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I was one of the two psychologists who participated in the counseling program described above and thus embarked upon one of the most memorable experiences of my professional life.
I was raised to respect all religions but was affiliated with none. My knowledge of Catholicism was extremely limited until I was offered the position of Chief of Psychology at St. Francis General Hospital, a large, local hospital administered by Franciscan Sisters. It is, however, when I participated in the Joint Counseling Program offered by St. Francis Hospital and the Dioceses of Pittsburgh that I truly familiarized myself with Catholicism.
I remember with some amusement and a bit of embarrassment a comment which my first sister-patient made as she entered my office. She stared at me up and down and said, “This must be the first time you’ve done therapy with a nun.” I answered that indeed it was and wondered how did she know. She replied, “You look nervous.” I did, and I was.
Today, many years later, and after having worked psychotherapeutically with more than 180 sisters, I have developed, of course, some opinions about Catholicism. I am referring to attitudes and not beliefs. One does or does not share in religious beliefs; I do not share in them while deeply respecting them. I have, however, developed a tremendous admiration for an institution which, during Vatican II, had the courage to look at itself, reached for openness and light and allowed itself to be shaken to the core in the process. If I had to name two of the greatest and most influential post- World War II leaders, I would choose Pope John and Mikhail Gorbachov.
But it is for all my sister-patients that I reserve my most profound affection and respect. I felt privileged to witness their struggles, to resonate to their pain, sometimes despair, to admire their deep integrity when facing themselves and their conflicts, to see them grow, mature, reach some peace of mind and was honored to participate in the process.
Some ten years ago, I was afflicted with an illness which was believed to be fatal. Fortunately, I survived in fine fettle, but this near brush with death made me wonder about the charts accumulated during a career which span over four decades. I decided to shred all the charts which I was legally allowed to dispose of. In the process I read many of my sister-patients’ charts and it was a moving and poignant experience. I kept some of them and they form the basis of this book.
I tracked some of them down and they graciously allowed me to go ahead with my project. Unfortunately, I could not locate the majority of them. To prevent even the most remote possibility of identification, I changed names, ages, appearances and some details of their histories. What was left intact was the dynamics of their life, the nature of their conflicts and the power and honesty of their struggle. If any of them reads this book, they will recognize themselves. Nobody else could.
The dialogs were re-constituted from three sources. These sources were my copious notes, my memories and my knowledge of what I would say in similar circumstances. After all, I have worked with over three thousand patients in the past forty seven years.
From a professional point of view, my approach to psychotherapy as well as my approach to life has been deeply influenced by Carl Rogers. I believe in the dignity of people. I believe that people have the right and the strength to run their own lives, make their own decisions, that they can grow and mature if steeped into a milieu of acceptance and honesty. In my work, I try to provide that kind of environment. Within this framework, I may use many specialized techniques ranging from behavioral to psychodramatic and cognitive-behavioral. It is of great importance to me that my patients know what we are doing, why and how and agree with my approach.
Some of the techniques used were devised by me. Most were borrowed from know therapists whose works I have read or personal
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ISBN: 9781493196586
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