Michael O’Sullivan SJ

This article reviews a new book by Catherine Gibson OP and finds a welcome publication that can serve the Churches well at this time of change in Ireland. Michael O’Sullivan SJ is Executive Director of SpIRE (Spirituality Institute for Research and Education) and Programme Leader of the MA in Applied Spirituality at Milltown Park, Dublin.

Research question
The book is tightly structured, well laid out, clearly written, and guided by a generating question it seeks to answer. Since a research question always emerges out of the lived experience of the researcher it is helpful for the reader to learn what experiences gave rise to Catherine’s research. First, she learned that clergy trained in psychotherapy/counselling whom she met in the course of her professional experience as a psychotherapist seemed to be working under constraints from their institutions. These constraints led to the decision by some to leave ordained ministry. Secondly, she learned that several professionals who had left ministry then retrained as psychotherapists. These twofold discoveries led her to wonder about the interaction between ordained ministry and psychotherapy/counselling and to decide to research the issue. How does psychotherapy/counselling tend to function in a context where the therapist/counsellor is also an ordained minister and what motivates former clergy to retrain as therapists/counsellors? Are the orientations and frameworks of psychotherapy/counselling and ordained ministry bound to conflict or can they be integrated?

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