Catholic Psychotherapy

Jayson M. Brunelle, M.Ed., CAGS; Catholic Psychotherapist; Founder of Marian Apostolate of the Laity

Jayson M. Brunelle, M.Ed., CAGS; Catholic Psychotherapist; Founder of Marian Apostolate of the Laity

Peace in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph!  Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Jayson M. Brunelle, M.Ed., CAGS.  In addition to periodically tending to this Marian blog, I attempt to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ as a practitioner of Pastoral Psychotherapy.   According to the Brandywine Pastoral Institute,  “Pastoral Psychotherapy is a form of therapy in which the therapist is conversant with and expert in both worlds, spirituality [in my case, a specifically Catholic Christian Theology and morality] and psychotherapy, and utilizes both disciplines in the practice of the art of healing.”

What is more, Pastoral Psychotherapy is unique in the following manner:

“In pastoral psychotherapy, the therapist views the client as a colleague on the therapeutic journey. While there are clear differences in roles and responsibilities, there are ways in which these two are fellow pilgrims, together on a journey of self-confrontation and healing. It can be a journey of mutual respect with a covenant that the client is in charge of one’s life and the therapist is in charge of the therapeutic process. They will work together only as long as and to the depth that the client wishes.

“The client in pastoral psychotherapy is a colleague because both therapist and client are wounded. Neither has escaped woundedness, but the therapist has already taken responsibility for his or her wounds by working in therapy on them and thus has become a wounded healer. Respect for the wounds of the client is essential, yet the pastoral therapist cannot give them too much power. Wounds can be healed and one’s life must go on without being defined by the past. Both are called to grow as the wounds of the client are uncovered, felt, and as the healing happens” (Brandywine Pastoral Institute, http://www.brandywinepastoral.org/article_psychotherapy.html).

Thus, it is in the above articulated spirit that I provide my services to individuals seeking relief from a host of psycho-spiritual maladies, including – but not limited to – major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, scrupulosity, schizophrenia, substance-abuse disorders, and a host of additional psychological and spiritual maladies.

My theoretical approach is based on a “Christocentric” anthropology. This is to say that my belief in  Christ Jesus, as the fullness of the Divine Revelation of God the Father to humanity, must, of necessity, be incorporated into any psychotherapeutic endeavor, in order to facilitate any authentic growth, change, or healing that is to take place in the human person.  For,  every human person is not only created in God’s image and likeness, but additionally is called to an eternal participation in the divine Family Life of God Himself.  Indeed, the question may rightly be posed, “How can the human person actualize his full potential if he does not know the truth about Christ, Who has revealed Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life?”  Would this not be comparable to an individual setting out on a road trip 1. not knowing how the motor vehicle operates; 2.not having a map to serve as a guide; 3. not knowing what the ultimate destination is?!  Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it is grafted to the vine, neither can a human person grow in wholeness and holiness unless he/she is grafted to Christ, the Mystical Vine. Thus, it is my firmly held belief and conviction that it is only in God’s Divine Will that we shall find our true and lasting peace. Here, I like to quote the great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, who so eloquently stated, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord; and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

It is also for the above stated reasons that I pattern my therapeutic work on the “Serenity Prayer,” which reads, “God, grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I cannot change; the Courage to Change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference.” This first stanza of this prayer-poem encapsulates, in my mind, the fundamental goals of therapy, which are (1) learning to accept life on life’s terms; (2) making a very clear delineation between those aspects of our lives which can, should and must change – usually our attitude toward people (ourselves included), places, things and ideas – and those other aspects of our lives over which we have little to no control, which we must pray for the grace to accept as being manifestations of God’s permissive will.

While I do not consider myself a practitioner of Freudian Psychodynamic Theory, there are certain tenets of Freudian thought to which I ascribe, such as a belief in the existence of a pre-conscious and an unconscious mind; the use of ego-defense mechanisms (such as repression, denial, identification, rationalization, projection, sublimation, reaction-formation, et cetera) in an ongoing effort to maintain ego-syntonia, or intrapsychic homeostasis. I disagree, however, with the radical determinism espoused and promulgated by Psychoanalysis, which would have us believe that all human behavior is entirely determined and fixed by so many unconscious determinants. I also disagree with the notion that it is primarily the “pleasure principle” which lies at the heart of all human behavior, thought and motivation.

Finally, I do ascribe to certain other evidence-based psychotherapeutic techniques, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, sometimes abbreviated as simply CBT. CBT is the term that has been given to the work of a number of groundbreaking practitioners and theorists, including Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck and David Michenbaum, collectively. The underlying idea at the heart of CBT is that it is not the activating event that leads one to his or her emotional / behavioral response, as so many believe; rather, it is one’s belief about the activating event that leads one to feel and behave as he or she does. Thus, according to this faulty thinking framework, it becomes essential to identify what Aaron Beck has identified as the Cognitive Distortions that lead us to jump to all sorts of conclusions. Such cognitive distortions include (1) All or Nothing / Black or White thinking: An example of this is the young woman who must maintain a perfect GPA at all costs. When she gets a B+ on her final, she spirals out of control, stating to herself, “I’ll never be any good at anything. I can forget about that perfect GPA of 4.0, and I can also forget about any possibility of a future. I’m ruined!!!” We readily see how ridiculous this is, yet many of us succumb to this very type of All or Nothing thinking. Another example would be a young man playing a game of baseball. After having lost this particular baseball game, he makes the self-statement, “I’m on a losing team because that’s where I belong – with all the losers. I’m a loser and I’ll always be a loser.” This is a clear example of Labeling. We can ask, is it true that the team has never won a single game? The answer is very likely a resounding “No.” Moreover, instead of stating, “Well, we lost this game, but there will be many more,” this player decides to label himself and his entire team as losers. These are all examples of faulty thinking, or cognitive distortions that can be corrected through a process called Cognitive Restructuring.

By the end of our first or second session, I will tell you how I see your case at this point and how I think we should proceed. I view therapy as a partnership between us. You define the problem areas to be worked on; I use some special knowledge to help you make the changes you want to make. Psychotherapy is not like visiting a medical doctor. It requires your very active involvement. It requires your best efforts to change thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For example, I want you to tell me about important experiences, what they mean to you, and what strong feelings are involved. This is one of the ways you are an active partner in therapy.

I expect us to plan our work together. In our treatment plan we will list the areas to work on, our goals, the methods we will use, the time and money commitments we will make, and some other things. I expect us to agree on a plan that we will both work hard to follow. From time to time, we will look together at our progress and goals. If we think we need to, we can then change our treatment plan, its goals, or its methods.

I would consider it an honor to walk with you on your God-given life-journey, and to assist you in making the best possible decisions for yourself.  I am available for “in vivo” (i.e., person to person) therapy, telephone and video conference therapy.  I can be reached at jaymbru@gmail.com, or I may be reached through my professional website at:

WWW.PASTORALCOUNSELING.CLINIC

I look forward to hearing from you.

God Bless You!!!