Online Therapist Shares DMU’s Influence

Annalicia DiLollo, a Master of Science in Counseling Alumna, shares how her studies at DMU helps her bring peace and light to the life of her patients.

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!

Military Chaplain Shares Benefits of Psychology

This article was written and submitted by Fr. Longin Buhake, a graduate of the Master’s in Psychology program at Divine Mercy University.

My name is Father Longin Buhake, one of the 2020 DMU graduates’ students. I am a Catholic Priest Civilian Military Chaplain at Tyndall Air Force, Florida. I was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Mweka in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa. The following is my experience of what I have gained after graduating from Divine Mercy University and how I intend to put my degree to use in my current position.

People around the world face spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional problems that lead to psychological disorders. Substance abuse, life stress, biological and hereditary factors contribute a lot to these problems. The problems continue to rise with the changing environment of the world, thus calling for solutions. Psychology is an important skill for professionals who play a role in assisting people suffering from these issues. This profession requires school training and a certification after gaining the knowledge and skills required to handle the problems. Divine Mercy University taught me new skills and helped me improve the relationship between me and my clients and lead to problem-solving.

My Journey at DMU

Being a parish priest, I had always been attentive to people who face spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental challenges. I have helped many people, mostly in spiritual guidance. The need to become more helpful grew when my priestly ministry was extended to the military field. This inspired me to pursue a degree in psychology. It was not easy because I had to decide what school to go to and what would be the best orientation in psychology. As I was consulting, I ended up having a good conversation with a representative from Divine Mercy University who advised me to take the Master’s in Psychology (MSP) program since it aligned with my interests. At DMU, I was able to learn key skills that assist in providing excellent counseling services to people in distress. Some of these skills include communication, ethics, interpersonal skills, trustworthiness, problem solving, resilience, and confidentiality. Such skills were important in building strong relationships with clients.

As I was pursuing my degree, I also attended organized seminars and workshops where I interacted with professionals who offered more guidance and directions on the best ways to handle clients with psychological problems. Besides, I also identified several great professors in my school who provided me with frequent guidance on the best counseling practices and the best way to handle clients. Furthermore, I also took my time to practice my counseling of clients under my mentor's supervision in writing a project capstone. The paper helped me take the knowledge and the skills I learned and implement them in the real world.

The Skills I Developed

  • Communication skills

 One of the important tools I developed in my MSP is communication skills, which are essential in my day-to-day interactions with people suffering from mental, emotional, and physical illnesses. My MSP helped me develop excellent verbal communication skills that help me talk effectively with different clients. Counseling involves asking clients questions and conducting interviews. Such exercises require one to have excellent communication skills to help a counselor make clients feel relieved other than upsetting them. This has been fundamental to me in sharing and exchanging information with people who require psychological counseling.    

  • Interpersonal skills

Another important tool that I learned in the MSP program is interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills helped me work effectively with different clients, people, and colleagues. It is an important tool that guides me in developing strong relationships with clients. Besides, it is also fundamental to understand a clients' reactions and gather more information regarding the reasons they are triggered.

  • Listening with empathy

The first step to successful treatment is admitting that there is a problem (Kring et al., 2016). After listening empathetically to the person and explaining that I am here for emotional support. I will try to find the cause of their disorder. Some of these disorders are inherited and others are acquired.

  • Ethical competence and confidentiality

Ethical competence is another important tool that I learned in my MSP that has played a role in guiding me to help others. I learned the importance of observing ethics in counseling and psychology. I learned that it is important to always be trustworthy by the clients. Trustworthiness arises when one keeps the information of clients confidential. According to Md. & Saba, (2018), the trustworthiness of a counselor is contained in the fidelity ethical principle that places trust in a counselor. Being a priest, I have always promoted trustworthiness among people by remaining confidential in whatever information I discuss with them. Additionally, I also promote fidelity through listening and respecting the information provided by the clients. Above all, I am always attentive to the client's needs, as highlighted by Shantz (1981).

My Capstone: An Example of Applying What I Have Learned

My capstone project was to plan and implement a program using the knowledge and skills learned during the program. The project was a preparation for a week-end workshop on how to help members of the military who struggle with substance abuse and domestic violence.

Abusing a substance can lead to domestic violence; it is why addressing addiction is a normal part of treatment for domestic violence. The psychological literature review considers some peer-reviewed sources to find out decisions and ideas on why substance abuse and domestic violence occur in the military, how to prevent and avoid them. The source describes that mental and psychological problems, finances and the economy can increase the risk of violent behavior. On the other hand, religion and family environment, friendly relationships, and taking care of children prevent substance abuse and domestic violence in the military. The goal of this literature review is an attempt to provide suggestions and decisions to the existing problems and see how Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Virtue theory are capable of analyzing the roots of the problems and providing treatment and required approaches to them.

The main idea is to use all the mentioned sources (see references below) to indicate the reasons why substance abuse and domestic violence occur in the military, identify associated risk and protective factors, and research theories that explain how to prevent and avoid violent actions. I hypothesize that mental and psychological problems aggravated by alcohol consumption and lack of money lead to substance abuse and domestic violence in the military, whereas a positive environment, religion, and friendly support assist people in normalizing their lives. The Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person has been essential in developing an integrated understanding of the person created in God’s image. As a result, this has given me insight into the best solutions to provide clients to improve their mental health, as highlighted by Vitz et al. (2020).


Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2016). Abnormal psychology (13th ed.) Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Md., A., & Saba, F. (2018). Counselling Psychology: Concept, trend and medical setting. International Journal 0f Psychology And Counselling, 10(3), 22-28.

Shantz, H. (1981). Counselling and questions of morality: Confidentiality. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 4(3), 179-186.

Vitz, P., Nordling, W., & Titus, C. (2020). A Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person: Integration with Psychology and Mental Health Practice. Divine Mercy University.

Alumna Learns Trauma to Open New Center

Marion Bean Moreland, a 2019 Master's in Counseling graduate, is still taking the necessary steps to become a high value professional. Recently, she participated in a training offered by Divine Mercy University's (DMU) Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies. We caught up with her to learn about her work experience and skills gained during training.

Tell us a little about yourself and where you have been working since graduating DMU?

After graduation, I began working at a community mental health clinic where there was a variety of needs but the greatest was in the area of addiction. I was leading groups in a crisis unit where people were detoxing from various substances and providing individual counseling at two different locations. In April, I transitioned to private practice at Appalachian Life Enrichment Counseling Center (APLECC) where I am fortunate to be working with an incredible team and unique clients.

Despite this transition happening in the early stages of COVID-19, I have built a full-client load. This has been a life-giving transition and I feel like I am beginning to solidify my professional identity. I have continued my work with Green Cross Academy of Traumatology (GCAT) including availability for deployments and chairing our first conference to be held on DMU's campus from September 9-11, 2021.

Do you use EMDR often? What kinds of things is this technique helpful for?

While working at the community mental health center, I utilized Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for resource development either through calm places, containers for the feelings that are too much in the moment, and discovering characteristics of strength that lie within themselves. Many of my clients were in the early stages of sobriety and were not ready to begin processing trauma. Instead, I utilized some of the work Laura Parnell teaches in Rewiring the Addicted Brain which uses the bi-lateral stimulation of EMDR to connect the consequences of usage to the amygdala addiction response. Now that I am in private practice and my clientele is more varied, I am using EMDR more frequently, though doing so remotely has added a new level of complexity to the protocols.

How do you envision the impact of trauma training on service to the community?

I am amazed at the resilience of the people of West Virginia. This community suffers in so many ways, leading the nation in opioid addiction, grandparents raising their grandchildren, unemployment and other economic distresses but there are so many people wanting to change the patterns of the past. My trauma training enables me to help open the Appalachian Trauma and Resiliency Center. This center will work as a non-profit organization and an adjunct to APLECC in providing training, counseling, advocacy, and support in the areas of trauma, crisis intervention, and disaster mental health for frontline workers, first responders, military, survivors, and other mental health colleagues.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I remember at my first residency when Dr. Benjamin Keyes, Director for Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies, asked me to look forward to five years and imagine where I wanted to be professionally and then to look back at the steps I would need to take to get there. At that time, I had no idea what GCAT was, but I knew I wanted to work with first responders, focus on trauma, and that I needed to graduate. Starting grad school at 50 seemed a bit crazy, but here I am at 54; I'm seeing my imagination become a reality and experiencing so much more than I could have imagined. It's hard work and at times exhausting, but it is worth it!

Learn more about the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies.

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Reflection written by Fr. Robert Presutti In Biblical tradition, the heart is presented as the seat of what is the deepest, most meaningful, and most intimate in the person. Scripture gives us glimpses and insights into the unfathomable depth of love that resides in the heart of our God. In Christ, God-become-man, these glimpses and insights of divine love are given wondrous human expression. For this reason, Christians throughout the generations have honored the heart of Jesus, His Sacred Heart, as a fountainhead of inexhaustible Divine Love, the source of our salvation and well-being. As disciples of Christ, we seek to have a heart like the heart of Christ. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an apt reminder of all this, and that in the end, we are saved because of love. It is a feast day when we can remember and reflect on the role of spiritual direction. As disciples on a pilgrimage of faith, we need companions and guides. Spiritual directors seek to model the Heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leads and accompanies each of us along life's pilgrimage. Let us today recall and be thankful for all those who have modeled the Lord's restless love for us. Let us remember the Lord's care for each of us at all points of our journey, and the great benefit we can reap from having a trusted spiritual director to accompany and guide us along the way. Do you feel called to discern a vocation as a spiritual director? The Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Divine Mercy University prepares students with a transformational experience that will enable them to be spiritual directors with the heart and mind of Jesus Christ and in the tradition of the Church’s proven experience. Apply now:

How COVID-19 is impacting mental health

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it is likely that someone you know has been silently dealing with anxiety or has experienced a panic attack. However, do they feel comfortable enough to share this information with you? Do they feel that you are educated enough about mental health? If you didn’t answer “yes” to these questions, get the tools you need. Just like a life-or-death emergency that can be immediately saved through the touch of a life alert button, a mental ailment can be rescued through the listening ear and intellectual guidance of a psychology expert. Why wait until COVID-19 clears the air and you’re back into your regular, busy routine? Start your Master’s in Psychology this summer cohort (beginning on May 20th) to serve as a resource to your local community and the world at-large. You may be wondering if an entire master’s degree is essential for just a few people you may know that needs healing, but the data shows otherwise. According to Mental Health America, a U.S. community-based non-profit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, there was “a 19 percent increase in screening for clinical anxiety in the first weeks of February, and a 12 percent increase in the first two weeks of March.” Similarly, an article published on reports that Talkspace, a chat and video therapy service, has seen a 65% increase in customers since mid-February. Wondering how you can help the world right now during such uncertain times? Change can be accomplished through the power of your mind. Start your application today to gain a new set of tools for yourself and help others heal from their suffering. Visit the Master's in Psychology program page to learn more about the curriculum, application requirements and 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.