was that you had in mind for my focus… Thanks for the comment! If you have any particular questions about schizophrenia (or my perspective on it) just drop me a quick note through our contact form. I hope you and your brother are blessed.ReplyCancel

  • March 5, 2015 - 9:22 pm

    Margi - It’s very interesting about whether SSRI’s work or not. I was abused for a long time as a child. There is also mental illness in the family. For 5 years I tried psychotherapy without medication and it worked to a certain degree but I needed more. I got relief but then when through a series of life changes where I became homebound, bedridden 95% of the day and divorced. As pain is a constant companion and other physical conditions have emerged the depression most especially the anxiety has gotten much worse. In the course of these 17 years my prayer life has grown tremendously and I have learned so much more about my Catholic faith through watching EWTN and reading. But still the struggle is huge. It has made me more understanding of others but also aware of the stigma with mental illness that still exists.ReplyCancel

  • March 5, 2015 - 11:33 pm

    Nicole M - I am so grateful I stumbled upon this blog tonight. It is nice to see Catholic psychologists together to discuss different subjects.

    After meeting with a counselor over the past year and a half I look back and see how fair I have come in not allowing depression and anxiety to control my life. I have come to have a greater appreciation of my faith, my family and my life. The struggles that I endured (and still do, at times) have made me a stronger person.ReplyCancel

  • March 8, 2015 - 12:46 pm

    Kathy - I have suffered from bipolar disorder since birth. I am now 68 years old and still suffering. Most people say that their mental illness has gotten them closer to God. I am the opposite. I have just gone through a month-long manic phase during and after which I have lost most of my Catholic/Christian faith. My illness is medication resistant and in fact makes me worse. Now that I am older and don’t drive, I cannot get to church, and no one will take me. I tried having someone come to my house to bring me Communion, but the stress of waiting for them to come was too much for me to bear. I watch EWTN, but instead of it helping my faith, it makes me worse since they are always emphasizing going to Confession and Communion frequently. Since I cannot do that, I feel that I don’t have a chance to make it to Heaven. I am always exhausted because it takes all the strength I have to try and live a normal life as possible. I have accepted the fact that God will not heal me. However, what I find hard to accept is God not helping me at all when I was a young child and afraid I was going to Hell. I feel I envy those who are able to take medication. I don’t know how I have survived this far, but now that I’m getting close to death, I am afraid every day of going to Hell since I cannot get to church.ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2015 - 8:24 pm

    Glenn S - Thanks for the fine article on faith and mental illness. As one with the latter, faith helps.ReplyCancel

Raising Little Angels is  a monthly post about the struggles, joys, confusions, and questions that come with parenting.  The tongue-in-cheek title refers to the fact that parenting often feels like anything but an angelic endeavor. After all, we don’t want little angels;  we want little saints!

OSASuBX1SGu4kb3ozvne_IMG_1088I know some amazing parents (note this sentence! We’ll come back to it). My guess is that the overwhelming majority of parents who read this blog are pretty amazing parents. There is, however, some disagreement, even among amazing parents, on how and whether to praise children. Some parents praise everything their child does: “Talulah! You drank all your milk and ate all of your peas. You’re such a good girl. You’re so good at eating your dinner.” Other parents hold the belief that praising their child for behaviors that they should engage in anyway will create spoiled little monsters. Both praising styles are on to something–the each hold buds of truth. Proper praise motivates children, while the wrong kind of praise causes negative consequences and self-defeating behavior.. More pointedly:Praise is good, but the wrong kind of praise can be harmful. Research by Carol Dweck, a psychologist out of Stanford, helps shed some light on the praise problem.

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  • March 1, 2015 - 1:17 pm

    Christopher Adamson - Thanks for the great post. We talk about this a lot in education too. When giving feedback on writing, praise is very important, but it needs to get the writer excited about revising. I feel like I’m learning to have a “growth” perspective for myself through working with student writers. Check out Donald Daiker’ “Learning to Praise.” It touches on similar ideas.ReplyCancel

    • March 1, 2015 - 7:55 pm

      Matt Breuninger - Thanks for the comment Christopher. I think that’s a great point about writing! I’ve run into this teaching myself. Student often don’t realize that revising is an essential part of good writing. They tend to think a piece is either good or not. I’ll have to take a look at Daiker’s “Learning to Praise.” Thanks for the recommendation!ReplyCancel

  • March 1, 2015 - 1:29 pm

    kentgeordie - All this assumes that children need or want an endless running commentary on their doings, be it eating their peas, sharing their toys, or raising money for humanitarian interventions.
    My guess is that most don’t. My guess is that that most children would be glad if adults made less fuss. My guess is that children appreciate irony: Hmm, not bad! more than Oh my goodness, what a wonderful person you are.ReplyCancel

    • March 1, 2015 - 7:52 pm

      Matt Breuninger - I hope I didn’t imply that children want a running commentary on what they are doing! The psychological equivalent of babbling like the pagans do. But, positive reinforcement (which is what process praise would be) is an important, well-established, and accepted principle in the learning and behavior literature. As to your guess, I’m inclined to disagree (mostly because of the pos.reinforcement lit.). My intuition and experience also speak to the contrary. Right before I read your comment a 5-year old girl came up to me and said, “Look Matt!” She showed me a picture she had drawn. This sort of thing happens all the time. Children often look for our attention in order to gain affirmation for either something they have done or something they see (“Mommy look at that!”) They want to be acknowledged and to have their experience affirmed–it is a way of learning about the world (what is safe, what is good, what is to be desire). As to your last point, that was the thrust of the article! The idea is not to say “Oh my goodness, what a wonderful person you are.” Your ironic point, “Hmm, not bad,” actually is more in line with process praise since it’s describing an action.

      Thanks for replying.ReplyCancel

  • March 1, 2015 - 7:51 pm

    Rev. Edward B. Connolly - Same principle (commenting on the process, not on the person) applies to how you can best help your parish priest. For example: Think twice before saying, “Father, you are the most boring homilist in the history of Christendom!” That does nothing whatever to help the poor priest. In addition to which, it implies something that cannot possibly be true, viz that you are familiar with the homiletic output of every Christian preacher since the Twelve Apostles! I mean … . get real!
    Instead, say something like this: “Father, your homily this morning was a tad less wretched than the one you gave last Sunday. I counted only 37 persons who fell asleep today, as opposed to 51 who nodded off last Sunday.”
    This will provide the priest with encouragement, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It will also give him an explicit mathematical goal towards which to aspire.ReplyCancel

    • March 1, 2015 - 7:57 pm

      Matt Breuninger - Haha. Thanks Father. I hope that you have not been the recipient of such person praise!ReplyCancel

    • March 2, 2015 - 3:02 am

      Richard - Many thanks for this courteous, thoughtful and detailed response.
      You are right to pull me up for my exaggerated talk of running commentary. Of course, I agree that children need encouragement and reassurance. My point was that while not enough praise is bad, so is too much.
      It is the latter that has contributed, in my view, to the self-obsession which afflicts so many children and their parents today.
      Positive reinforcement is a vital component of good education, but it needs to be dispensed judiciously. It’s like the salt on your freedom fries: not enough, and the experience is bland; too much, and dinner is ruined.
      While I am dubious about many of the alleged insights of modern psychology, I agree that praise (or blame) the action rather than the person is a sound principle. Isn’t that a reformulation of Hate the sin, love the sinner?ReplyCancel

  • March 2, 2015 - 3:50 pm

    Judy StThomas - I totally agree with the differentiation you’ve clarified regarding types of parental praise. I think there’s one exception that might be worth noting. It seems to me that all parents should shower on their children with one specific ‘person praise’. We should always remind our children,’You are unconditionally loved… by God and by me’.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2015 - 11:54 am

    Mike L - My father used to say, “what’s wrong you only got 100 on that test. Wasn’t there extra credit?” Guess what – that’s how you get into the Ivy League and land a big job. That’s reality. Doesn’t matter how you feel it’s just the facts.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2015 - 11:54 am

    Mike L - My father used to say, “what’s wrong you only got 100 on that test. Wasn’t there extra credit?” Guess what – that’s how you get into the Ivy League and land a big job. That’s reality. Doesn’t matter how you or I feel it’s just the facts.ReplyCancel

  • May 19, 2015 - 1:13 am

    Bruce Rovertson - I’ve been raising my now 7 year old son since he was only a month old ,his mother or the person who gave birth to him ,she wanted a differant life style…..God bless her ,anyway she has o my seen him twice, In A these years ,”her choice”….with that said my son is tbe best thing that ever happened to me ,GIFT FROM GOD,I tuly believe that..I give him my most valuable asset…my time ….nor is he a Burdon I praise him so much ,and I can see that has not been the best choice ,I become passive semi aggressive as far as I’ll let things go “discipline “wise ,he’s extremly bright but feels he’s the alpha male …I have to play both roles it seems it’s just been him and since he was born ,,he has essentsilly said NO TO ME ,with out saying the exact word more times in a week than I have to both my pTants in my life time ,and I’m 48 …so he is kind living and compassionate ,,,but falling very behind in reading writing ,we try to read together but when he makes a mistake RXTREMELY AGGRIVATED and does like to do home work with me …..I need some help in this arena my name is Bruce any help would be appreciatedReplyCancel