Jesus said `He came that we might have Life. Life in all it's fullness. Sadly many people are unable to live their lives to the full because they are often at a stage of intense suffering through psychological breakdown, or through personal tragedy that has involved family traumas and personal abuse. At such times even for deeply committed Christians their faith seems stuck, and God seems very distant from them. It is at this point that we begin to consider the viability of Counselling Psychotherapy to help.
Counselling has many definitions. I see it as a process where a trusting relationship is built up between a therapist and client, so that the client feels accepted and encouraged to explore difficulties, feelings, and self reflection so that problems can be faced, changed if possible and self esteem developed which results in personal growth.
As a Religious Sister of Mercy I see my work very much in tune with our Foundress Venerable Catherine who said: `There are things which the poor prize more highly than gold, among these are the kind word, gentle compassionate look and the patient bearing of sorrow'. Today there are many people whose poverty of spirit keeps them prisoners within themselves as they carry around burdens of deep emotional pain. It is in training that Therapists work on themselves, as the essentials in helping others to understand themselves, lies in our first trying to get to know, understand, and face ourselves. My Religious Life gives me plenty of opportunity to put this into practice.
We sing in one of the Hymns based on the words from Isaiah "He, Jesus sent me to bring the good news to the poor, tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more, tell blind people that they can see and set the down trodden free". Counselling is, therefore, a process of healing. It is in using the skills of listening, empathy, compassion, understanding, non judgemental, attitude and unconditional positive regard for every person, that I feel my Mercy apostolate operates in action. It can be said that any trained Therapist can Counsel, but for me as a sister of Mercy I know I never work alone as my God is always in the room with me reaching out in wisdom, compassion and love to the client and me.
Working in prisons with men who have severe problems with addiction to drugs and alcohol is indeed a most privilege place to be. These men come from many Cultures and religion, and many with no belief in any God. I never feel I go to them to bring God, as my God is already there. My work is based on helping them to develop a good self image, discuss their difficulties, and help them to deal with their guilt, anger and forgive themselves and others. My sisterhood of Mercy helps me to reach out to them in love.
Whether working with clients individually or men in a group I believe that each human being is on a journey, a spiritual one whether they are aware of it or not themselves. I seek to accompany each person who comes my way, along their path, offering skill, support, and genuine care to the best of my abilities as long as it is needed, believing: What you do unto others you do unto me.