Catholic therapists offer counseling and mercy

By Michele Chan Santos
Senior Correspondent

The Intuitus Group Counseling Clinic in Cedar Park is a Catholic-friendly, Catholic-focused group of licensed therapists who provide counseling on a wide variety of issues, for children, adolescents, families, couples or individuals. They provide marital therapy, counseling after divorce, treatment for drug, alcohol and pornography addiction, as well as therapy for couples coping with infertility.
Founded by Christopher Sperling, Jennifer Madere and Michelle Browning, all Catholics, the practice welcomes patients of all faiths and denominations. But Catholics in particular come to the Intuitus Group “so they have a place to go for therapy where they can be comfortable with their faith, to relax about that piece,” Sperling said. “There is sometimes a stigma that a therapist will encourage someone to do something against their faith, and here they don’t have to be concerned.”
Browning said patients can choose to have an opening and closing prayer as part of their session – or not, if they are not comfortable with it.
“We support Catholics at all levels of their faith,” she said. 
Browning said she prays for her clients outside of session, particularly during adoration. She asks her clients if they have any specific intentions they would like her to pray for.
Browning said the most rewarding part of being a therapist is “that moment in session, when you feel the climate and mood change. It’s humbling to witness people let go of rigid thinking and consider something new or different. It is the most difficult to reach, but is necessary for healing to take place.”
In all of their work, the therapists seek to embody compassion and healing, no matter what the denomination of their patient is.
“We are not treating people because they’re Catholic,” Sperling said. “We are treating them because we are.”
The Face of Mercy
The Catholic Psychotherapy Association’s annual conference, “The Face of Mercy: The Healing Path of Catholic Psychotherapy” will be held in Austin on April 14 to 16 at the Marriott Austin North.
Sperling is on the board of the association. The conference expects to draw about 300 people, including therapists, students, seminarians, nuns and priests.
The association chose this year’s theme, “The Face of Mercy,” in reference to the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“Part of our job is to be the face of mercy,” Sperling said. “Our association wants to help Catholic therapists get the training they need.” 
Bishop Joe Vásquez will celebrate the opening Mass for the conference on April 14 at 5:30 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Austin.
Although the workshops are focused on therapists, other people are welcome to attend. To register, to sponsor a seminarian or to buy an ad in their program, visit www.catholicpsychotherapy.org/index.php/conference-home.
Divorce and Beyond
One of the Intuitus Group’s most popular workshops is called “Divorce & Beyond.” This is a 10-week support group that helps adults work through the pain of divorce. There is a high demand for this workshop. Currently, Browning is leading a group at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, and plans to offer a class at the Intuitus offices in Cedar Park beginning in June.
The Divorce & Beyond class focuses on the difficulties, frustrations, emotions and transition of divorce, as well as working through the individual grieving process – one week at a time. For information, contact Browning or send an e-mail to divorce.and.beyond@gmail.com.
“We offer this because so many Catholics are going through divorce and they need support,” Browning said. “We work through the many emotions that divorce brings us – bitterness, anger, hopelessness.”
Marital counseling
For couples who are married but struggling, counseling can be a lifeline which can keep them together, offering a way to mediate disagreements, work through trauma or grief, and seek forgiveness.
“Counseling can help people stay together,” Sperling said. He works with couples on conflict resolution, acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Browning aids couples, families and individuals with trauma, anxiety, abuse and addiction.
For couples who are in crisis, Intuitus Group therapists can meet with them for “intensive therapy,” where couples talk with the therapists for three sessions in one day to work through a particular issue.
For people who are considering therapy but are not sure if it is for them, Browning said, “My job as your therapist is to understand what it feels like to be you and to walk in your shoes. We are all collaborative counselors and therapists; we honor what our clients are hoping to accomplish. We work with people in coming up with treatment plans together.”
The group currently has six therapists, and will expand to nine by mid-year. Each one specializes in different areas. To learn more, go to http://intuitus-group.com/.