St. Ignatius, Psychology & Me
First an introduction: I am a licensed clinical psychologist and a committed Catholic with a strong interest in the ways in which the Christian faith and psychology intersect. As a contributor to In All Things, I hope to explore these ideas and respond to readers questions about my field of study.
But to begin, let me reflect a little on how St. Ignatius, psychology, (and me) fit together.
The common denominator is gratitude. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius brings to us this exhortation: "I will call back into my memory the gifts I have received--my creation, redemption, and other gifts particular to myself. I will ponder with deep affection how much Our Lord God has done for me, and how much he has given of me of what he possesses, and consequently how he, the same Lord, desires to give me even his very self, in accordance with his divine design." The Saint travelled from near suicidal despondency to reach this happier way of thinking, and countless Jesuits over centuries have brought the Lord to those who undertake the exercises. Finally in this 21st century, many in the profession of psychology have finally caught up with Ignatius, offering "positive therapy" or "cognitive psychology" in which we learn how to change our feelings by changing our thoughts. Of course it gets much more complicated. But here's how St. Ignatius and psychology connect for me right now.
I received my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Loyola University of Chicago and the skills and integrity I learned there have given me a rewarding career. While working in a treatment program in the inner city with children who endured trauma that would break most of us, I co-wrote Crisis Counseling With Children and Adolescents. As a clinician I have worked with infants, toddlers, school-agers, and adult folks of all ages. There have been other books, two decades as a peritus for annulment tribunals, an appointment as a Disability Examiner for New York State, and many continuing rewards of seeing young people in college and grad school as a professor at Marist College.
When I think of topics for this blog, many thoughts emerge: how therapy and spiritual direction complement each other; canon law and spirituality in annulments; talking to children about tragedies and terrorism; Vatican II and its hopes for special education in Catholic Schools (great talks recently at NCEA Convention in Minnesota); Thomas Merton and his psychoanalysis with Dr. G. Zilboorg; mission of Psychology in Catholic universities; treatments for sexual addiction; spirituality and handicaps; God's gift of psychiatric medicines and their proper use; psychology and peace; and much more. Will I enter the child abuse fray? Maybe. There are important things that have remained unsaid, and I've had the sad decades long experience of making many abuse reports as a mandated reporter.
Good writers, teachers, priests, and parents actively listen. What are some topics you would like mentioned in this blog? Make a response below, or send me an email at email@example.com, placing AMERICA in the subject line.
William Van Ornum