Orthodox Christian Psychological Therapy
Kevin Allen · September 6, 2008
Wouldn't it be wonderful to combine the "best" of classic Orthodox Christian spiritual "therapies" (praxis) with modern psychological modalities in therapy? In the first of the new fall line-up, Kevin speaks with Orthodox professor and therapist, Dr. Philip Mamalakis about the ground-breaking work in this area he is pioneering. The web site for Dr. Philip that was mentioned in the interview can be found HERE.
You know, I’ve always been interested in how modern psychological therapy relates to the classic spiritual disciplines of Orthodox Christianity and if there’s such a thing as an Orthodox model of psychological therapy. Well, my guest today should be able to provide us with some answers.
Doctor Philip Mamalakis is the Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Dr. Philip teaches classes on pastoral care, marriage and family and topics related to pastoral counselling. He also assists with the field education program at Holy Cross, is a member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Round Table on the Family, and he also has a private practice in Newton, Massachusetts where he works with individuals, couples and families. Dr Mamalakis has an MDiv from Holy Cross and a PhD from Purdue University in Child Development and Family Studies and specializes in marriage and family therapy and he’s written numerous articles and book chapters on various issues related to Orthodoxy and marriage, family life and contemporary mental health. He does seminars, retreats and lectures on marriage, family life and parenting in the Orthodox Church; he’s currently working on a marriage preparation program with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and an Orthodox parenting book. And he and his wife Georgia live near Boston and are raising seven—yes, you heard me!—seven children!
Doctor Philip Mamalakis, welcome to The Illumined Heart.
Doctor Philip Mamalakis: Great to be here today.
Kevin: Thank you. It’s good to have you here today. I’m interested to know what you would call or describe an Orthodox model of psychological therapy? And also too, as you’re going through that, is this something that you actually practice in your private practice?
Dr. Mamalakis: Well, when we talk about an Orthodox model of therapy, we need to keep in mind that curing the person or curing the soul has a long tradition in the Orthodox Church. The way we do this is through participation in the life of Christ sacramentally in his body the Church. We know this begins with baptism, where we’re united to Christ and chrismated, filled with the Holy Spirit. Orthodox psychotherapy concerns itself with living out this sacramental reality daily, responding to our call towards holiness and deification; realizing our full potential as human beings, as St. Seraphim indicates, by acquiring the Holy Spirit.
So an Orthodox psychotherapy, we know within our tradition it involves regular confession, where we’re invited to open our hearts to a spiritual guide—an ‘illumined heart’ we might say, right?—who can not only offer us encouragement and guidance, but prayer and the Holy Spirit. So the purpose of this historical Orthodox therapy was to heal the person body and soul. Not necessarily to make life easy, as much as to strengthen the people towards holiness in the face of these challenges.
The therapist, in this ancient form, actively prayed for the spiritual child, and the therapist in the ancient tradition, speaks not only with an expertise about the spiritual life and spiritual growth but speaks out of a direct encounter with God. And from this authority the spiritual guide is able to journey with the spiritual charge.
Now, on the other hand, we have what we call ‘modern’ psychology or ‘modern psychotherapy. This is a discipline; this is a science. It’s the study of the human mind; human behaviour, thoughts and feelings. And as such, if we’re going to talk about an Orthodox model, somehow it has to come out of our tradition, our theology, in this modern form. And we know it’s going to look different, because modern psychology has a fifty minute hour, where you go to a professional and you pay them and that professional is going to use modern theories and understandings of the human person. So an Orthodox model has to be connected to our tradition and it’s going to be expressed in that modern form.
Kevin: Well, getting specific then, how do you work as a therapist? I mean, do you use secular models or, as you’re talking about, combine them with Orthodox models? How does that all come together?
Dr. Mamalakis: Well, what I’ve done, and what’s exciting in this field, is that this is a new thing for the Church to be engaged with, and that is modern psychology. So in my work I’m developing and I’m working with other therapists who are Orthodox in developing kind of Orthodox approaches to therapy. Kind of like a contemporary model, but also asking and answering these very questions.
So, for instance, when I work with a married couple, I think I use what I would call an Orthodox model. And that is, I take our theology of marriage, which as a sacrament we know is where we encounter Christ in and through our marriage, and that the path of loving Christ is expressed in the path of loving out spouse and that the journey of marriage then becomes a journey of learning to love our spouse with perfect love, being perfected in Christ. So, using that theology of marriage then, I go into—if a couple comes to me I will make use of other theories, like for example, contemporary research on feelings or on cognitive behavioural work, but we put that in the context of: “How are you loving your wife with perfect love? What are the barriers to that? Where do you fall short?” And as couples come to me, they generally come in and say, “Well, Dr, Philip, would you fix my wife? She seems to be the problem.” And then she says, “Will you fix my husband? He seems to be the problem.” Well, we know, our theology teaches us, that’s not true. The problem is we have not acquired perfect love.
So you see, working from an Orthodox perspective, we then make use of certain elements of contemporary theory. I might ask them, “How were your parents married? Where did you learn to treat women like that? Where did you learn how to be a father?” Because modern theories will talk about how these are learned behaviours, for example.
Kevin: Well, are the two modes of healing that we’re describing; an orthodox therapy and a secular model of therapy, are these different modes of healing? Or is there overlap?
Dr. Mamalakis: Well, Kevin, I think at some level it’s like going to a physician if you have a headache, or going to a therapist if you’re feeling very depressed. Now, you could go to a priest if you had either one of those problems. While we know that going to a physician for physical illness, let’s say you have a headache and you decide to go to the doctor, we know that that physical illness is going to overlap with spiritual issues and even psychological issues. You know, stress will cause headaches, lifestyle choices we know affect our health. And we know our physical health even affects our moods, so we see there’s even overlap within the medical field. Well, there’s even more overlap when we talk about mental health and going to a therapist.
But, we have to keep in mind, these are very different things. Because the Orthodox healing tradition is that we are grafted on to Christ in and through his Church and encounter God, while contemporary mental health will sit down with us and have a conversation that will nurture us and maybe [give] insight into why we might be behaving the way we do.
Kevin: So, how then does an Orthodox mode of therapy relate to modern therapy or counselling? Do they work together? Obviously they do to some extent.
Dr. Mamalakis: Well, we have a history in our Church of how the Church relates to secular knowledge. St. Basil talked about the honey-bee; he talked about how the honey-bee goes from flower to flower and takes that which is useful and makes honey out of it. Well, as an Orthodox therapist, as the Church, we can go into contemporary mental health and take out of this field what might be useful for us. For example, contemporary mental health is really good at highlighting listening. And if you want to go … for many people the only person who truly listens to him or her is their therapist, and with a non-judgemental attitude. Well, this listening can be really easily used within an Orthodox approach to therapy. So when I look at how these two relate to each other what I try and encourage our students to understand here is that the Church can make use of the theories and even the practices of the Church [modern psychology?] towards the purposes of the Church.
Kevin: Now, Dr. Philip, at what point in a therapeutic healing process do these various psychological modalities—in secular therapy and so on—end and the classic spiritual disciplines; fasting, confession, detachment, things of that nature, begin?
Dr. Mamalakis: Well, I think what’s exciting about the work that I do is that when we talk about the human person we’re talking about essentially a mystery. And it’s impossible to know entirely the human person because we’re created in the image and likeness of God, who is also unknowable. So in many ways everything we do is psychological and everything we do is spiritual; that there is no place where this is just psychological and then the spiritual begins. For example, fasting is a psychological process. It affects us, and if you’d like an example, I deal with people who had very strict homes where there was a lot of fasting and not a lot of love. And so when we even talk, when I talk to them about fasting, there’s almost a reaction [to that] and a distaste for that. There’s a psychological reaction to a spiritual discipline.
And we see as Orthodox, there’s no magic in our spiritual disciplines; the spiritual disciplines are there as a means to acquiring the Holy Spirit. And so, if they’re in their proper context, then we can integrate them into our contemporary psychotherapy. And that is, for example, when a couple talks to me and they’re having problems controlling their temper, for example, and they get angry, if they’re an Orthodox couple and understand fasting, I talk to them about fasting. I say: well, fasting we know helps us curb the will. It helps us die to our own desires and we know that also the Fathers talk about how the stomach, by controlling the stomach we can control a lot of the passions. And so these are psychological things and they’re spiritual things, and the beauty of Orthodoxy is they’re all interrelated.
Kevin: Yeah. We don’t have to pull these things apart and put them in various categories; upstairs and downstairs, say.
Dr. Mamalakis: Right! Right.
Kevin: So do the classic spiritual disciplines have a place in your practice? And do you see them having efficacy in professional terms?
Dr. Mamalakis: I think, naturally, in order for them to be effective they need to be properly understood by the person who is in the office. For example, we know that for someone who has just become Orthodox, we don’t expect them, and neither would it be wise, to give them a heavy fasting regimen. Why? Well they need to understand and kind of grow into how fasting fits into their understanding of God and love.
What is true, though, is part of our spiritual discipline has to with the ascetic nature of love. That is to say, if I’m learning to be married to my wife, I need to learn to be patient, to be kind, to control my tongue, to be gentle, to control my anger. And so when we talk about an Orthodox model of therapy, we’re going to be framing these issues in marriage … I’m not just going to say, “Well, I think you have an anger problem.” I’m going to say, “I think you need to learn patience.” And how do we learn patience? Well, then; by confession, by fasting, by turning our whole lives away from doing what we want and towards following the Church’s guidelines. And for some of my clients, who really understand that, that’s exactly what we do.
Kevin: Now, you were speaking, Doctor Philip, about the relationship between the Orthodox Church and modern psychology as kind of being a new journey, of sorts. And there’s so much pop-psychology that has seeped into contemporary Western Christianity; you know, things like ‘live your best life’ and all of this business.
Dr. Mamalakis: Right.
Kevin: So what kind of relationship should the Church have with modern psychology, in your opinion?
Dr. Mamalakis: Right. I’ve seen some very sad things. I was at a church, a different denomination, and I was listening to the sermon and it sounded like a counselling session, talking about feelings. And I was deeply saddened, because we have such a rich tradition of the spiritual life and when we go to church we should hear about that. We should hear the Gospel. We shouldn’t hear, necessarily, psychology.
The nice thing, I guess the challenging thing, and the good thing about psychology is that it’s a really broad field. At one end there’s some good science; they’re doing brain science and the study of how the brain works. That’s fascinating; it can help us understand how the brain, as an organ, functions. And on the other end of the spectrum you have this pop-psychology, you have a lot of different world views, very secular world views, things that are really contrary to how we understand it. So, what I encourage people to do is if you’re going to explore these things do it under guidance. Ask: “What am I looking for? Am I looking to improve my marriage?” Well, it’s a great place to start, to go talk to your priest or your spiritual father. And then to help understand, how do we understand what the difficulty is in our life?
And then we might be able to make use of, another example, the parenting book. You could go get a great book off the shelf about parenting strategies, if you’re having difficulty, let’s say disciplining your child. And then, bringing that back to your spiritual father to help understand: “Well, why is it that we might not simply give in, or not do this or that?” So, under guidance is the best way.
Kevin: I’m speaking with Dr. Philip Mamalakis and we’re speaking about Orthodoxy and secular psychological therapy.
You know, Dr. Philip, one of the things that I’m really interested in asking you is this: we speak about, and don’t shy away from acknowledging, evil spiritual forces. The Psalms are full of them and we pray and so on, acknowledging their existence. How do you understand the reality of evil spiritual forces within the context of therapeutic practice as an Orthodox model therapist?
Dr. Mamalakis: Absolutely, absolutely. This has a lot to do with what relationship the Church should have with modern psychology and that the Church can make use of things from modern psychology for its purposes. Now, when we talk about evil forces, we can talk about everything from temptation to the passions, to spiritual struggles, to sin, to demonic warfare and all the way to our fallen nature; that when we talk about the spiritual life it has to do with all these elements.
So, one thing I do, when I work with individuals and families and couples, I have to understand what the spiritual realities are that are going on and help the family understand what’s happening. Are they being tempted by a desire? Well, some of the images we have in the Church are that demons might tempt us. We can use contemporary language to communicate that you’re being tempted, but the call is to pursue righteousness, for example. It’s very rare that somebody has a full-fledged demonic possession.
Dr. Mamalakis: That’s less likely than what actually happens in most cases; you’ve inherited some bad patterns from your family, or there is a biological contribution to what’s happening. And so very often it can be easy, it can be tempting as a church, to demonise something that’s biological. Well, as a church we might say the reason you have a brain that actually has an illness, either a learning disability or a tendency to produce or not produce enough of a certain chemical which leads to a chronic depression, is because we live in a fallen world. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have done anything wrong, for example.
So the Orthodox world view allows us to really look at the whole person and to discern what is happening and how do we pursue righteousness, whether it is a biological illness, whether it is a temptation, whether it is a passion or a spiritual struggle.
Kevin: You know, if we have a good spiritual father, I guess my question is this, is there really a need for a psychological therapist? And what would a therapist in that situation, Dr. Philip, bring to the process that a good spiritual father doesn’t?
Dr. Mamalakis: One question to ask is: does the Church need modern psychology? And if we talk about ‘need’, the answer is no. The Church has no ‘need’ for anything; this is the fullness of the faith.
However the other question might be: can we make use of therapists? So, if you just had a spiritual father and he was clairvoyant and there was no such thing as biological illnesses of the body or the mind and no such thing as childhood trauma, then yes, we probably could do just fine with a spiritual father. But there’s some things that are … some things are just a matter of opening up to your spiritual father. Other issues are much more deeply seated; much more complex. And the therapist is in a position, with time and training, to dig them up. Not necessarily to remove the sin, because confession does that, but as a therapist if we … I had a client in my office today who had a childhood trauma and it was confusing him in so many ways; the priest looked at me and said, “Philip, I think you need to talk to him.”
Dr. Mamalakis: It just helps to understand these complicated issues.
Kevin: Yeah. A lot of times, I know, I find exactly what you are saying. I don’t even know what to confess, half the time, because I know I’m dealing with consequences of things but … you know, what do I confess? Maybe a therapeutic situation would at least bring that to light so it could be healed in the Eucharistic confessional environment, no?
Dr. Mamalakis: That’s exactly what I do. And when I speak on Orthodox therapy, I say: in my office, we prepare for confession.
Dr. Mamalakis: And I can imagine the soul is like a field and underneath the field are rocks. Well, the therapist, a good therapist can dig up, or at least identify: “Here’s the boulder,” and dig around it. But no amount of insight is going to remove that from us, and for that I say, “Go to confession.”
And the priests send people to me who come and say, “I don’t even know what to confess. I seem to be so angry at my wife.” And after a little conversation we realise his anger has nothing to do with his wife, what he really needs to be confessing is something to do with his mother, for example. You know, God works through our humanity and we are psychological beings.
Kevin: You know, depression is an ever-present issue, item, whatever you want to call it. You see it on television, you hear about it, there are drugs for it and all that stuff. I always wonder what they did a thousand years ago, say in Constantinople, when someone was depressed? I mean, they obviously weren’t prescribing the Valiums and everything. So I guess my question is: is depression within the therapeutic practice, in your opinion, only and exclusively addressed with medicines?
Dr. Mamalakis: You know what I think they did? Because I think the Orthodox Church has always understood this. I think they used the best science of their time within their Orthodox spiritual tradition. And the best science of the time wasn’t that great a thousand years ago, but today, to use the best science of our time means that, you know what, we can make use of some of these studies on brains, for example. And we can see and we can study and learn that some people are depressed because of biological tendencies. And the way to check is to notice, and priests tell me this in their parish: “His father behaved just like that,” in fact, I hear stories about the grandfather who would stay for long periods of time in his bedroom.
Dr. Mamalakis: And so we see that, just like some families have a tendency towards heart disease, others towards high cholesterol, some have a biological disposition towards depression. There’s other depression that’s situational. Your girlfriend breaks up with you or you lost your job and you’re just depressed. And others can be sin-related. It’s not uncommon for a woman, let’s say, who’s had an abortion; years later she’s just struggling with some grief and depression.
And so within the conversation we can then look and see, well, what’s happening with this depression? And Orthodox psychotherapy allows us to look at the whole person. And then we look and see would medicine help in this situation? And the best research indicates that medicine alone isn’t the best treatment; medicine and talk therapy. But again, if we’re doing this as the Church we’re talking about bringing that conversation back to the sacramental community in the form of confession. Either that’s going to be your cross that you’re going to carry, is a tendency towards depression, or you’re going to need to endure through this struggle and learn to forgive your girlfriend, or you need to confess a sin and get freed up from that weight of sin.
Kevin: You know, it’s so refreshing to speak with someone like yourself, who is both a pastor— not in the clerical sense, but pastoral with a pastor’s heart—and also a psychologist and can bring these two things together. I think it’s just fantastic.
You spoke a minute ago about sin, and I applaud you for doing it. I wonder whether there are very many other psychologists that would even dare to use that word in today’s world. But let’s talk a little bit about that. We’re not afraid to speak of sin in Orthodox Christianity; we generally don’t whitewash it. Spiritual fathers tell us to struggle against it. So my question is: in what ways do you work on issues where healing is required? For an example, sexual addictions, homosexuality, you know, pornography, things of this nature, in a way that might differ from the treatment one would receive from a secular therapist?
Dr. Mamalakis: The first thing I would say, on many of these issues, good secular therapists see the destructive nature of these sinful behaviours. Even though they don’t use the term ‘sin’ they see that pornography is destructive to relationships and to intimacy. They see sexual addiction as essentially a problem, with the exception of homosexuality; their contemporary culture has a much different view of that issue. However good therapists see how these behaviours destroy intimacy; destroy oneness in marriage; destroy people’s lives. They’re good observers in those respects and would work with anyone to understand why they might be addicted to these sexual behaviours using current theories of addiction, and this can be very good. And what they simply require is that parishioner then brings that knowledge and understanding back to his or her spiritual father. Because we believe in the power of confession; we believe in the power of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. However, we know it’s not magic. And many of my Orthodox clients say: “Wait a minute! I thought the Holy Spirit’s supposed to be healing me! But I’m still struggling.” Well, the Holy Spirit isn’t going to get rid of temptation; he’s going to empower you to be stronger than that temptation. And that’s the journey of a life.
So, when I have a client struggling with pornography, for example, my goal is not just to stop the pornography, but to redirect the whole person towards God, towards life, towards righteousness—like the Prodigal Son. To help this person return to Christ, so that in the light of God’s glory this person comes to see pornography for what it really is: abhorrent. And that person is healed from that lust. My theology teaches me that this comes through engaging this person in a healthy marriage: physically, emotionally and spiritually through regular confession, worship, service to others. And, in my conversation therapeutically, we explore what might be driving that lust: Is this a bad habit that they picked up in college? Or is it used to fill some sort of emotional or spiritual void that’s really meant for Christ? It could be the result of a disconnected upbringing in a home where there wasn’t a lot of intimacy, love and connection, which has essentially set up this person to enter adulthood already enslaved to lust.
So the idea is, as an Orthodox therapist, to uncover—not just to stop the lust but to uncover the history of the lust. Again, to dig out the ground around these other rocks, so that he can take it to confession. Because we know as Orthodox the goal of our lives is not just not to sin; the goal is to seek the Kingdom, to become holy. So when someone sins, I say, “Well, what drove you off the path?” but, more importantly, “How do you get back on the path?”
Kevin: You know, in California the Supreme Court overturned a legislative decision and now we are marrying homosexual couples.
Dr. Mamalakis: We are doing the same in Massachusetts.
Kevin: Oh, okay, right, right, correct.
Dr. Mamalakis: We’re the two states, I think, that allow it.
Kevin: Yeah. Exactly. And this is obviously going to be, I hate to say this, but it’s probably going to be the harbinger for the future. How do you treat homosexuality? I know that it’s no longer considered a psychological disorder by the AMA. As an Orthodox therapist I’m assuming, first of all, you don’t only treat Orthodox patients. What do you do with homosexuality?
Dr. Mamalakis: Well, first of all, as a professor full time I have a small private practice. I’m there one or two nights a week. And I limit myself to Orthodox clientele.
Kevin: Oh, you do. Okay.
Dr. Mamalakis: I do. And I say on my paperwork and on my website that I am an Orthodox therapist and I will come and approach this from an Orthodox worldview.
Now, the issue of homosexuality; that’s a huge issue. That’s a powerful issue. What I would say, just to that briefly, is that much like depression, where there’s not one cause, if we’re going to look pastorally at homosexual desire, homosexual attraction, there’s not just going to be one cause of that. That where some people can look at their lives and see that they’ve had this affinity from a young age, other people might have really been acting out and have really pursued a path of lust that has led them into this lifestyle. Other people have a trauma in their history. So, pastorally, just start to understand who this person is and what their story is about and around their issues of sexuality. And then have a conversation about how they understand who God is, and what their experience of God is.
Because the beauty of Orthodoxy is, we’re not a religion of “No!”; it’s the good news, it’s a religion of “Yes!” and in fact even the Commandments are given to us for life, not just to say “No!”. But many people, the first thing they confront with the Orthodox church is, “You can’t do that! You can’t do that! No, you can’t get married during Lent, you can’t eat meat here.” So in therapy it’s particularly important to say: “It’s an answer of ‘Yes!’” But the person who comes to me needs to know and understand and believe that God is a “Yes!” and that I desire to follow Christ.
So, some people come to me, and frankly they’re not really interested in God’s way of life. They come to me and say, “You know, I’m going to pursue my same-sex interest.” You know, in this country, we’ve kind of idolised the nuclear family, as if the full life is to be married with two-and-a-half kids and a minivan in the driveway. And the Church doesn’t really hold that up as the ideal. The Church holds up the saint; the one who serves Christ, the repentant sinner as the model. So in some ways we have to debunk this American dream that people with same-sex attraction feel a certain entitlement to. And I say, “Well, you know, when we lose the sense of what marriage is for we open the door to all these types of behaviours.”
So those are just some of the starting thoughts, but the most important thing, I think, is that it’s a very sensitive issue and a very critical issue. Particularly in a culture that is so sexually obsessed and now has gone, where lust is going to go, into same-sex attraction.
Kevin: Yeah. How would you guide an individual in making use of a therapist today, I think we’ve spoken about that, but I want to make sure, as we’re descending now, that our listeners are clear on that. You’re not purporting to be a spiritual father, not a confessor, so how do you use a therapist without it kind of morphing into or blurring the lines or crossing over into the realm of spiritual fatherhood?
Dr. Mamalakis: Right. You know, I think the important thing that I like to tell people is that we need somewhere to go to open up our darkest selves. We need somewhere we can uncover some deeply painful issues, maybe some shameful things, some fears. And that requires some special time and attention. And for some of us this might involve trauma or traumatic family relationships or complicated marital struggles or serious biological mental illness, for example. So, along with your spiritual father, find someone who can help you uncover some of that sin, uncover that story in an environment that is safe, that you’re going to feel love and respect in, for you to bring back again to your spiritual father to release.
It’s a lot like teaching. I think the primary teachers of our children should be the father and the mother, yet we’re going to make use of schools to assist in that. But if we give up teaching to our schools, we’ve essentially stepped away from our vocation as parents. So really we can’t give up the spiritual direction to secular therapists. We need to have spiritual fathers who are leading that process and from there making use of psychologists, making use of medical physicians, psychiatrists. Making use, and I tell them, making use of attorneys, making use of accountants for your books. Learning to understand that pastoral care, because it’s holistic, requires the priest to be collaborative.
Kevin: So, you’re not saying then that if a therapist provides good healing that the role of the Church as the spiritual hospital is somehow being transcended or the role of the Church is being abrogated?
Dr. Mamalakis: Well, the way I like to use it—that I think is not very threatening language—is the therapist can enable or can facilitate the healing, you know, can break the ground for the Holy Spirit to heal. If something does come out of therapy I believe it is the Holy Spirit working in and through that process. Like cancer treatment; if we are struggling with cancer we go to a physician and get cancer treatment. God makes use of these treatments for his glory and wherever there’s something good the Church can bless it.
You know, there are countless stories of saints who are walking around in surgery rooms, you know, we see that God doesn’t say [that] you don’t need to go to a surgeon. And if we learn how the brain functions and we learn that ‘the brain is working like this’, if it’s true, we can say it’s Orthodox. Because we can honour the truth wherever it is.
Kevin: Right. So the relationship of clergy should be that of collaboration?
Dr. Mamalakis: Collaboration. And what I tell the clergy is that clergy should be at the head of that. Because the clergy, as Orthodox, we have the broadest worldview, the most holistic perspective. We’re interested in body, mind and soul and family and community. So the priest can’t possibly attend to everybody, but what he can do is he can raise up lay people in their vocations as therapists and physicians and accountants to understand: “How can I use my talent in the service of the Church?”
Kevin: Yeah. Wonderful. You know, I know that there are many who will be listening to this—as we’re coming to a close, Dr. Philip Mamalakis, on this fascinating subject—who are going to say, “You know, I have been wanting to have a therapeutic relationship with an Orthodox clinician, a psychologist, for ever and don’t know where to find one,” and so on. What do you tell them, those people that are listening? Where do they go?
Dr. Mamalakis: I would say two things. Number one: there’s such a need for this that we’re working extra hard at Holy Cross to develop a whole program, a whole network, to raise up people in the mental health professions who understand what it means to be Orthodox, to address these issues. So we’re working hard to develop a whole network of people.
What I would say though, the second answer is: find a good therapist, because if it’s good therapy it’s going to be easy for the Church to make use of. And that is a therapist who is open to being involved with your priest and spiritual father. I encourage the priest to be in phone contact with the therapist and so the therapist has to be open to having a conversation with the priest. And the priest has—and what we train the students here too is helping the priest understand, well, what they bring back, that’s part of the confession process.
Kevin: Is there a resource center at this point, Dr. Philip, for maybe identifying who people could go to in various geographical areas? Or is that not available yet?
Dr. Mamalakis: There’s several efforts underway nationwide to start putting together a website and referral sources. One challenge of this issue is, well, it’s one thing to be baptized Orthodox and be a therapist, it’s another thing to have your therapy being informed and shaped by our Orthodox faith.
Kevin: I understand.
Dr. Mamalakis: And so that’s what we want to be attentive to. What I would say is people are welcome to call me, or also go to your priest and priests oftentimes have developed networks of people with whom they can work.
Kevin: And I’d be happy to, kind of, moderate any inquiries on this behalf. If anyone wants to have their e-mail forwarded to Dr. Philip; he has a website. Doctor, would you like to give us what that website is, or would you like them to come through me?
Dr. Mamalakis:The website I have is on the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: www.aamft.org and I have a link there which just has a little biography where I talk about my work.
Kevin: Okay. And anyone who wants more information send me an e-mail and I will forward it to my guest, who has really led us through a fascinating conversation. Dr. Philip Mamalakis, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today on The Illumined Heart.
Dr. Mamalakis: My pleasure. It’s great to be here and I look forwards to more conversations on all these beautiful issues.
Kevin: And I do as well. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my research associate, Gail Shepherd, for doing the research and for helping me connect with Dr. Philip. Gail, if you’re listening—and I know you are—thank you. And for all of you out there, thanks for listening.