Modern day Psycology vs God's Perfect Plan

I have found that a lot of modern day psychology is in sync with God’s will. For example, a lot of psychologist will encourage forgiveness and reconciliation.

However, I have to wonder how far the correlation is and how can one really do God’s will will there are never any guarantees of knowing exactly what it is.

For example (and I know there are a lot of holes in this example but please try and understand the point).

A young adult goes to university or colledge. And all of his teachers treat him unfairly and give him lower grades than he deserves. A modern day psychologist would say 'You have low self-esteem and the teachers pick up on that and once you change your self image, the teachers will no longer pick on you.

A strict Catholic would say ‘God is trying to teach you tolerance of others and even if the teacher fails you, don’t worry, God will take care of you’

So my dilemna is, I would really love to be a strict Catholic but it is hard when it seems so unfair. So… how much truth is their to the modern day psychologisy, when one can improve their self imagine yet God will not override the teachers free will. And on the other hand, it is hard to believe God’s will if for the young adult to always b picked on unfairly by the teacher when God is a loving God

So… in a nut shell, how does one really know God’s plan?




I am not sure what you’ve been reading, but a lot of modern psychology is NOT in sync with anything that would remotely be God’s Plan.

Before I continue, I have to first state that a lot of psychology is based on theoretical principles and observations that are not in line with any modes of religious beliefs, but that does not lead to the conclusion that ALL psychological theories are against what Christianity would teach (or any religion, for that matter). Many psychologists have theories from a set of principled beliefs that exist to explain the workings of the human mind from various perspectives: in child psychology, Bowlby talks about attachment; Freud talks about sexuality; Adler and Maslow speak from the perspectives of the development of the self.

However, the way modern psychology is taught is very anti-God and extremely liberal. Many married couples experiencing relationship hardships should do well to stay clear of marriage counselors and psychologists who do not teach from a pro-marriage psychological viewpoint, and disregard anything of faith beliefs. In fact, most modern psychological principles would push for divorce and anti-unity of a marriage rather than keeping it together.

Modern psychology also focuses too much on the self. Granted, most of psychology is to eventually explain the inner workings of an individual-- usually yourself– but what goes too far is to state the perspective that a person ONLY needs them self, and that all other influences-- God included-- are not necessary. I personally think a lot of modern psychology does away with the family, and does not take into account the interactions and complexities of family units, dynamics, and influences with a person. A person has NEVER existed or developed within a vacuum of him or herself; people are products of their genetics coupled with the interaction of their environmental influences, which includes their families and God’s Plan.

Modern psychology, and modern psychologists in particular, do not place an emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation. At least, it’s not forgiveness, it’s more so talking about “letting things go,” or “working through things.” Forgiveness requires us to remove the debt of anger, resentment, bitterness or even hate that we may feel and think towards another person. That’s quite a bit to ask from people, and it’s much deeper than just telling someone to work on letting something go.

Okay, that concludes my psychology lecture:rolleyes::cool:

I have a lot of questions about psychology too. I believe sin in our lives can cause psychological issues. I am looking forward to following this thread. I saw a marriage counselor once who suggested if I was going to divorce this would be the time to do I ( I was in my early 30s), implying that I was still young enough to be attractive to other men :shrug:
So glad stayed married & later realized it was not good advice.
However, I heard on the radio today a discussion about the psychological tests prospective priests have to take today. It is quite confusing:shrug:

Yes, I would say that sin is the problem to many of these issues. However, that is not to say that psychological tools cannot be used in addressing sins. In general though, modern psychology often ignores the idea of sin being the root to many of these problems.

Psychology is so all over the map, it is hard to say what “psychologists” say.

For instance: “I would really love to be a strict Catholic but it is hard when it seems so unfair.”

Alcoholics Anonymous would say that in an unfair situation you need to ask for help from your higher power to gain “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference”. Legion are the psychologists who LOVE the tenets of AA. So you never know.

Also, how “strict” Catholics are in these matters differs very much from age to age, from country to country, and even from priest to priest. Be careful not to confuse the popular piety of the age with the unchanging truths of the faith.

Many of us with very severe illness were taught growing up that focusing on the self was bad and self-absorbed. That can make ill people unwilling to see psychologists and psychiatrists. The suffering caused by untreated mental illness is devastating and the people who treat it are often psychiatrists and psychologists (sometimes social workers and nurses and primary care doctors). Please do not generalize about the entire field of psychology this way.

edited to say: I agree that much of what some psychologists and etc. endorse is not in line with Catholic beliefs but I have bipolar disorder and have been told that psychotherapy as well as medication is essential, which is true. The example given in the OP presupposes that the people who go to see doctors are only the “worried well.” This is often not the case. While I do not want to diminish anyone’s suffering, b/c emotional upset and conflict can cause a great deal of pain, there are many very ill people getting treatment.

Thank you, Silentstar, for speaking up for people coping with mental illness. You are my Hero of the Day.:hug3:

My mother has been dealing with an Axis I disorder for more than 50 years that wasn’t properly diagnosed until I was in my twenties. The primary reason for the decades-long delay in diagnosis and treatment was because her parents (I love them dearly, but they got this one totally wrong) believed her erratic behavior and what they termed her “moodiness” were caused by her sinfullness and overall bad character. Throughout her childhood and adolescence they took her to priests, they tried to put her in a convent, they beat her, they shamed her, but they never once took her to a mental health professional because that wasn’t what “good Christians” did.

The result was she, like a lot of people who don’t/can’t seek help, self-medicated with alcohol and drugs, prescription as well as the street variety. Her addictions coupled with her original illness created a vortex of chaos that I could write a book about: arrests, legal convictions, multiple marriages, wildly erratic behavior that made raising a child (me) impossible, and three suicide attempts before I turned 18.

She was in her 40s and out of rehab for the umpteenth time when she attended a Catholic retreat. There she started talking to a sister who also was a PhD psychologist, who strongly encouraged her (just about physically forced her, truthfuly)to take a battery of psychological tests that finally hit on a diagnosis. A combination of psychotropics and talk therapy have literally and figuratively saved my mother’s life. She still has her moments and is still under the care of both a psychiatrist and a psychologist, but she’s no longer sleeping 23 hours a day for weeks on end followed stealing a car and driving to Mexico for no apparent reason (True Story).

Sadly, both of her parents had died before she got the psychological help she needed, so they never knew the true reason for her troubles was out-of-balance brain chemistry and not a bad character.

Where do you get this? I have seen a so-called “modern psychology” practioner (LCSW) and was brought to very different conclusions with her guidance - that I needed to change my behaviors if I wanted different things to happen to me. It was all about not being the victim but rather using my own personal resources to work on things.

I also took 2 psych classes in 2010 at Northwestern Univ, a bastion of secular thought as many big universities are. Such self-victimizing attitudes are not a part of any of the main branches of psychology today.

Yes, there are a lot of secular ideas that mental health professionals might have, especially around divorce and sex, but don’t discount the whole field. Most will respect your religious tenets while providing their care. One of the most prevelant forms of psychotherapy now is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where you learn to change your behavior, which changes your thought patterns. There is nothing Unchristian about that. Another big movement is Positive Psychology - which is all about using the best that God has given us to improve our lives.

(Of course this is a very amateur POV but it is based on recent academic experience and not hearsay).

Please, please, please forgive me if you think I’m calling you out. That’s not my intention. :slight_smile: I think you hinted at something I’ve quoted above that I think is pertinent to this discussion.

The LCSWs and psychologists I work with know very well the familial devastation that accompanies divorce, and these are professionals who do court-ordered psycho-social/psycho-sexual evaluations as part of child custody hearings and pre-trial criminal investigations. In ten years of doing my job I have never once heard an evaluator suggest that a divorce was a good thing for anyone’s family. I have heard them testify that a divorce was the best of two or three bad alternatives, however.

And anecdotally, my husband and I have been been in marriage therapy three times, and even when things were really, really dicey between us our therapists never even said the d-word, much less suggested it was a good idea for us to explore. But I’ve read numerous times on these threads that couples shouldn’t go to therapy because that’s just going to lead to divorce. I find that idea utterly baffling and completely contrary to everything I know personally and professionally.

Even regarding sex. If someone presents as promiscuous, pre-occupied with sexual matters or is otherwise inappropriately sexual, that’s a huge red flag for therapists that something is off kilter with the person’s mental state of the family dynamic. They certainly don’t cheer adulterers on or tell people, “Eh, just do what feels good at the time and consequences be damned!”

I will agree, however, that what mental health professionals aren’t going to do is deal with the sinfulness of a given dynamic or situation. But then again, that isn’t their pervue. Most are not trained or equipped to deal with theological matters, and I think it’s misguided to expect that from them. Just like I wouldn’t go to a podiatrist for a haircut, I wouldn’t go to a therapist for absolution or with internal conflicts I have about Catholicism. It just doesn’t make sense. Barbers have their jobs, therapists have their jobs, and priests have their jobs. :slight_smile: Sometimes they do overlap, but they do do fundamentally different things.

And that is the point I was making. That psychologist get you to change yourself so that you are no longer a victim

Whereas the churches teaches God gave everyone free will and He won’t stop agressors.

You made my exact point

Huh? Are you saying people should become more passive and feel more like “victims” because that is God’s perfect plan? I am confused, sorry!

I concur. Psychology by definition lacks a moral framework and by and large eschews universal truths.

An ethical therapist does not “teach” or press their opinions onto clients. A therapist helps a client, whether religious or not, discover their OWN values, and encourages the client to practice those values. A therapist’s values or religious practice should not influence their practce.

There certainly are poor therapists or even unethical therapists and that is sad, but most provide sound and research based practice.

Some therapist do practice in a Christian setting but I really don’t know how practice would be different in such a case.

I am a LCSW and a practicing Catholic BTW.

I made the distinction for modern psychology. Psychology in itself, is not an immoral framework. The way psychology is used in modern times however, is wrought with no moral framework.

There are many practicing psychologists who are very traditional, abide by true Christian principles and beliefs, and only practice from that perspective while utilizing psychological theories. The OP was referencing modern psychology, and I answered from that perspective.

Okay, this was my first thought too… God’s will doesn’t require us to always be passive to whatever happens - we’re allowed to fight for what’s RIGHT and TRUTHFUL in this world! Heck, God’s will may be that this is a lesson for you to suck up your fears and go confront the teacher (kindly, but in the light of truth to defend yourself) and get the grade you deserve!
Sure, we’re all going to have people treat us unfairly in this life… that’s because sin exists in this world. Yes, God can work through any circumstances… but that doesn’t always mean we have to be victims to the sins of others… sometimes it means we have to be examples for others and to teach and instruct others who are doing wrong.

I’m not a Psychologist… nor do I study Psychology… but I used to have the mentality of being “victimized” by the world all the time. I wouldn’t call this a “strict Catholic” mentality by any means, though… God used those opportunities for me to grow rather than to feel torn down.

You make my point exactly. Do you understand the term universal truth? This is the very definition of moral relativism.

Not really. It would be moral relativism if your priest talked to you like that, because you go to a priest for moral guidance. You go to a therapist to learn how to think “cleanly”: that is, without being influenced by habits of thought that you didn’t choose or that are not internally consistent. The priest and the therapist work together so you can produce moral actions, but they work differently.

Let us say that I was trying to hit a baseball into fair territory. I need two things. One is to know where fair territory is, and to desire to hit the ball there. This is what the priest teaches you. If a priest were to teach you that any direction you want to hit the ball is as fair as any other, then the priest would be teaching the lie of moral relativism.

The other thing needed to hit into fair territory is to know how to hit the ball so that it will go where I want it to go. While a priest might help you in that direction, that task is what the therapist specializes in. If I want to hit the ball into fair territory, but fail because of form problems that I don’t understand and don’t know how to fix, I may not be at fault that the ball never goes fair. Since “fair territory” is an objective good, however, why would I settle for “knowing what is right” and “doing my best”? So I go to the therapist, who teaches me how to make the ball go where I want it to go. This is why if a priest sees I want to hit into fair territory and the ball always goes somewhere else, a priest might well send me to see a therapist.

Yes, I can use the knowledge of my own hitting mechanics to hit a ball consistently foul as easily as I can use it to hit it consistently fair…(…well, kind of…since both morals and mechanics rest on the non-arbitrary truth that the pitch always comes from the mound, smack in the middle of “fair” territory!!!) In that a rough sense, though, incorporating good batting mechanics is an ability that could be seen as “relative”. In any event, the difference after therapy is that I will be able to more reliably get the results I choose. I will be responsible for where the ball goes, not the therapist, even if my odd choice is to warp myself around so as to always hit the ball foul.

In this analogy, can you see that the ethical therapist is helping his or her clients towards what God intended when God made us creatures with free will? The idea of therapy is to make our moral choices more truly free choices. A therapist who tries to force me to the right choice without freeing me to choose it is not giving me morals. That therapist is playing God. Like the doctor who thinks he can decide when my life is and is not worth living, rather than accepting the choice God made for me, that therapist has crossed a very serious *moral *line.

For the vast majority of psychotherapy clients, absolutely a therapist has no business playing God by forcing morals. In addition to being morally wrong, it also violates professional therapeutic protocols.

However… (and there’s always a however, isn’t there?)

There are times when - borrowing from Vulcan logic of ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one’ - a therapist must act in a manner that might be seen as putting moral framework around a client without that client’s consent. The Tarasoff laws or duty to warn statutes, mandated reporter requirements, and involuntary psychiatric holds are examples times when a mental health professional is duty-bound to impose on a client’s belief system.

These may sounds like spliting-hairs exceptions, but therapists invoke these much more often than we lay people would like to think they do. If they didn’t, our world would be more fraught than it already is.

Well, no, you can’t let someone run into the stands hitting *people *with the bat. Even God lets us put certain limits on the moral choices of others.

Ethical therapists don’t “play God”. They help an individual meet their own goals.

A therapist should have positive regard for their client and confront them when they aren’t living in a way that is consistent with who they want to be.

There are certainly behaviors that any therapist would confront a client on. These would be things like self-har, emotional, verbal, or physical abuse in their family, drug and alcohol abuse, being dishonest in an intimate relationship. . . .

A therapist isn’t going to say “you do THAT! That’s a sin!!” or “Why are you looking at other women, that’s LUST!!” or “Get up off your butt! You’re being SLOTHFUL!!”

That’s not how therapy works and rightfully so.

If some of you don’t get that then you simply don’t agree with the concept of counseling/psychotherapy, which I guess is fine. Many Priests, Bishops, and I would bet, even Cardinals have gotten help from licensed therapists so don’t go thinking your views are gospel. There are hundreds of priests and maybe some bishops trainied in social work or psychology. I am not sure if there are any Bishops with a Ph.D. in Psychology but there may be.

Licensed therapists are involved in many aspects of the Church. Helping discern the pressence of demonic possession comes to mind.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit