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Divine Mercy University grounded in faith

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Due to an increased demand for Catholic psychological training, the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington has created the School of Counseling. With two distinct programs, the graduate school now will be elevated to the status of a university - titled Divine Mercy University.

"IPS has been continually challenged by its mission to be outward focused in response to healing a wounded culture," said Father Charles Sikorsky, president of Divine Mercy University, in a press release. "The new university is a direct response to the great human and spiritual need for mental health and helping professionals."

The new School of Counseling will offer an online master's program in counseling, taught by a new faculty and led by newly appointed Dean Harvey Payne. The Institute for the Psychological Sciences, headed by William J. Nordling, will continue to offer an online nonclinical master's degree in psychology, an onsite master's in clinical psychology and a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

At the practice level, counseling and psychology look fairly similar, according to IPS Director of Communications Jessie Tappel. However, they are separate fields that have different licensing requirements. Offering both programs gives students more options to help those suffering from mental illness, she said.

IPS currently has 70-80 students, said Tappel. They will begin to accept applications for the counseling program in late January with classes beginning in the fall of 2016. The university expects a high demand for the new program.

The name Divine Mercy University was chosen, "because our mission has always been to reach out to the world, to be beacons of hope for those suffering," said Tappel. Additionally, the institute has long been guided by the works and example of St. John Paul II, who established the feast of Divine Mercy Sunday. Training people to be effective instruments of God's mercy is at the heart of the school's vision, said Father Sikorsky.

In the field of psychology, discussing spirituality is not widely accepted, said Tappel, which makes schools like Divine Mercy University sought after by those wishing to minister to others while maintaining their own Catholic beliefs on the human person, marriage and the family. The institute seeks to combine philosophy, theology and science to minister to the whole person.

"The spiritual, the physical, the emotional, will, reason - all of these encompass the human person," said Tappel, who said understanding those many dimensions as well as the innate human dignity of each person is at the crux of the school's values. "(That knowledge) will change the way you treat your client, it will transform your interactions with them," said Tappel. The expansion of that mission with the School of Counseling makes it an exciting time, she said.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016