QUESTION: I've been talking with some people and they say that I have a psycholigcal problem rather than a theological problem. What then is the difference between a psychological and a theological problem?

ANSWER: I think it depends on who you are talking to and what they believe in. A reductive materialist might uncritically believe in the current psychiatric paradigm that in most countries enjoys legal power and a good deal of popular support. Some theologians bend to the sometimes debatable truth claims put forward by psychiatry, perhaps because it's expedient to do so. Or maybe they're just not terribly bright and, therefore, misguided. I really don't know.

Meanwhile, some psychiatrists might be sympathetic to the idea that Godly and evil powers could play an immediate role in our day-to-day experience. But not all. Psychiatrists may differ among themselves in what they believe in and how they think problems are best explained and solved (although they apparently have a high degree of reliability in diagnosing mental disorders, according to the schema they adhere to).

We could discuss this question further. My Ph.D was in psychology and religion, so this is up my alley. Feel free to follow up if you like.

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QUESTION: so you're saying that psychology (the shrink) and theology (the Priest) should work together to help a person?

btw, is there a better term than shrink?

I guess what I'm really saying is that the human being is something of a mystery, so anyone who thinks they have the final word on psychological suffering or maladaptive behavior is probably a bit arrogant. I believe the best thing is for individuals to draw on whatever resources are truly beneficial to them. Since we're all different, this will vary from person to person. A Jew, for instance, would have little to gain from seeing a priest, unless, of course, they underwent some kind of conversion experience. And a priest would perhaps see the Jew as partly right but not quite getting the idea that Jesus is the messiah.

Some psychiatrists could be very spiritual. But others, I imagine, would be more materialistic. C. G. Jung, writing in the 1950s, felt that the medicine of his day was unduly biased by "medical materialism," as he put it. Granted, that was about 60 years ago, but still, some doctors are so good at understanding biochemical interactions that they might overlook spiritual interactions.

So I suggest finding the spiritual path, doctor and/or counselor that works for you. Otherwise, there's a possibility of getting caught up in a certain belief system that's not right for you. That may work for some folks but for true individuals, it might be limiting.

As for the term "shrink," I tend to avoid using it. "Psychiatrist" is the more respectful term. And while I may not fully agree with everything that psychiatry says today, it is a developing science. So there's hope for the future of the discipline.


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Michael Clark, Ph.D.


I'm a progressive Catholic--not a liberal, conservative nor a single-minded critic of Catholicism. I simply believe that adults in the 21C should use the mind God gave them and not just repeat ancient and medieval modes of thinking.

I can probably help with questions that intelligently and respectfully question those aspects of Catholicism that are not infallible. But if you're looking for someone to vigorously defend or perhaps refute Catholicism as a whole, that's not me. So please ask another expert.


I run an educational website and know what the web has to offer. I might suggest hyperlinks and/or book titles as I have a Ph.D. in Religious Studies and a considerable personal library.

Print Media:
My table from "Religions and Cults" at is reproduced with permission in L. Lindsey, S. Beach and B. Ravelli, Core Concepts in Sociology, 2nd ed., p. 157

World Wide Web:
My online article "Letter to God" coauthored with Buddhist monk, E. Raymond Rock, appears on several different spirituality-based websites, including

I've interviewed, as a Christian, a self-proclaimed mystic:

My articles appeared at the former New View magazine and are published at

Ph.D. in Religious Studies
M.A. in Comparative Religion
B.A. Hon. in Psychology/Sociology
For more info, please see my CV and letters of recommendation and my blog at

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