The Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center recently opened in Duarte, California, with three clinicians in psychology and counseling, along with a priest for confession and spiritual direction.
Fr. John Hopkins, the spiritual director and director of the center explained how people are being helped: “Many couples who were about to divorce have reconciled through counselling. Many people whose depression has been lifted. People with eating disorders have been returned to health. There’s a great amount of healing that has come all around the area.”
As most counseling and psychological therapy is private, they can’t share names, but Dr. Sean Tobin, PsyD, a staff psychologist, explained the experience of one devout Catholic who had sought help elsewhere before. Prior clinicians often misunderstood her and questioned her involvement in the Church. At Divine Mercy, she feels a lot more comfortable and safe in explaining what is going on. She doesn’t feel like she needs to be defensive about her deep involvement in the Church.
On May 24, 2019, the center had its formal start with a blessing by Bishop David O’Connell. Bishop O’Connell is an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles where the clinic is located, and a member of its board.
The first clinic started as part of a Catholic health complex. The building is called the Santa Teresita Medical Center and is run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.
The mission of the Divine Mercy Clinic is “to promote mental health and marriage & family flourishing through quality, affordable mental health services that are integrated with the fullness of the Catholic faith.” Fr John explained further, “We have some exceptional Catholic Clinicians who work with the best of counselling and psychology to heal individuals and families, thus renewing the Church and society.”
Dr. Tobin, who is currently the only doctoral level psychologist on staff, explained the need they are serving. He noted, “Generally, the people that we have been serving have been looking for counselors or therapists where they can integrate their faith without tension. They can find a better fit with Catholic therapists.” He continued, describing why Catholic therapists helped, “Our faith and our Catholic anthropology gives us a better lens through which we are able to serve individuals. This allows us to have a clarity and a richer foundation for our clinical interventions.”
Fr. John gave a similar answer when asked what the difference between this center and another psychologist would be. He responded, “First, there’s a respect for the faith. Second of all, the faith is the source of tremendous amount of hope when people are in darkness. Third, we’re able to help them have the courage to get rid of a lot of their fears. When somebody feels God’s love and protection, they’re able to be in a much better place for healing.”
The vision of the center “is to be the ‘go-to’ Catholic center for family life in the greater Los Angeles area.” Right now it is only at location but Fr John hopes to be able to open 5 or 6 locations in the LA area to meet the needs of all Catholics who need help and support for their individual or family life. They are looking at Culver City and San Pedro for expansion in the near future.
Although individual counselling and psychotherapy is core, the center also offers programs in marriage prep, marriage renewal and parenting to help build the family.
Dr. Tobin described what it is like to work at a center like this versus other clinical settings: “It gives me a unified purpose in my life: I don’t need to compartmentalize different aspects. It gives me a peace and freedom to be who I am as a Catholic and as a Psychologist. And it helps me find motivation in my work, seeing it as part of the mission Christ has called me into.” He continued, “We feel more of the body of Christ where we are serving the body of Christ and healing it. It gives us a greater sense of connection.”
Fr. John spoke about how faith helps psychology, noting: “We use the faith as the greatest healing.”