Online Therapist Shares DMU’s Influence

How has our integration helped you best serve your community/clients? 

The integration of psychology with philosophy and theology captures the whole person: not a person presenting a set of symptoms to fit a diagnosis, but rather someone who is a participant in all of human history — past, present, and looking forward to the future and eternity. When you perceive someone as part of a larger whole and have the perspective of eternity for them, you are not merely managing or mitigating symptoms, you are working as an instrument for God to heal them and lead them toward fullness of life. This is the flourishing IPS/DMU speaks to: moving patients away from dysfunction and toward peace, out of the darkness and into the light. 

What are your thoughts on the practicum experience? 

My practicum was at St. Luke’s Fenton House, in Maryland, working with patients (adults: male and female) who required 24-hour care but were not at a level of danger to themselves or others to warrant hospitalization. I have never found anything like St. Luke’s in any other state that I have lived/worked in since graduating; it was a truly unique and highly educational experience. I was able to witness severe symptoms across a range of diagnoses (schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD, antisocial personality disorder, borderline, and anorexia to name a few), spend focused individual time with patients, and work closely with the psychiatrists on staff to learn about different medications, side effects, and adverse interactions. It was a hugely beneficial experience for me and I am very grateful for the time I spent there.

Who was your favorite faculty member and why? 

Oh, that is such a hard question! Honestly, they were all really, truly amazing. I’ll tell you my top three:

1) Dr. Hamel: We have an affinity both being from the Sovereign State. I found his expertise invaluable, his manner both calm and uncompromising, and his teaching methods clear and thorough. My biggest takeaway from him was to always check biology before leaping to psychology. I cannot tell you how many patients over the years have come to me with depression, anxiety, mood swings, etc. and it turns out they have an untreated thyroid disorder, have recently changed some other medication in their life, and so on. Working with them on symptom management and helping them to work with their doctor(s) to get their physical health on track, rather than immediately “labeling” them and missing the underlying cause of their distress has made so much difference in my work with them. 

2) Drs. Vitz and Dr.Scrofani are tied for me. Dr. Scrofani’s Group Therapy stands out as one of the most intriguing classes I took while at IPS, but I have all of Vitz’s books. I cannot appreciate both of them enough. Since I never lead groups, I’ll briefly say something about Dr. Vitz. He gave a lecture on hatred and forgiveness that has not only been valuable in my work with moving patients away from woundedness, victimhood, anger, and hatred, and toward healing, ownership, compassion, and forgiveness; but it has also been something that I constantly refer back to for my own spiritual growth and wellbeing. He described forgiveness as “foregoing your justified right to vengeance” in favor of trusting in God to execute justice in perfect accord with mercy so that you can heal and move forward in your life. I found this to be incredibly powerful, and my patients have been empowered by it, too. 

3.) Dr. Robinson: May his soul rest in Eternal Peace. His classes were mind-boggling. They always felt like being immersed in more knowledge than I could possibly contain combined with storytime with grandpa. I wish all of his lectures had been recorded, that he had done a series reading and commentating on the Iliad and the Odyssey, and that all the stories he told us were written down. If they had been, I would have listened to his lectures and read the stories every year. He was a brilliant man, a kind and jovial professor, and I am grateful for his life.

What course/lesson did you find invaluable in the program?

All of them! Actually, though, if I just had to pick *one* it would be Fr. Bartunek’s class (which might have been called Integration of Psychology and Spirituality?). As a Catholic counselor, you really have to understand and be attune to the nuances between psychological/emotional symptoms and disorder and spiritual disorder and attack. I can imagine the kind of damage a counselor could do by treating a spiritual issue as a purely psychological issue, or alternatively by spiritualizing psychological distress. As a Catholic who specifically chose IPS for its integrated Catholic curriculum, this class stands out to me as supremely invaluable. Theology of the Body was important too, but I had already gone through that extensively in undergrad, so for me personally Fr. Bartunek’s class takes the cake!