The Dangers of Spiritualizing your psychological problems.

“Dr. Gregory Bottaro is a Catholic clinical psychologist with the CatholicPsych Institute. He said that he has found the over-spiritualization of psychological issues to be a persistent problem, particularly among devout Catholics.”

Sometimes you need to talk to a priest. Sometimes you need to talk to a therapist.

When Catholics experience spiritual problems, the solutions seem obvious - talk to a priest, go to confession, pray, seek guidance from a spiritual director.

Sound advice. :thumbsup:

I feel that this is a problem, especially today, when the lines between human nature (the psyche, especially) and God, despite how God has created human nature, are often blurred, as the article points out.

But guilt may seem to be a very specific case because its sins need to be both repented and confessed… if that’s not enough for a person psychologically, then it could be confusing for them to know whether this is an issue for their priest or for their therapist.


Yup. Should be a sticky.

Plus visiting the doctor!
Sometimes we are just missing a natural component or something very obvious.
On my last visit to the doctor he prescribed: go to the seaside,eat fish. Way to go! You bet I followed his prescripcion to the letter. I just love it!

There is a similar inclination to make problems physical OR psychological, but not both.

Psychology is merely the science of how our mind works. You don’t do corporal works of mercy with some idea that the way your body works is irrelevant. Why would you try to navigate your spiritual life as if biological psychology doesn’t matter: I mean the way your brain works and naturally affects your perceptions of yourself and others?

(C.S. Lewis talked about the connection between body, mind, and spirit with great insight in The Screwtape Letters, in his description of human psychology that the instructors at the tempters’ college called the Law of Undulation.)


Agree completely. Thanks to Jim for sharing this article. Some of the advice I’ve seen about nominally “Catholic” ways of managing mental health issues - even on this very forum - has been horrendous. :frowning:

And yet some people feel guilt when there is no good reason while others do not when they should.

The reverse of the title also applies… I was once counselled by a priest that as the spiritual and psychological were so close together, it was vital to see a psych counsellor. I have read that several times and i disagree .

One of the things I am most grateful for in my recovery was a solid therapist who was also a Christian. She had a degree and knew her psychology stuff, but she was also well versed in theology (and familiar with Catholic theology even though she wasn’t Catholic.) I’ve had the experience of therapists who pooh-poohed religion as the source of all ills and hang-ups, and the experience of Christians who thought anything could be cured if you just prayed hard enough. Both are very dangerous.

Catholics are both/and people. :wink:

I saw the problem in reverse in my profession: people who did not acknowledge that there was right and wrong, that the conscience could not be ignored and whose resulting problems had a spiritual dimension which had gone addressed. There apparently wasn’t a Christian pastor to which they could or would avail themselves, or their lazy pastors shoved them off to counselors. When people need healing they tend to need it in body, mind and spirit.

Being assured I was not healed after prayer because I lacked faith was the lowest blow ever

Yes, the two aspects can often be interconnected. And many if not most dioceses have Catholic psychologists who are referred by the diocesan offices.

Ah apologies; I forgot the “culture gap”… We do not use counsellors and therapists as you do over there… I do not believe in them personally. But then I have a major systemic illness which many drs do not believe in so I tend not to go near medics unless in emergency. I know body and mind and what this illness does to both, and know prayer… Just the cultural difference…

Generally speaking,I find it hard to comprehend how something’s could be both Physical and Spiritual?

This thread also reminds me of this article I read yesterday that stated that Exorcisms are on the rise in Italy.
My concern is that while possession is real and can exist,it is rare and in my view most of the people they are exorcising (who are spitting,hitting or cursing) etc really have a Mental/Neurological issue.
Unless the person has been deeply involved in the occult or similar,i see “medical condition” as the more likely scenario.
The Exorcism itself may not hurt them,but in some instances they may receive further psychological distress/confusion or perhaps even go into Cardiac Arrest due to being forcibly held down while thrashing about in distress etc…

Humans are. We are a body and a spirit.

Our genetics may incline us to specific sins, for example. We still make the choice, but not everyone suffers from the same temptations, and certain temptations exert a much stronger pull (and the more we give in, the more we have difficulty saying no.) It’s a result of our fallen nature, which also had physical repercussions. While not literal, take a look at the declining age spans of our Biblical ancestors, and the fact that we physically die at all.

It’s not hard for me to see these are completely intertwined. I have several issues, none of them particularly major on the realm of human suffering but still with the ability to severely impact my quality of life (as I suspect is the case for most people), and they always had both a psychological/medical and spiritual aspect to them. This makes sense to me because I am a physical and spiritual being as a child of God.

They’re definitely intertwined. I have psychological problems that I think were exacerbated by the spiritual training as a child (the constant pressure of having to please an angry and demanding God who was always waiting to punish me for messing up). In turn the depression and anxiety can lead to spiritual problems - scrupulous tendencies, for example, can be a symptom of anxiety issues.

I have sometimes seen people complain on their personal blogs (which in the past would simply have been personal diaries rather than public) about problems which clearly have a psychological component. They will be asking for prayers, which is fine, but they really need to see a therapist to begin making progress.

I mean more in the sense of not understanding how Physical illnesses themselves can also be spiritual.
Take Autism for example,it has physical findings (we don’t know all of them yet) such as glial cell activation,oxidative stress,Neuroinflammation,brain antibodies,mitochondrial dysfunction etc.
It’s hard to see how that can spiritual too.
Or another example-cancer- while it may cause a person to become more contemplative and spiritual and can’t see how the Cancer itself is spiritual illness too if that makes sense?

To me,that still seems like a Psychological problem (even if caused by bad upbringing teaching a misinterpretation of God) rather than a Spiritual problem even though it manifests regarding spiritual matters.
To me,a scrupulous nature is as you mentioned a form of anxiety(or fear).
Due to the person being spiritually inclined,the anxiety/fear/worry simply manifests in a spiritual area.

I think actual spiritual problems are different (possession for example).

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