A Logotherapeutic Approach to Pastoral Counseling Education for Catholic Seminarians
Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD is one of the most widely known and highly respected professors of psychiatry and neurology of the twentieth century. In this article, we adapt and apply some of his profound insights for Catholic pastoral counseling education. Pastoral counseling is a very important aspect of the general pastoral formation of Catholic seminarians. The goal of any pastoral counseling course should be twofold. First, it should give seminarians a basic knowledge of mental illnesses to understand their parishioners better. Second, it should offer them concrete techniques to be used in the context of pastoral counseling. Seminary classes in pastoral psychology and counseling sometimes lack a consistent, coherent theoretical foundation, or may attempt to teach techniques inappropriate for use by future parish priests. This paper presents a logotherapeutic approach for the formation of seminarians in pastoral counseling. This approach is congruent with the pastoral sphere as the focus is on meaning and the life of the spirit.
Joseph R. Laracy,
A Logotherapeutic Approach to Pastoral Counseling Education for Catholic Seminarians, American Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.
Vol. 7, No. 2,
2019, pp. 43-51.
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, trans. Ilse Lasch (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), 67.
The typical sequence after high school for Catholic seminary was four years of Neo-Scholastic Thomistic philosophy and classical languages (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew) followed by four years of systematic theology, moral theology, canon law, church history, spiritual theology, etc.
Following a BA degree, typically in liberal arts, the Protestant mainline seminary experience was traditionally a three year course of theological study leading to a Bachelor of Divinity (BDiv). In the second half of the twentieth century, American Divinity schools would rename this graduate professional degree as the MDiv.
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Dr. Pacella refers to an “analytic type of therapy” because he was trained in psychoanalysis and practiced that form of psychotherapy.
Pacella, “A Critical Appraisal of Pastoral Counseling,” 646.
In Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics, the form of a thing is the principle of its material organization. A substantial form “informs” prime matter and thereby brings into existence a new substance. For more information, see Aquinas’ Summa Theologiæ, I, Q 76, A 1.
De fide (of the faith) is a “theological note” indicating that a doctrine is classified as an essential part of Catholic faith and that denial of it is heresy.
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Viktor E. Frankl, “The Concept of Man in Psychotherapy,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 47, no. 11 (June 15, 1954): 979.
It is important to note that logos, in the original, classical context, signified not just “meaning.” Logos encompassed all four Aristotelian causes (e.g., material, formal, efficient, and final). The Enlightenment’s dismissal of final causality, i.e., telos, can imply a reductive notion of “meaning” that is problematic from a Catholic theological perspective.
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Classical psychoanalytic treatment sessions typically occur 4–5 times a week and last about an hour. The analyst asks the patient to expresses his thoughts freely, i.e., the method of free association. The patient then shares whatever comes to mind, including fantasies and dreams. The analyst then has the challenging of inferring the unconscious conflicts causing the patient’s neurosis and interpreting the transference (and countertransference, i.e., the analyst’s feelings for the patient). Transference (Übertragung) is a phenomenon posited by Freud and characterized by an unconscious projection of the feelings, e.g., rage, attraction, dependence, etc., a patient has about someone, e.g., one’s father, on to the psychotherapist. A primary goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to reveal the unconscious content of a patient’s mind in an effort to alleviate “psychic tension.” For more details, see Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920).
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The “will to meaning” could be understood in diverse ways and there is some ambiguity in Frankl’s use of the concept. A reception of the theory consistent with Catholic thought would surely reject certain philosophical interpretations. For example, Catholics cannot accept an interpretation that would carry David Hume’s “fact-value distinction.” Hume conjectures that man is unable to ground normative arguments in positive arguments—to derive ought from is. In addition, Catholics would fervently argue against Friedrich Nietzsche’s proposal that moral values are completely arbitrary and the “willing” or “creating” them is the most important thing, i.e., the act of valuing is more important than the content of the values. Friedrich Nietzche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. Graham Parkes (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009). The will to meaning can be understood as the human aspiration to discover God’s blessings in one’s life in the gifts and talents bestowed, the love offered by Him and fellow men and women, and the grace available to endure unavoidable suffering recalling the redemptive example of the Lord.
Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, trans. Richard Winton and Clara Winton, 3rd ed. (New York: Vintage, 1986), xix.
Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 75.
His classification schema includes endogenous psychoses—mental diseases with a somatic cause (e.g., major depressive disorder), psychosomatic illnesses—physical illnesses triggered by psychological factors but not caused by them (e.g., asthma), organ neuroses—diseases caused by psychological factors that falsely appear to be caused by a somatic condition (e.g., conversion disorder), pseudo-neuroses—mental illnesses caused by biological factors but that falsely appears to be brought about by a psychological cause (e.g., masked hypocorticalism), reactive neuroses—mental illnesses caused by a psychological reaction to the effects of a disturbance, either psychological or physiological (e.g., phobic fear of sweating arising from anticipatory anxiety), personality disorders—constitutional traits that are similar to neurotic traits (e.g., obsessive-compulsive disorder), iatrogenic neuroses—psychological disorders caused or worsened by a psychological intervention (e.g., phobic fear of psychosis due to a psychiatrist’s failure to explain a diagnosis), psychogenic neuroses—mental disorders with a psychological cause (e.g., tic disorder in reaction to a stressful work situation), collective neuroses—pandemic unhealthy attitudes that exert a social influence (e.g., fatalism). See Frankl, On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders, xviii–xix.
Frankl and some other European psychiatrists estimate that 20% of neuroses are noogenic. See Viktor E. Frankl, The Feeling of Meaninlessness: A Challenge to Psychotherapy and Philosophy (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2010), 126..
Frankl, On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders, xxxi.
Ann V. Graber, Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy: Method of Choice in Ecumenical Pastoral Psychology, 2nd ed. (Lima, OH: Wyndham Hall Press, 2004), 113–117.
Frankl, On the Theory and Therapy of Mental Disorders, xxxv.
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Here we intend to present a philosophical framework for understanding beauty as well as a conception of the human person that can embrace the whole scope of beauty’s effects. This account of beauty is linked to psychological health rooted in a biopsychosocial-spiritual model of the human person. See Margaret R. Laracy, “The Role of the Experience of Beauty in Psychotherapy” (PsyD, Institute for the Psychological Sciences, 2011).