Conference to help therapists integrate faith into practice
By Carl Bunderson
Conference to help therapists integrate faith into practice

.- An upcoming Catholic psychotherapy conference aims to foster an understanding of human dignity and goodness among therapists, according to a chairman of the event.

“We want to respect the fact that any time a person walks into the therapy office that that person is respected, and that their goodness is reflected back to them,” Irving-based therapist Dr. Suzanne Baars told CNA.

“In helping therapists to integrate the Catholic faith, we want to help them...to grow in their understanding of the person and how we're made in the image and likeness of God.”

The conference, with the theme “Restoring the Beauty of the Human Person: Psychological Healing through the light of Christ,” will be held Nov. 7-9 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The event is sponsored by the Catholic Psychotherapy Association, which assists therapists in the field, whether they are in academics or actually practicing therapy. The group's conferences – of which November's will be the third – aim to give therapists and psychologists clinical tools to help integrate the faith in their work.

The mission of the group is to “support mental health practitioners by promoting the development of psychological theory and mental health practice which encompasses a full understanding of the human person and society in communion with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.”

Even without a profound understanding of philosophical anthropology, the conference hopes to give attendees “a respect for that, and for the people they're working with as they work with them to achieve healing or combat any kind of issue that they're bringing in for problem solving,” Baars said.

This integration of faith and therapy is not restrictive, and she said that the 200 members of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association “probably have very different ways of approaching their work, but at the heart of it is this love of the Church and of Christ and of the Catholic faith, and a desire to really implement it in their work in a particular way.”

The conference will feature an opening Mass said by Bishop Mark Seitz, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Dallas. Speakers include Father Robert Spitzer, Dr. Aaron Kheriarty, and Fr. Thomas Loya.

Topics addressed during the conference will include theology of the body, the human person and happiness, and healing depression, sexual addition, and borderline personality disorder.

Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga, from the Cyangugu diocese in Rwanda, will address healing trauma and restoring wholeness.

“All the speakers have a heart for this work,” Baars said, and want to help attendees to “grow in their faith and in their delivery of an authentically Catholic psychotherapy.”

She said the conference is “a very great value to therapists, especially those who are trying to really integrate their faith into their work, and to help people from a Catholic perspective in their work.”

“Whether its overtly and they really are able to talk about the faith with their clients, or if it's just that they are bringing this knowledge with them into the therapy room and how they approach the people they work with...we want to help support therapists.”

Tags: Catholic faith, Psychology, Catholic therapists

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