Psychotherapy or the Sacrament of Confession?

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Milton Erickson - the expert who put psychotherapy on the map!

Even risking to offend the snobs, I’m going to start by saying that psychotherapy, in my opinion, it’s not just a “cool thing”, but a necessity. And I think in the same way about the Church’s Sacrament of Confession. Why?

The Drama of Contemporary Men – we transmit information, but we don’t know how to communicate

In our world of those who like to show off with our latest gadget, and have an infinite number of friends on our Facebook list, often, there is a great loneliness.

We speak, it is true, more than ever, but we also communicate less than ever!

We are informed in real time about the pranks of our Governments, about the latest brake-ups of famous singers, about the real “drama” of the Hollywood stars, about the insecurities of supermodels, we even know the predictions for each astrological sign, but we miss what’s important to us!

Actually, we do not know what our close relatives, our friends or even our children do.

It’s kind of sad if we think about it.

But this is the naked, ugly truth!  It’s our current lifestyle!

And if we are to change it, we realize we have to change our way of thinking, our personality. Unfortunately, this means we are not good enough… even for ourselves!

And, let’s face it, nobody is willing to admit this easily.

Therefore, we postpone the change… Up to a point when we not only know but also feel that we have to make some changes if we are going to look in the mirror and stand our faces!

The alternative is not so pretty! So, we know that if we don’t do something, we’ll begin to experience the lack of purpose. The fact that nothing that pleases us satisfies us anymore, and the fact that, even we are surrounded anytime by a bunch of people, we are lonely.

So, if we do not make the changes we’ve been running off, we’ll get soon to the point of “no return”! And beyond that point, we’ll start to live a drama. Ours…

If we had experienced these existential anguishes in the time when my grandfather was still young, the problem would have been solved with one simple blow in the stomach. Yeah, the people back then didn’t have time for this! They were busy living their lives.

And, believe me, we would have “come back”! Unfortunately, only for a while, because the problems would not have been disappeared, but only denied.

Despite all of these, the things are less complicated than we think. I am an ordinary man, and I don’t have a complicated mindset. This is why I like symmetry.

So, if anyone has a bodily affliction (let’s call it a “hardware” problem) she/he goes to a specialist. Therefore, I suppose if someone experiences a psychological condition (a “software” problem) she/has to go to an expert in that field.

Based on such thinking, a new discipline emerged – psychotherapy.

Science and Sacrament

We all have in mind some images of what’s going on in a psychotherapist’s office. And it is possible that we all are right because there are many forms of approach to mental healing. That is why you will hear about all sorts of psychotherapy: cognitive-behavioral, psychodrama, hypnotherapy, Gestalt etc.

But relax! A good psychotherapist will know how to approach the particularities of each client so that the desired outcome is achieved. Therefore, in the overwhelming majority of cases, healing really takes place. Hurray!

But a new question emerges: what’s the catch the Sacrament of Confession, which, in its turn, seems like a form of psychotherapy, that is practiced by the Church?

Is it still necessary, given the fact that we can address to “open-minded” specialists who study their whole lives this field, rather than go to simple, “closed – minded”, and, sometimes, even illiterate monks?

Although these two approaches may look quite similar, in my opinion, they are different techniques with different but complementary purposes.

As I have said, psychotherapy addresses the psychological problems whereas Confession has as objective the spiritual progress and the salvation of human being. So, the psychotherapy doesn’t interfere with Confession and vice versa.

It must be said that these approaches complement each other in helping people to fulfill their potential and enjoy while doing it.

Honestly, I do not see how the Confession will affect the elimination of a tic, the increase in self-confidence, or the development of communication skills, just to give some simple examples of what can happen at the psychotherapist.

Indeed, problems arise when the spiritual fathers do not really understand the context their spiritual sons and daughters live and give advice that, in some cases, may lead to torment.

I want to mention in this category people who do not want to do anything without “blessing” from their spiritual father or try to live a “monastery life” even though they have a spouse, just because the confessor told them they should “repent”.

Of course, there are also failures of the psychotherapists – cases of people who, after hypnosis, have worsened their condition, deepened their affections, and so on.

So, each of these two approaches depends on the relationship between the client and the specialist or between the penitent and his mentor. Therefore, it is important to choose wisely, the most important criterion being the improvement of one’s condition!

Conclusions

In order to synthesize, it is important to remember that the Confession is a Sacrament of the Church and it communicates the grace of forgiveness for the sins that we regret.

In addition, thanks to the prayers of the confessor for his spiritual children, penitents receive help from God to change their lives.

Also, it should not be forgotten that Confession is for free[1]!

Unlike Confession, in psychotherapy, there is little discussion about repentance, but rather about finding a way of reaching a state of “balance”. This is the objective of the therapeutical process and is defined by the patient and the psychotherapist from the beginning.

As a direct consequence, psychotherapy does not offer forgiveness, but a professional help for the patient to discover and understand herself/himself better. And yes, the client must pay!

I have heard over the years many opinions about the relationship between Confession and psychotherapy, each with its own pros and cons. In my opinion, such a dispute is unnecessary, because the two do not exclude one another but are complementary.

These two people are not your friends (yet!), but your mentors! That is people who can help you make the changes you need for your mentality to be a good one. It won’t happen overnight, but, in accordance with your own rhythm, you will see the results. Change takes time, but it’s worth it!

So, when the need arise, do not hesitate to call the psychotherapist of the spiritual father in accordance with your situation, or (why not?) both of them. The only condition: no exaggeration! (Especially because psychotherapy can be very expensive!)

References

[1] Or, at least, it should be, because it is assumed that the “donation” made by the believers to the priest is a voluntary one. The good news is that, in many cases, that’s how it happens!

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