.- Only a few weeks into the Holy Year of Mercy and the fruits of the jubilee year are already starting to be seen.
Among those seeing these fruits is the Institute for Psychological Sciences (IPS), which recently announced that it would be opening a new School of Counseling for the 2016 year and taking on the name Divine Mercy University.
“This has been a long-term project for the institute,” said Jessie Tappel, the director of communications for IPS.
“It’s been really exciting to see the expansion that we have been able to have, based on demand, the needs in the field, and on the positive response we have received in our degree programs,” she told CNA.
The Institute for Psychological Sciences was founded in 1999 in Arlington, Virginia by a group of mental health professionals and originally offered degree programs in the field of psychology.
Now, the institute is expanding under the launch of Divine Mercy University to collectively offer doctorate and master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology and Counseling, with the newly minted School of Counseling.
“The fields of psychology and counseling are two different fields, so we now have two schools - the school of psychology, which is IPS, and the school of counseling, which is our new school we are launching with our first programs in the fall,” Tappel explained.
The new School of Counseling will give students the opportunity for national accreditation as mental health counselors and will also be available to students online.
“It’s something very new that we are going to be doing - you could basically be taking classes from any state through our online program, which is great because the reach of our alumni and our students is going to exponentially grow,” Tappel said.
The new namesake of the institution is not without meaning. Tappel calls Divine Mercy University a “mission-centric name” with an outward focus on mercy.
“Christ asks us to be His instruments of mercy and healing in the world,” stated Fr. Charles Sikorsky, the president of Divine Mercy University, in a Dec. 29 press release.
“Divine Mercy University’s programs not only prepare graduates to excel in their fields, they also provide a foundation in understanding the totality of the human person, their value and dignity,” he continued.
For the faculty and students, the theme of mercy is essential to the mission of healing the human person, which is why they chose Divine Mercy as the anchor of their education.
“What we do is train mental health professionals with a foundation in psychology, philosophy, and theology to be able to have an understanding of the human person, marriage and family - and we needed to encapsulate that,” Tappel noted.
“It’s really exciting that we are launching during the Year of Mercy, which is something that is definitely providential, because we are paying special attention to the theme of mercy, what we need as humans, and what the meaning of suffering is,” she said.
Unlike many other psychology programs, Tappel believes Divine Mercy University sets itself apart by tackling the deeper, anthropological questions of the human person in light of Catholic faith.
The university can go above and beyond the limits of modern psychology because of its roots in the Catholic-Christian definition of man, she said. This understanding approaches the healing of clients from a holistic vantage, rather than the typical symptom reduction treatments or the “nearsighted band-aid approach.”
In contrast, Tappel said, the Divine Mercy psychology and counseling programs explore how a human person can flourish in the midst of suffering by focusing on the deeper questions every human person has, such as: ‘Who am I?’ ‘What is suffering?’ and ‘How do I attain true happiness and freedom?’
“Our program is very unique because of that aspect,” she said, adding that students spend their time learning psychology through the lenses of philosophy and theology, in addition to their rigorous academic and clinical work.
Looking forward, Divine Mercy University hopes to expand their reach in other areas, such as offering certificate programs for those who do not need a degree program.
“It is our responsibility to be able to go out there to reach and train solid, mental health professionals with a Catholic-Christian view of the human person,” Tappel stated, saying their mission has been encouraged by the positive responses they have already received.
“Divine Mercy University really signifies the willingness and openness to the responsive demand of human suffering,” she continued, adding “we are looking forward to what the future will hold for us and for our place in society.”