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Counseling with a Catholic identity

There comes a time in many people’s lives when finding extra support through counseling can help them through a difficult time. Those who seek counseling and want to incorporate their Catholic faith have somewhere to turn — Catholic Charities Family Services. 

While it is up to the individual client, Family Services can incorporate faith into the counseling session. 

“One of the biggest things that makes us different from secular agencies is that we have the freedom to bring our Catholic faith into the service if that’s what our client desires,” said Anne Devine, Family Services program director. “We specifically have the integration training, training clinicians on the integration of psychology, philosophy, and theology.” 

Art Bennett, president and CEO of diocesan Catholic Charities, said counselors try to give advice congruent to Catholic teaching. “We believe the church teaching is the best for helping a human flourish,” he said. “Relationships are vital.” 

Clients don’t need to be Catholic to find support. The program offers services to people of all faiths. 

“We see this role as a ministry,” said Devine. “Some clients have a desire for faith to be involved in therapy, and if they don’t want it, we have to respect that. We can be a means of the Lord’s compassion and mercy.”

Counselors work with their clients to incorporate faith into their sessions. “Some clients have wanted to start and end sessions in prayer,” said Devine. “Others want to know that if they talk about their faith it will be respected and understood.” 

The sacraments or Scripture might come up in conversation.  “At times we might talk about the sacraments and the need for that healing that takes place from the Lord,” said Devine. “We have the freedom to present Scriptures that go along with their presenting issues. They meditate on certain Scriptures including on gratitude that can be informative and transformational.”

There is a stigma about mental health that exists, and some Catholics are hesitant to reach out for help, said Devine. “Some clients have said they were told to pray through it and the Lord will heal them,” she said.

Some may turn to their priests when they have an issue, and Devine said priests are becoming much more aware of mental health. 

“We have amazing priests who are good at referring clients,” she said. “It’s beautiful because they are understanding their role as spiritual leaders and not as mental health providers.” 

During this abuse crisis in the church, Family Services hasn’t seen a change in referrals or in clients seeking out support. “We’ve been able to collaborate with the diocesan Victim Assistance ministry,” said Devine. “We’re the first place they’re encouraged to seek mental health help, and we work our best to put them in as quickly as possible.”

The work is important for the counselors. “As clinicians, it’s been a way for us to help with the healing process in a wounded part of our church,” said Devine.

Family Services is moving its main offices from Arlington to Fairfax. “In line with the field hospital notion, we are putting offices out in the field closer to the parishes,” said Bennett. “We are in 17 parishes.”  

Devine said she moved half of her team to Fairfax in October 2017. They have more space and more clinicians, which Devine said is helping clear their waiting list. They also are closer to the Neumann Center at George Mason University and are a mile from St. Leo the Great Church. “Being close to another parish is good for referrals,” said Devine. 

But people in Arlington are not left out. There are services out of St. Charles Borromeo Church and St. Agnes Church, as well as a satellite office at 80 N. Glebe Rd.

“The hope is we want to be able to serve poor across the Diocese of Arlington. People think we are only in Arlington,” Devine said. “Because the diocese is spread out, we want to be within 65 miles from every parish in the diocese.”

Find out more


Go ccda.net or contact your parish. Call 703/425-0109 for the North region or 540/371-1124 for the South region. The Fairfax office is located at 3251 Old Lee Hwy. #402, Fairfax

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019