Catholic Therapy Basics

“Treating Clergy Sexual Abuse: A Catholic Guide to Understanding and Treating Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors” is an article written by Catholic psychotherapists Shasha Kleinsorge, PhD, Karen Klein Villa, PhD, and Therese Cirner, LPC (September 4, 2019, updated resources April 19, 2021). Here you will find an author’s presentation (video) and a PDF (below) of the full paper, which highlight how faith can be integrated into therapeutic care following abuse.

Nobody can use a person as a means to an end, no human being, nor yet God the Creator.

St. John Paul II, 1960


This analysis considers important variables for the understanding and treatment of clergy/religious sexual abuse survivors from the perspective of three Catholic psychotherapists. We review the pathology of clergy who abuse children and young adults—by misusing their power and by an insidious‘grooming’ process which exploits the child’s natural cravings for attention and love. We also describe the defenses which often emerge from early and traumatic experiences, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and repetition compulsion, which is the victim surviv0r’s unconscious repetition of the original abuse. Clinical and treatment strategies for addressing traumatic sexual abuse are presented,including the importance of a therapeutic frame, obstacles to talking about the abuse, and validation. In Christian circles, anger and forgiveness are often treated too superficially in the care of abuse victims.Some common and inevitable counter transference issues with these kind of patients are considered as well as the caregiver’s need to be vigilant about secondary trauma. Because this type of betrayal affects the whole faith community, restorative justice is due to the faith community as well as individual victim survivors. Prayerful devotion to God, not merely the use of prayer as a tool, and Divine wisdom are needed for treatment providers who work with this population. Finally, a case study is provided.

Includes Reflections on Secondary Trauma

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