The past ten years or so have been designated as the decade of the brain, inasmuch as the neurosciences advanced by leaps and bounds; consequently, psychiatry, too, accelerated its pace, with perfected diagnostic tools and more precise differential diagnoses. The far-reaching positron emission tomography, often termed by its acronym, PET, tracks down psychopharmacologic medications into discrete brain areas; working together, neurologists and psychiatrists, enhance their diagnostic acumen, as they view physiologic processes inside the living brain.
Psychiatry, an empirical science, based on direct observation and experimentation, ordinarily, focuses merely on one aspect of the human person, and one constituent of human reality.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1703) teaches that man is “endowed with a spiritual and immortal soul; the human person is the only creature that God has willed for its own sake. From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.” And in no. 1702, we read that “The divine image is present in every man.” Man’s likeness to God and his spiritual nature amplifies our present Pontiff’s categorical affirmation of the “whole truth about man.” Sadly, the supernatural factor is either shunned or decreed non-existent, even by good psychotherapists. The aforementioned factor is the neglected complementary, but obligatory part of treatment. “Human virtues are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character” (CCC, no. 1810).
Treatment Hierarchy: Natural And Supernatural
Catholic psychiatrists can be evangelizers of the Catholic Faith; too often psychiatric patients pine for God and require instruction in and direction to the knowledge and truth of our Faith. “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to Himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC, no. 27).
Families, too, need help on both natural and supernatural levels of treatment. We aid them to identify dysfunctional coping mechanisms or psychopathological behavior and also to grasp the sublime efficacy of supernatural grace as an antidote to family difficulties, for our “growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the Bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death” (CCC, no. 1392). Only then will family members be capable of heroic virtues; only then will their mutual devotion intensify while selfishness fades away.
The fields of psychology and psychiatry have rightly been censured by many, not only for their shortcomings, but also for their morally offensive theories. Both fields, however, have wise and competent experts who proffer more tenable and realistic views of the human person. Increasingly, Christian health workers, concede to the God-given dignity of the human person and their responsibility to respect moral values and family traditions. Our present Holy Father lauds psychiatrists who practice judicious therapy and dispense medications prudently.
Source: The Roman Catholic Psychiatrist by Luz G. Gabriel, M.D.(ewtn.com)