"Big Four" Highlights


Finding a Therapist

A Catholic may be ideal, but other therapists may work with you as well

By Gabriel Somarriba, Psy.D.

As a psychotherapist who practices from a Catholic perspective, I often am asked how to find a good Catholic therapist. I think what people are asking me is: “I want to find a therapist who doesn’t make me feel stupid for being religious.”

Given that Freud said, “Religion is an illusion and derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires,” we have him to thank for the continued perception of hostility between psychology and religion. Fortunately, psychology as a whole is not as anti-religion as it used to be, especially if you keep the following in mind:

Look for a Good Fit
Psychology is a very subjective experience, meaning that your relationship with your therapist is deeply personal. A good fit will make us feel comfortable enough with our therapist that we can get work done. Because anyone who has done genuine therapy knows that it’s work. Reflecting on and changing things in your life can be very painful work, but it’s well worth the effort. In the end, we’re thankful. To get there, however, the therapeutic relationship should be both comfortable and demanding.

Finding a Good Fit
When thinking of a good fit, we should consider the following characteristics in a therapist: man vs. woman, older vs. younger, cognitive behavioral vs. psychodynamic (or any other methodology), who’s closest to me geographically, who’s covered by my insurance? All of these factors will play a role in how we decide. Another thing to consider is that it’s okay to “fire” your therapist if you don’t feel comfortable, if you’re not making progress, or if you’ve made enough progress. Being aware of all these factors can prepare therapy clients to engage a therapist in the future.

Where to Start
First, I recommend going to the catholictherapists.com website to search for Catholic therapists by state. Second, Catholic Charities is another resource within your diocese; sometimes the Catholic Charities therapists are not listed in the catholictherapists.com website. Third, reach out to other Christian psychology clinics. From my experience in Texas, there are several Christian, non-Catholic therapists who work within a Catholic framework – they have enough common ground with Catholics to be effective in addressing faith-based perspectives and concerns.

If you are seeking the professional services of a therapist, you need not hold out for what you may think is the perfect religious fit. Psychology as a field has moved well beyond Freud’s theories and opinions. A person-centered or client-centered approach has emerged that dominates what actual therapy looks like today. Thus, even many secular therapists can work well with Catholics, because they will value what their Catholic clients value.

If your faith is important to you and provides a source of strength in your life, a good therapist – Catholic, other Christian, or secular – shouldn’t be hostile to or easily dismissive of something that’s a bedrock of your identity, and should be more than happy to work with you.

Gabriel Somarriba, Psy.D., is a psychotherapist living in northeast Ohio with his wife and their two children.