Life-long Learning is the Key to Excellence

“You’re never going to be worse off for having endeavored to learn,” said Dr. Kathleen Dudemaine, director of the M.S. in Psychology program and adjunct faculty member at Divine Mercy University. This is a belief she clings to, which is exemplified in her self-proclaimed “devotion to education.” She has taught at the university level for over 35 years and still finds joy in designing courses for students.  In a recent interview, she shared what inspired her to study psychology, how Catholic-Christian teachings have changed the field and the lasting impact she wants to make on students. Q: How long have you been a faculty member at Divine Mercy University and how did you get involved? Dr. Dudemaine: In 2014, I was invited to participate in the early development of the Master of Science in Psychology program. My research is in the area of course development and I was really thrilled to participate. Before this, I have never had the opportunity to combine the Catholic-Christian understanding of the human person with psychology -- except in my head.  [caption id="attachment_802" align="alignright" width="300"] Dr. Dudemaine in her graduation regalia from Boston University.[/caption] Q: What influenced you to go into the academic world of psychology? Dr. Dudemaine: I started life as an English major but I wanted to promote human flourishing to whatever extent I could. I initially had been attracted to clinical psychology and I was also attracted to school psychology. In fact, in graduate school, I completed all the requirements for a master’s in school psychology.  Q: Which professional accomplishment are you most proud of? Dr. Dudemaine: My work is behind the scenes through curriculum and program development for the Master’s in Psychology degree. The things I am most proud of are the fact the program and courses that I have written are still up and running and successful –both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Hopefully, they will continue long after I’m gone.  Q: What has been your most fond moment in the field?  Dr. Dudemaine: In the past year, I received an email from a student who saw my name and wondered if I was the same person who had taught them 30 years ago and as it turned out it was from when I taught at Rhode Island College. This person said that he had been in my course and he was going to leave college and I had convinced him to remain in the course. He wanted to say thank you to me. When you have touched somebody’s life, even though you had no idea at the time that you were doing it, it could have profound effects.  Q: What’s your favorite course concept to teach? Dr. Dudemaine: I find that students would prefer to interact with their phone so I make them interact with each other and that is something that the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model (CCMMP) of the Person* would predict that they would like, especially since we are interpersonally related. Even if students might be terrified of reaching out, it’s something they need, want and like. I don’t believe that a student learns in a vacuum. Students are required to think about the topic, submit an initial post, and respond to at least two of their classmates. This practice is based on the CCMMP and it’s in every single course. *The Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person is a basic training approach for integrating a Catholic understanding of the human person, psychology, and mental health practice. This Meta-Model is the fruit of a longstanding and concerted effort of the university’s faculty, with input from its student body and outside collaborators as well. Q: What would you recommend to new students before starting the online Master’s in Psychology program? Dr. Dudemaine: I recommend students to stay committed. It might not be perfect, your best work or exactly what you wanted, but while I was in graduate school the best advice I was given was that a good dissertation is a finished dissertation.  Q: How is the curriculum and experience at Divine Mercy University different from other higher education institutions? Dr. Dudemaine: I think that our identity as a Catholic university is really important. All of our programs are tied, inextricably, to the CCMMP. Our university is very active in promoting and participating in the culture of life, whether it’s in the workplace, the family or among people with clinical issues. We are always trying to promote flourishing and the culture of life. Because we include God in everything that we do, it’s not just about the humans, ever. Let’s say you have some problems and you go to someone trained in our program, they will think about what God would want to see shift in the situation.  Q: What is your favorite work of literature to teach to new students? Dr. Dudemaine: My favorite all time book is “Fear and Trembling” by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. It covers Abraham and how he walked and talked with God, and how he was willing to offer up his son to God. It’s so full of insight and I share it with students all the time. Watch Dr. Dudemaine’s webinar on "How to Become a Transformational Leader Who Can Effectively Recognize Problems, Manage Teams, and Intervene During Crises." Sign up to learn more about the online Master’s in Psychology degree.

Teacher Fulfills Craving for Catholic Psychology

Oftentimes in life, people search endlessly for their purpose and how to excel in their career. These searches can be done through online research, by asking friends and family for guidance, or it can occur during unexpected moments of discovery. For Carol Cole, a Spring 2019 graduate of Divine Mercy University, a radio announcement exposed her to the online Master’s in Psychology degree that would change her life. In a brief phone interview, Carol shared what compelled her to further her education, which not only helped her gain a deeper affection for humanity, but also strengthened her teaching abilities to spread knowledge to others. How did you gain interest in the online Master’s in Psychology program?  I have a college degree from the University of Michigan in psychology, but I went into healthcare to become a respiratory therapist. Afterward, I taught a couple of general psychology classes for instructors who went on to sabbatical but I needed more knowledge.  Everything at Divine Mercy University (DMU) is structured in a way that you feel its teachings are very integrated with the faith. That was something I loved about the program, especially in terms of the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model. I feel so much more prepared to teach psychology. Even though all the classes were based in Christianity and Catholicism, I feel that the tool that DMU gave me was the ability to take what I learned in the classroom to become a better teacher. Since graduating in May, I now plan to teach developmental psychology to nursing, physical therapy and respiratory therapy students at Ohlone Community College in Northern California. I feel capable of doing a much better job and being able to apply our principles of the faith to weave them into the psychology curriculum that I will teach.  What was the biggest lesson you learned while studying at Divine Mercy University?  I learned how important my faith is to me and how the study of psychology, interwoven with faith, makes your experience as a Catholic so much more meaningful. I feel like I have a deeper caring for the human person since studying at DMU. I think the material and interaction with other students, through online postings, were beneficial. When you aren’t face to face [in a classroom setting], you are putting out thoughts that are your deepest thoughts because you feel like people won’t critique you automatically. I feel like that kind of communication was so valuable. It was so beautiful and then to meet everyone at the end was fabulous as well.  What was the topic of your capstone?  My capstone was on “Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage.” I really feel that some Catholic married couples don’t necessarily grow together in their faith all that well. I put together a program that can be presented to a local parish that includes seminars to help couples grow in spiritual intimacy.  What was the best resource at DMU that helped you succeed?  I think it was the caring and concerned attitude of the instructors; you could tell it was coming from deep personal beliefs in Christ Jesus. You could tell that they really want you to focus on your faith in the psychology classes and that doesn't exist when you attend a secular university. I felt like God was walking alongside them from the way that they would respond. I have a good basis because I can compare what I felt from the other programs and classes I’ve taken and how they relate to the instructors at Divine Mercy University.  Every day since graduation, I think about how I relate to people and how I’m excited to create lesson plans that incorporate the principles I learned into the classes that I teach. This degree has changed me as a person. I always thought it was a divine thought because I had never heard about this program until I heard it on the radio. I had a craving in my heart to study psychology from a Catholic vantage point, but I really didn’t know where to look. I really think there are a lot of people who can benefit from it as I have. It has been an amazing part of my life. My parents even said that they’ve never been to a more beautiful graduation. Sign up today to learn more about the online Master’s in Psychology degree.

Teaching Beyond One Specialization

It’s not an exaggeration for Dr. Craig Steven Titus to claim that it’s a small world or that God is really present with people in their everyday lives. While pursuing his Doctorate of Sacred Theology at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), he encountered Dr. Gladys Sweeney, former dean of Divine Mercy University’s (DMU) Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS). She introduced him to the University and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. At DMU, Dr. Titus serves as professor and director for the Department of Integrative Studies. He has also written a book titled Resilience and the Virtue of Fortitude: Aquinas in Dialogue with the Psychosocial Sciences (CUA Press, 2006), edited 10 books, and published numerous articles. His commitment to research and teaching goes beyond one specialization; his expertise consists of an interdisciplinary understanding of theology, philosophy, and mental health practice. During a meeting with Dr. Titus, you will quickly learn that he’s prompt, action-oriented, and detailed, yet he’s still able to laugh. Interestingly enough, after nearly 16 years at DMU, he still considers his students as a prized asset and finds his multi-disciplinary work with colleagues to be “fascinating.” Here’s what he had to say about his work at Divine Mercy University. Q: How long have you been a faculty member at Divine Mercy University and how did you get involved? Dr. Titus: I’ve been involved in different ways since 2002, when I was first hired as assistant professor to teach the integration courses. It was the year prior to that that I came to know the university because of its first dean. Former IPS dean Gladys Sweeney came through Switzerland, in route to Rome for a conference, with some students. She had invited Fr. Servais Pinckaers to speak to the students on the theme of happiness. However, since he fell ill, he asked me to speak in his stead. At that time, I was finishing up my doctoral dissertation at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). After giving the lecture, Dean Sweeney suggested that I present my candidacy for the position at IPS that was free because Fr. Benedict Ashley was retiring. Fr. Ashley was the theologian-philosopher who first designed and taught the philosophy and theology courses that prepared for the integration of Catholic thought and the psychological sciences. My experience in dialogue between theology, philosophy, and psychosocial research on resilience and the virtue of fortitude prepared me for work at Divine Mercy University. Q: Which courses do you teach and how do they add value to the university’s overall mission? Dr. Titus: I teach classes on: philosophical and theological anthropology; practical reason and moral character; and marriage and family. The courses are formative of the clinicians’ Christian identity and understanding of the person. They engage the student’s mind and heart in wisdom from theological, philosophical, and mental health sources. These courses train the students to see the whole person, family, and society, to enrich their vocation to heal. Of course they need further integration training in the University’s clinical classes to become competent in mental health practice as a whole. The integration thread throughout all the courses promotes an understanding of the person in terms of the origins, development, and flourishing of the person—in everyday and ultimate perspectives, which include issues of human nature, relationality, and God. The students come to the university because of its commitment to the Catholic-Christian understanding of the person, family, and society. Students appreciate being taught to see more of the person, including the person’s callings to commitments and truth, to interpersonal relationships, and to a future that gives meaning to the present.   Image Caption: Dr. Craig Steven Titus, director of the Newman Lecture Series, speaks with the late Dr. Michael Novak before the 2015 lecture begins. Dr. Novak was a Roman Catholic social philosopher and a professor at Catholic University of America . The Newman Lectures feature speakers who are widely recognized for their contributions to the fields of psychology, moral and political philosophy, theology, and law. This lecture series is held under the sponsorship of Divine Mercy University and seeks to promote an international conversation among various disciplines that treat the human person. Q: Are there any particular resources used in your courses that you feel are unique from other counseling or psychology programs? Dr. Titus: One of the major differences between courses at DMU and those at a secular counseling and psychology program are the sources that underlie one’s vision of the person. A Catholic-Christian vision of the person is rooted in the sources of reason and faith that protect the psychological sciences from reductionism, that is, seeing too little of the person, family, and society. This vision of faith and theological reflection is rooted in the experience of the Word of God found in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture (the Bible)—teaching that is passed down through the succession of the apostles. This Catholic-Christian perspective is found in: the patristic reflections of the early Church writers (such as St. Augustine); the Magisterium (such as St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis), including the Councils (e.g the Second Vatican Council). It draws upon the writings of men and women, who throughout the Church and the ages have carried the message of Christ forward. Other sources of wisdom are Christian and non-Christian philosophy from Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, and so on. And of course, there are the sources wisdom from current psychological sciences, evidence-based techniques, and best practices in the mental health field. In drawing from the psychological, philosophical, and theological wisdom traditions, we are convinced that, since truth is one, there is something very important to be learned by the psychological sciences and the practice of counseling. These new sciences offer further understandings of how people can experience suffering, anxiety, and depression, and how they can find ways to come out of those difficulties using the means that are necessary and helpful – including psychotherapy, group therapy, psychopharmacology, and everyday contact with people, which also can be therapeutic. Q: What has been the most rewarding part of teaching at Divine Mercy University? Dr. Titus: Perhaps it’s the classic response, but the most rewarding part of teaching at DMU is the contact with the students. Together with the students, the instructors engage wisdom, understanding, and knowledge vital for mental health professionals. I support very strongly the unity of the human person and the importance of their experience. Even in our diversity of cultural experience, there is wisdom, there is truth. When one seeks to teach and share experience, while recognizing the dignity of each person and God’s presence in it all, it’s really an experience of learning as well as teaching. Our students are highly motivated and committed to the program. Their active participation allows me also to have feedback from them about their experiences, the reality of being a community, and their search for the truth of the person, family, and relationships. The classroom becomes a type of community of inquiry seeking together to understand more about experiences of difficulty and failure as well as of life, love, and flourishing. Q: Who has inspired you throughout your career? Dr. Titus: I have two primary mentors in my life: - Fr. Servais-Théodore Pinckaers: it’s because of him that I went to Europe to study. He was a leader in the renewal in the Catholic Church that sees morals as being rooted in the virtue of Charity-love—God’s love, a friendship love—and in the movement of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Pinckaers’ approach to moral action and spiritual life is both normative and virtue-based. He affirms the importance of acts, agents, purposes, vocations, and being open to transcendence (that is, God, including the gifts of the Holy Spirit). - And the other primary mentor is Fr. Benedict Ashley: it’s because of him that I was hired at DMU. He set up the integration program at DMU. His study of Catholic anthropology, morals, and bioethics prepared him for dialogue with the psychological sciences. In parallel, my study of resilience (psychological sciences) and the virtue of fortitude (based on the thought of Thomas Aquinas) prepared me for dialogue with the psychological sciences, drawing on the model used by Fr. Ashley. Image Caption: Book cover for Servais Pinckaers' piece on "Renewing Thomistic Moral Theology, published by Catholic University of America and edited by Dr. John Berkman and Dr. Craig Steven Titus. Q: Are you involved in any research teams or professional associations or organizations that have helped you stay current in the field? Dr. Titus: I belong to seven professional associations – including The Society of Christian Ethics and American Catholic Philosophical Association, and the Catholic Psychotherapy Association (as an academic member). I think that the best way to stay current in the fields that I am concerned with is through engagement in research and dialogue. The co-editing of and the contributions to the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model*Volume has involved extensive scholarship – the bibliography is 60 pages long. If I had taught philosophy or theology at a different university, I would have been centered within one discipline or one specialization. But, by the nature of Divine Mercy University we take a multidisciplinary approach – where philosophy and theology are required to dialogue with psychological sciences. This interdisciplinary commitment complements specialized research and prepares for integrated clinical work. To be engaged as a philosopher and theologian with psychologists, I have had to be attentive to the meanings of terms, the methods of research, and the way that truths about the person and relationships are communicated.  For example, understanding human experiences of attachment, caring, and charity-love, can be integrated by a Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the person, which includes psychological findings (e.g., through attachment theory on secure attachments), philosophical reflections (e.g., on virtues such as benevolence and friendship), and theological insights (e.g., on vocations and God’s love for every person). Such an interdisciplinary approach enriches our understanding of the person (e.g., because of the inclusion of vocations and virtues), thus benefiting the mental health field, in general, but also the client, in particular. There is great benefit when the three sources of wisdom work together for each person. *The Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person – presented by university faculty and other collaborators – is a forthcoming volume of research that elaborates a basic training approach for integrating a Catholic-Christian understanding of the human person, psychology and mental health practice. Download a copy of the foundational document “Psychological, Theological, and Philosophical Premises for a Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person.”

Big Future for Catholic-Christian Psychology

Could you imagine the world without Christian psychology or counseling? A world where a secular approach to mental health would ignore the spiritual importance of their clients? Or a world that would be uncomfortable about the mere presence of a crucifix hanging on a counselor’s wall? Before the integration of faith and psychology was largely favored by social scientists in the 1960s and ‘70s, Dr. Paul C. Vitz, a then-atheist, was working as a cognitive/experimental psychologist at New York University. It wouldn’t be until after reading literature by two British writers/lay theologians that he would explore the validity of fusing Christian principles with psychology. [caption id="attachment_661" align="alignleft" width="159"] Dr. Vitz during his early years in the field.[/caption] Nearly 45 years later, Dr. Vitz serves as a senior scholar for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences at Divine Mercy University, where his teachings and research focus on the integration of Christian theology and Catholic anthropology with psychology. His conversion to Catholicism in 1979 changed the trajectory of his career -- consisting of seven book publications, a shared stage with the late psychologist Albert Ellis and innumerable lectures filled with hearty laughter, unforgettable charm and the ability to recall historic psychology-related events at the drop of a dime. In an attempt to document his more recent ventures, he was interviewed in the comfort of his office at Divine Mercy University, located in northern Virginia. Here’s what he had to say: [caption id="attachment_662" align="alignright" width="298"] Dr. Paul Vitz, Sr. Mary Patrice Ahearn, R.S.M., M.S., and Dr. Gladys Sweeney celebrate Sr.'s successful defense of her dissertation "To Attach or Detach."[/caption] Q: How long have you been a faculty member at Divine Mercy University and how did you get involved? Dr. Vitz: “I’ve been here since the very beginning in 1999. I met Gladys Sweeney [former dean] and Bill Nordling [former dean and current professor] during a visit to Washington, D.C., to teach psychology at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, located on the Catholic University of America campus. We all wanted to give continuing education (CE) seminars to provide a Catholic-Christian perspective on psychology. This led us to establishing the Catholic Institute for the Psychological Sciences (CIPS) program*, which consisted of seminars and lectures that provided CE credit.” *CIPS is now known as Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) at Divine Mercy University, which offers two accredited graduate degree programs: a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology and an Master’s in Psychology (online). Q: What has been your most impactful contributions to the field of psychology? Dr. Vitz: “I’ve written a number of books that have had some impact on the field. The first one I wrote was “Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship,” published by Eerdmans in 1977. That was the first kind of Christian critique of humanistic psychology. It made the most impact because, immediately, people outside of New York University (NYU) knew about my work. So all of a sudden, I ran into a lot of Christian intellectuals and academics (mostly Evangelicals and a few Catholic priests) who got in touch with me. The priests understood what I was doing, but they were more focused on theology and spirituality than psychology. [caption id="attachment_663" align="alignnone" width="961"] Book covers of Dr. Vitz’s three three most impactful books on psychology.[/caption] “For psychology, my next impact was a book ‘Sigmund Freud’s Christian Unconscious.’ It put Freud in a very different perspective than that described by his secular biographers. It just got translated into Italian and published. My most recent impact is from ‘Faith of the Fatherless: The psychology of Atheism,’ revised edition published in 2013. There have been a string of articles also, on various other psychological topics.” Q: Who were the most influential “thinkers” of your life and why? [caption id="attachment_668" align="alignright" width="300"] Dr. Paul Vitz speaking with Archbishop William E. Lori (of Baltimore).[/caption] Dr. Vitz: “The most influential persons in my life were those who affected by conversion from atheism to Christianity -- C.S. Lewis (Protestant) and G.K. Chesterton (Catholic). They were both very intelligent and knowledgeable and very able writers, but particularly C.S. Lewis made it clear to me that being intelligent, educated and Christian were completely compatible. In fact I saw that Christianity was far more meaningful and powerful than any political philosophy I had ever come across.” Q: Have you faced any obstacles in your career or research? How did you overcome them? Dr. Vitz: “I had just become a tenured psychology professor at NYU and was working as a cognitive experimental psychologist. And then I became a Christian psychologist, which resulted in me stopping cognitive experiments and research for 45 years, until recently. [At this point in the interview, Dr. Vitz gently tossed a document on the desk. The title on the cover reads “A hierarchical model of binary pattern learning,” published in the Journal of Learning and Motivation (February 2019)]  “This [cognitive psychology] was the sort of research I was doing 45 years ago.” “I had obstacles at NYU. I had no colleagues in my department or in the university because there were no other supportive Christian professors. So it was a lonely, isolating environment, which was difficult. But that’s why contact from Evangelicals at other universities was so important to me. Of course the department didn’t like what I was doing so my raises dropped off. But I was hired as a cognitive/experimental psychologist and so I no longer met the Psychology Department needs, except for what I could contribute with teaching and administration. Anyway, God provided outside financial help which made up for low raises.” Q: Are you a member of any associations or organizations that help enrich your knowledge? Dr. Vitz: I’m a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. [caption id="attachment_666" align="alignright" width="300"] Dr. Paul Vitz talking with a student while seated with his wife Evelyn (right) at the opening ceremony for Divine Mercy University.[/caption] Q: What has been the most rewarding part of teaching for you? Dr. Vitz: The most rewarding part is to teach intelligent, young Christians and Catholics the way in which psychology, and all of its scientific validity, can, in fact, be combined with the faith; and to see them understand it and then to develop it in new ways. It has also been exciting to be in contact with Christian psychologists, now, all over the world. Q: What do you predict will change in the field of psychology? Dr. Vitz: “A couple of things: 1) The hostility between most psychology and religion will decrease. 2) Religious integration with psychology will increase because there will be more evidence that religion can be a major help to people struggling with mental health problems. 3) And I believe this will lead to the development of more professional organizations with a pro-religious commitment, and these new organizations are likely to gain appropriate social and political influence. “Overall, I think there’s a big future for Christian psychologists and psychotherapists because the Catholic population has been the most neglected. In the United States, there are some disciplines that have too many professionals, in relation to the demand, but there are not too many Christian or Catholic psychologists.” Watch Dr. Vitz’s video presentation “Uniting Faith & Psychology” to learn the significance of the approach on psychology by the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. You can read Dr. Vitz’s full biography on Wikipedia or our university’s website. Sign up to learn more about the psychology programs offered at Divine Mercy University.

Staggering Suicide Statistics

Suicide is not a topic we all like to talk about. But recent incidents have brought more attention to this unfortunate event that's often linked to severe depression. At Divine Mercy University, we strive to educate our students and the general public of ways to prevent suicide and provide adequate mental health services. Recently, we hosted an on-campus lecture entitled "How to Understand Suicide and its Aftermath: From a Scientific & Faith Perspective," presented by Melinda Moore, Ph.D., a Licensed Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University. Her interest in Posttraumatic Growth emerged from her own experience with suicide and the changes that experience created within her allowing for her current career path and personal interests and relationships. Watch the recording of the suicide lecture to learn how a faith-based approach to mental disorders can help save lives. We also wanted to share suicide prevention resources with you, in the case that you or someone you know may need help:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
In our psychology and counseling programs, we teach students how to act effectively in situations where de-escalation, negotiation, and crisis intervention are needed, such as suicide attempts. The courses also train students on the best ways to diagnose and treat common psychological problems to prevent severe disorders from developing. Sign up to learn more.
About DMU
Divine Mercy University (DMU) is a Catholic graduate university of psychology and counseling programs. It was founded in 1999 as the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. The university offers a Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology, Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling, Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology, and Certificate Programs.