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  • Writer's pictureYana Bachynsky

Healing trauma the Catholic way

As a therapist, I know that a great deal of people have experienced trauma in their lives. It is scarring, leaving you feeling ripped apart, hurt, and perhaps feeling unworthy. As a Catholic therapist, however, I believe that every person has been created in the image of God and is worthy of love, attention, and support. For those feeling broken, therapy can make you feel whole. So can spirituality. While not a substitute for therapy, spirituality can, however, be therapeutic. Your faith can also help you heal from trauma. Here, as a Catholic therapist, I will offer a few spiritual ways to help you recover.

1. Go to confession. They don’t call it a sacrament of healing for nothing. So often it is our sins and faults that leave us traumatized and hurt. In confession, you lay it all before mercy seat of Jesus, who through the ministry of the priesthood utters the words “your sins are forgiven, go in peace.” While this is no replacement for therapy, this is something no therapist can tell you. But just like in therapy, the priest will give you counsel and words of encouragement. When you confess your sins, you feel relief and renewal. If you haven’t been in a while (or even a very long while), I encourage you to go. As the old saying goes, “confession is good for the soul.”

2. Pray. This one might seem obvious as spiritual advice, however, so many neglect to do it. No matter how difficult things get in life, no matter how little time you seem to have, there is always room for a prayer, even a short one. Simply saying: “Jesus, I trust in you!” can go a long way. Sometimes we feel like we don’t know what to say, which is where the rosary acts as the perfect prayer. As you pray the rosary, there is a comfort in knowing that as you recite it, thousands upon thousands of people around the world are praying it right with you. Or, you can pray it with people you know—it’s a great way to connect with others and develop friendships. This heals, too.

3. Adoration. One of the most beautiful and healing gifts of the Church is the opportunity to encounter Jesus in adoration. For those of you not familiar with adoration, it refers to spending time in silent prayer and, well, adoration in front of the exposed Eucharist. It is, in other words, spending time with Jesus in a unique way. There you can quiet your senses, pray, cry, bringing your troubles before the truly present Christ. Sometimes others will be with you in the church doing the same, thus giving you a sense of community. Adoration contains a powerful meditative component and can be helpful for those who are overwhelmed or for people who are highly sensitive and in need of quiet experiences for that inner connection.

4. Get spiritual direction. Like counseling, you might seek guidance from a spiritual director when facing difficulties in life or when you might feel spiritually aimless. As with confession, this “direction” they provide is no substitute for therapy with a licensed professional, however the experience might be therapeutic. A spiritual director would typically be a priest or someone consecrated to God such as a nun or monk. The purpose of spiritual direction is to help deepen your spirituality. The director might help you develop a richer prayer life, provide you with recommendations for spiritual reading, or help you strengthen your faith in times of turbulence. It is important to find a director you believe to be close to God and knowledgeable about the faith. Approach someone whose style resonates with you but don’t be afraid to find someone who will also challenge you.

5. Attend a retreat. Life can seem like a constant battle, and just like in warfare, it’s important to pull away every once in a while, or retreat. Think of it as a spiritual breather, an opportunity to get away from our earthly concerns and devote our time to renewing our relationship with God in a focused way. Retreats can be a very powerful and healing experience, sometimes even life-changing. There is a rich variety of retreats you can attend: silent retreats, praise and worship retreats, women’s retreats, Cursillo, Kairos, young adult retreats and many others. Many retreats have a strong community focus where participants share their faith journey and traumas they’ve endured. Sharing stories can be a powerful healing experience as they remind us that we are not alone in the crosses we carry.

6. Pray the Chaplet. While it is true that Jesus is a judge, sometimes this image overshadows that of a merciful God. There is a lesser known prayer which focuses on this image: the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. In praying it, one repeatedly recites the words “for the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” The Chaplet leads us to connect with the mercy of Jesus, to feel it, reminding us that he loves us and forgives us no matter what we have done, and no matter what we’ve experienced.

* The prayer can be found at:

7. Find community. Church is more than Sunday Mass after which most simply part ways. God intended for his church to be a community, He wants us to connect with one another, encourage and learn from each other. Paul writes about how we should “bear each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). Studies have shown that people who engage in a faith community even enjoy longer lifespans! There are so many avenues for fellowship in the Church. Consider joining a bible study group, moms group or marriage encounter group for couples—there is a group for just about everyone. Nowadays, there are even ways of meeting virtually, too. Check your Church bulletin and Catholic social media channels to find a group that fits you.

8. Attend daily Mass. Attending daily Mass brings lots of benefits. What a beautiful way to start your day by connecting with God, especially in the reception of Holy Communion! And because fewer people attend daily Mass, the service will have a different feel to it, a quieter, more peaceful one. No stressing about finding a parking spot or a pew. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Eucharistic celebration “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). In other words, there is nothing greater.

As I mentioned a couple of times above, spirituality cannot replace therapy, despite all of its tremendous benefits. In many ways, psychotherapy is better tailored for healing trauma. For instance, a trained therapist can teach you coping skills when memories of trauma resurface; they can help you put the puzzle piece of your trauma narrative together and provide clarity and insight; they can also help with recovering repressed memories. If you are in need of a trauma-informed therapist who also understands and values your Catholic faith, please contact me. Heal trauma with a one-two punch: the power of God and skills of a licensed therapist.


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