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PSYCHOTHERAPY: ORTHODOX VIEW

PROF.DR.DMITRY AVDEEV

 

I would like to start my lecture with "The Bases of Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church." This document contains a section on mental illnesses. I'll give you a few quotations from the document: "The Church regards mental illnesses as a manifestation of general sinful distortion of human nature. Highlighting the spiritual, mental and bodily levels in the organization of the personality structure, the Holy Fathers distinguished between the diseases evolved from "the human nature", and the illnesses caused by a demonic influence or as a consequence of the passions which enslaved the human. In accordance with this it seems equally unjustifiable to reduce all mental diseases to manifestations of obsession that entails an ungrounded exorcism of evil spirits, and to treat any mental disorder exclusively by clinical methods ... That is why the combination of pastoral and medical care with due delimitation of spheres of competence of a doctor and a priest is the most fruitful in the field of psychotherapy.... Psychotherapeutic approaches based on suppression of the patient and humiliation of his dignity are morally unacceptable. Occult methods of impact on the psyche, sometimes disguised as scientific psychotherapy, are categorically unacceptable for Orthodoxy".

If we analyze these lines carefully, we’ll see that the Church identifies three main reasons for emerging the mental illness. The first reason is human nature. In this context psychic, mental   illness   is comparable to other diseases (neurological, somatic). Both are sent to a man by God's permission, in order to get on in saving. But there are two other reasons. The second reason is sinful passions. This is a spiritual "bacillus" unseen to the world which is the cause of many and many mental disorders. And finally, the third reason is the demons. A striking example of this is the Gadarene demoniac, about whom the Holy Gospel tells the story. Though it is quite clear  that  the  demons are in the depths of every sinful passion. That is, when we speak about a demonic assault of the personality, we only mean the degree of demonic participation in the origin of one or another mental disorder.

A short statistical summary: today in the Russian Federation the prevalence of mental illnesses is as such: 100 thousand people – 2,500 mentally ill people. These are adults. Children suffer more - 3,800 per 100,000. There is a very high prevalence of depressive disorders. It is well known that the most severe complication of depression is suicide. Every year, 20-25 people per 100,000 population commit suicide. There are 7 million patients suffering from chronic alcoholism. According to various sources 5-7 of 10 children need medical and psychological treatment. The age of being drawn to smoking among Moscow boys fell to 10 years of age, among girls – to 12 years.

And here is one more threatening figure that makes us think over many things. According to professor B.D. Karvasarsky 300,000 occult healers crush souls of people in the Russian Federation. How many of us are present here? And there is a whole army of these people, a legion - 300 thousand people. Open any newspaper and you will see the announcement about occult services. I recollect my work at the Krutitsy Patriarchal Compound in the Pastoral Centre in the name of St. John of Kronstadt. There we examined the people who suffered from totalitarian sects and occultism. People came constantly, every day. Sometimes these were the groups of people.

Over the past 10 years the rise in mental illnesses by about 35-50% is observing.  I can give you some more figures. If you take all mental illnesses as 100%, then 20% of them is the so-called major psychoses (schizophrenia, manic-depressive psychosis, senile psychoses, etc.). This number is always at one and the same level. Genetic, individual and biological factors play a significant role in the origin of these diseases. The other group is the so-called small psychiatry (neuroses, post-stress disorders, many forms of depression, etc.). By its volume it's large and makes up 80% of the total number of mental disorders. So, the rise in mental pathology has recently been observed, mainly, just due to the borderline disorders. A lot of diseases in this group can be called as sinful ailments.

Psychotherapy, which arose as a science at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries, received an official status in our country in May 1985 only, when in the nomenclature of medical disciplines a specialty "psychotherapist" appeared. Many clinicians tend to believe that psychotherapy is a complex of therapeutic effects on the psyche and through the psyche on the entire body. From there, the indications for psychotherapy appear. It is believed that the greater the proportion of psychological factors in the origin of the disease, the more psychotherapy is necessary. The motives of the Ministry of Health, taking the decision to introduce such a specialty are understandable. This is also a rapidly growing number of borderline mental disorders (neuroses, psychopathies, post-stress states), alcoholism, problems of narcomania and toxicomania, etc.

If we try to briefly express the essence of this therapeutic area, we can say that it is treatment by the word, consolation and spiritual support to people seeking help. Such goals were declared. «Psyche» in Greek means "a soul"; «therapeia» - «treatment." If we combine these two words, then we will get "treatment of a soul," "soul therapy". It’s a wonderful term. It is a pity that it is often embedded in a completely different content.

It is noteworthy, that this branch of medicine was formed just during the Soviet period in our country Atheism didn’t give anything bright to a soul. In addition, physicians were well aware that human health is largely determined by his state of mind. So, some paradox appeared. On the one hand, the existence of a soul in man was not recognized and the concept was considered to be purely idealistic, but on the other – the doctors began to appear in the clinics who attempted to help this very soul. At the proficiency courses in psychotherapy the physicians were primarily trained in hypnosis, auto-training and some more "intricacies" and sent to "the front line", i.e. to hospitals. Naturally, no moral demands to a physician - psychotherapist were placed. Everybody worked as he wanted to.

The history of psychotherapy goes back to the old times. In ancient times it was said that the art of medicine rests on "three pillars": "a knife, a medicinal herb and a word." "A knife" is a prototype of surgery, "a medicinal herb" is a collective image of dosage forms, and "a word" refers to living, sincere attitude of a doctor to his patient. The main tool of psychotherapy is the word.  In this case we speak about the impact of the word, the word for healing.

Time went on. Centuries changed.  The eighteenth century came. What is notable about it? The French Revolution, of course. The separation of European medicine from the Church led to   abandonment of the spiritual basis of human recognition. And was the need to treat neuroses left? Sure. This circumstance forced to seek new methods, but outside God. They were: Mesmer’s magnetism, hypnotism of the English surgeon James Brad. There appeared autosuggestion (self-induced hypnotism) of the French psychologist and pharmacist Emile Coue. In more recent times, in the twentieth century, here and there a buzzword “auditory training” was heard. The German physician Johann Schultz after his trips to India synthesized some mean notion between yoga and psychotherapy. He offered his method to the European people. In the Soviet Union, this method has been the most popular for a long time. Science has reinforced the importance of these techniques through the reflexes, the doctrine of the dominant, but their relation to occult practices has not been given any estimate. I remember: once I was invited to speak at a medical meeting. And there the question on admissibility, from the Orthodox point of view, to use hypnosis was being discussed. If to summarize the position of some speakers, it was to ensure that the light stages of hypnosis are admissible but deeper ones aren’t. To my mind, this position is completely incorrect. Let’s refer to the Holy Fathers, the Optina Elders. We'll see distinct and clear answers. I offered to the audience present at the hall to answer the question honestly: Will you ever be treated by hypnosis? All answered unequivocally: "No".

Therapeutic effects of hypnosis are evidently exaggerated. There may be some reduction of neurotic disorders and hysterical stigmata. That’s perhaps all. But much more damage is done to the soul of a man! The hypnologists in the best case don’t even think of it. Hypnosis, in particular, its deep stage - is violence against a person. It is an indisputable fact. Thirty years ago, in Moscow a therapist Raikov tried to develop creative abilities with the help of hypnosis. He hypnotized people and told them: «You are Repin and you are Tchaikovsky». But no one became as Repin or Tchaikovsky. Back in the late seventies, there were compelling studies about the danger of deep hypnotic trances. The complications such as hypnophilia and hypnomania are well-known. In general, this method is certainly anti-Christian.

Hypnotism, which had prevailed in psychotherapy for a long time ceased to satisfy psychotherapists themselves. And the future father of psychoanalysis Freud tried to approach to intellect in contrast to hypnosis.  But the attempt was undoubtedly unsuccessful. It could not be successful because the theomachist and atheist Freud did not reserve even a small space for spirituality in the human soul.

Psychoanalysis originated in Europe more than a hundred years ago. These ideas were brought to life by a departure from Christian values, the liberalization of views, philosophy of that time. Freud only brought to life what was claimed. Of course, the human psyche has, besides consciousness, a deep stratum of the unconscious. But only the person having a corresponding world view could see sexual and aggressive in this unconscious and build a therapeutic system based on the release of this energy. It was Sigmund Freud who became this "hero". In the psychoanalytic theory, a person is perceived as rampant highly organized individual, in whom the ideas of ​​sexuality and aggression dominate. These ideas form a human behavior, motivate actions. The repressed sexuality or aggression lead to diseases, neuroses. To be conscious of them, according to Freud, means to solve all the problems. And after awareness Freud approved appropriate actions. For example, he stated that "freedom of sexual relations between boys and" decent girls "is necessary - otherwise the society will become a victim of incurable neuroses, which will drive enjoyment derived from life to a minimum, destroy the marital relationship and cause the hereditary catastrophe in the whole future generation. "

         Freud was a militant atheist. And thousands of people's minds drew their attention to such a man, or rather to his scientific heritage. Among them, first of all were psychologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, students. Psychoanalytic associations have been created, special magazines have been issued, books and articles have been published.

Some can oppose me that much of Freud's theory is reasonable. For example, the unconscious in a man acts on the consciousness and it is manifested in dreams, slips of the tongue, slips of the pen, associations, etc. Perhaps this is so. The main point is in the other thing. To see in a person only unconscious, sexual, aggressive means to incredibly diminish, simplify and distort the human nature, find only negative, not to understand the higher mission of a man, the essence of his life and his aspirations to eternity. Dr. Syropyatov quite rightly points out that "the spiritual life is always conscious, while the unconsciousness, on which most psychotherapeutic schools build their systems, is a sign of darkness and sin."

In contrast to Freud the Swiss neurologist Paul Dubois also fought with hypnosis, seeing the rational logic as the alternative to hypnotism. The “daughters” of rational psychotherapy -  Beck and Ellis’s psychotherapies were involved in the correction of logic. The scientists began to talk about the cognitive powers of the soul. This is certainly not bad, but it is not the spiritual mind yet. That is the rational psychotherapy was also the antithesis of hypnotism. But as it seems to me, it  was  more favorable.

The behavioral therapy. In an effort to pragmatism, alas, a free and creative essence of a person was ignored. Without belittling the merits of some behavioral therapy techniques, such as "paradoxical intention," I still want to say that the neglect of the spiritual basis has led to the fact that the effect of the use of behavioral therapy is usually short-lived or even ephemeral.

It would seem that Carl Rogers came much closer than anybody to a spiritual understanding of man. We see warmth and openness, and unconditional acceptance of patients. The mystical dimension of psychotherapy appeared. But Rogers was not able to break out of the same shackles. Everything was decided in the ego-centered humanistic concepts. "I", a large letter "I" was the main driving force of psychotherapy.

Parallel with the three classic areas of psychotherapy - namely, analytical, behavioral and existential-humanistic, the very first area - "Psychotherapy by influence" was developed but, so to speak, in a more "perfect" form. This is, for example, a "transpersonal psychotherapy" trying to "clean up" the subconsciousness to rhythmic music and hyperventilation. At the spiritual level, such therapy is moving closer to the world of the spiritual wickedness in high places, exposing patients to significant risk of patients’ souls.

Here is another curious fact. A famous Tibetan Trungpa already in 1974 said that Buddhism would come to the West through psychology. And these words, alas, come true. Just look at the section "psychology" of a large bookstore and we will see what is on the bookshelves. Reincarnation, meditation training, karmic practice, ... etc.  It becomes bitter at heart from all this kind of waste.

The Belarusian psyhotherapist Nickolas Laisha talks about very important issues of modern psychotherapy: "Why is there so much chaos in the field of psychological and mental health services rendered to the population? The point is that in modern scientific psychology and psychotherapy there is no single view on human nature, the source, inducing his activity, on the cause of neuropsychiatric disorders. There are more than twenty (!) basic concepts of personality recognized in modern psychology. And each of them has its adherents. However, each of the concepts of identity, in essence, is nothing but "psychotheology" or "psyhoreligion", which is headed by his powerful preacher ... The author of each theory of personality, being as a rule, an atheist creates his "theology", his pseudoreligion, his "belief." Being convinced of the truth of his views on human nature, of rightness of his world view, of the purity of his experience, he defends his views, seeks to persuade opponents and becoming a "teacher", the founder of another doctrine, concepts, theories encourages everyone to follow only him ".

1991. The relics of Saint Seraphim of Sarov in Diveevo were transferred. I immediately reminded this fact. This grace stirred up the whole country. Approximately since that time, some believing psychologists and psychotherapists have tried to bring their world view in the therapeutic process. The first books devoted to Orthodox psychology have appeared: those of father Boris Nichiporov, then of professor-psychologist B.Bratus. The physicians enthusiastically read the book written by a wonderful religious psychiatrist professor Dmitry Melekhov  "Psychiatry and the problems of spiritual life." And now, finding God, becoming a member of community, entering into the world of Christian Orthodox theology, the therapist himself began to heal. He began to understand the Truth. As a result he tried to help the people coming to him. What did the Holy Orthodoxy open to the psychotherapist who began to believe? Of course, it opened a clear ideological basis. It opened a clear understanding of normal and pathological conditions. It opened the doctrine about the forces of soul, about sin and virtues. A sin became to be perceived by a believing therapist as a source of many neuropsychiatric disorders, psychological problems, life collisions and feelings. The man after his fall was seen with cloven forces of his soul by a believing orthodox specialist.  After the Fall of our forefathers, the mind, heart and will of each of us, "went" along three different "roads". What fable does it remind you?  It’s of course "A swan, crayfish and pike." The problem is just in this mental disintegration. Let’s recall the words from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans: the good which I want, I do not do, but the evil, which I do not want to do, I do. If I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I do it but my sin living in me. (Romans 7, 19-20). It is two thousand years ago was said by St. Paul the Apostle.

A famous preacher, Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, aptly observes that "a man is a shattered pitcher". The healing begins with understanding of the circumstances. Why did the Savior come in the world? He came to redeem us from the slavery of sin, to give us eternal life. There is the Greek word "Soteria". It’s a wonderful word. You know what it means?  Salvation.  The second meaning of the word is healing. So this is not by accident. It turns out that the soul that walks right by the way of salvation, is healing, it requires integrity. The Holy Orthodoxy has enriched us by ascetic experience of ascetics of piety, spiritual experience of the Holy Fathers. We're talking about a patristic psychotherapy. And our mind ascends to the image of the Holy Elders. I have recently re-read one of my favorite books "Chronicles of  Seraphim - Diveevo monastery." And I cannot help but read to you a little excerpt from this book. "The mind of Father Seraphim was bright, he had hard memory, his look was truly Christian, his heart for all was approachable, his will was indomitable,  his power of speech was lively and plentiful. His speech was so effective that the listener received spiritual benefit from it. His heart-to-heart talks were filled with the spirit of humility, they warmed hearts, removed some veil from the eyes, illumined the minds of interlocutors by the light of spiritual understanding, bringing them to a sense of remorse and aroused huge change for the better, unwittingly indulged and conquered the will and hearts of the others, poured peace and calm into them. "Well,  actually, what else to say? This is a lighthouse, a bright image for each of us, for every person who has dared to engage in pastoral care, orthodox psychology and psychotherapy.

The central theme of orthodox psychology and psychotherapy is the doctrine about the passions. What is a sinful passion? Let’s refer to the Holy Fathers. St. Gregory Palamas says: "Passion is a special inclination of the soul, having cravings to excessive growth and suppression of all other parts of the soul and personality." Saint Silouan from Athos taught that the drag force of passion over a person is in the promise of delight. Thus, the pursuit of pleasure is the main motive of human behavior and acceptance of sinful thoughts by him. In this case, as the Holy Fathers say, is the essence of passion psychology. "The passion - writes St. Theophan the Recluse, Vyshenskii - is a gradual desire to sin in a known manner. Or it is love for some sinful cases or objects." Passion in man, gradually taking root, becomes like his second nature, the main core of his feelings and desires. The Holy Fathers have identified several major conditions of the struggle against the passions. Of course, we have to fight against sinful passions themselves and teach the people who come to us for help, to the bases of this struggle. What are these bases? First, we should avoid occasions and causes of excitement and nurture in the soul of passions. It is necessary to cut off passion at the very beginning of its formation. This is the second point. The third condition: one should not be discouraged in the struggle against the passions. If you happen to fall, then after repenting in your sins, again and again rise and march to Christ, overcoming sinful tendencies. And here is one more thing. You should never be presumptuous and rely on your own strength and willpower, but set all your hopes primarily upon the Lord. And finally, we must remember that the sin before being realized in the affair arises in the thoughts of the soul. It is necessary to stop sinful thoughts in their very appearance.

I wanted to do a little clinical analysis with you at the lecture today. To my mind, in the book "Reflections of an Orthodox doctor" there is presented a very illustrative case of misophobia, that is, the fear of infection, contamination, from which one young man suffered. First, I will read a letter of this young man to you. He visited me many times at the reception. And then we'll analyze what happened to him. "Hello, Doctor. My purity mania is so strong that I cannot control it any longer. I try to avoid any contact with people and dirty places in the streets. It seems that it is “crapped” everywhere and I get all this on me.  Naturally, coming home, a process of long and protracted “scrubbing” begins - all the clothes are washed (even if contamination was minimal). Everything that I touched by the dirty clothes, I wipe with Russian vodka, and then I go to the bathroom to have a shower for 3-4 hours. And the process of “washing” is constantly increasing. That is when I wash my hands, it seems to me that I touched something again - and the process of washing begins all over again. Last time I had a real nervous shaking on leaving the bathroom (somewhat similar to Parkinson's disease) and gross internal hysteria (a regrettable record - 30 hours on my feet in the bathroom on 22-23.09.06). My whole world is limited by a bed and a computer. I've lost everything: institute, friends, and I will lose work soon. I finish work at 22:30, then I have a shower - until 3:00, I go to work - at 9am. This is my life now. "

Let’s analyze and discuss this case now. We will illustrate the formation of painful symptoms on the example of the development of sinful thoughts. The Holy Fathers notice that at first a prilog appears. A prilog is the first stage of penetration of sin in the soul. So compulsive thoughts appears in the head of this young man. Prilogs often have a demonic origin. The next stage is very significant. It is called a combination. As a ray of a flashlight the attention of this young man is directed towards the research of this prilog. Yes, there are germs, of course. There are infectious diseases. And, in general, you can catch something." There is some grain of truth in this," - he said to himself. That’s all, the prilog has been accepted! The third stage is referred to as a conjunction. The young man is convinced that he will be sick. That is the idea inspired from outside becomes his own thought. And this fact in his soul begins to cause a tremendous stress and internal conflict. There are a lot of infectious diseases. For example, hepatitis, AIDS, etc. The consciousness keeps saying: a mortal danger threatens me! And therefore, according to the young man’s opinion, he must stand under the shower for thirty hours and wipe all things with vodka for hours. And try not to touch anything. The fourth stage is called capture. A tree has been planted: A year has passed, two ... Now try to pull it up! It’s very difficult. And it is the same with the thought. The conviction only increases. The soul is completely enslaved by these thoughts. And as a result we have a sustained fear, misophobia. And this fear is not without a sin. It is based on the lack   of faith, it passes all the previous four stages. The next phase will be neurophysiology. Fear begins to dominate the mind. It is amplifying. According to the laws of the dominant this fear inhibits mental activity around it, and thoughts move in a circle. To stop the flow of thoughts, this mental "cud" is impossible or very, very difficult. What can be next? For example, psychosomatic or neurotic symptoms, depression, insomnia. A person can take to drink, start smoking a lot and so on. The debut of somatic disease is possible. See what this thought can cause! In this case this is the fear of contagion.  Persistent and stable.

Over the years I have developed a rule of fighting against the impulsive obsession which consists of three parts.

          We should not believe this thought!

          Not to be combined with intrusive thoughts, that is not to enter into contact with them. So I ask you: when did Eve sin? When did she taste the forbidden fruit?  Earlier.  When she started to talk with the demon. Thus, the second condition is not to be combined with thoughts.

         And the third, it's the first and the second. It is the grace of God, Prayer, the Sacraments of the Church, the pursuit of godliness. This is the foundation on which everything must be built. After all, we have entered into the invisible spiritual battle with the spirits of wickedness of the heavens.

The questions concerning the meaning of life, the meaning of suffering in psychotherapy are paramount. I would like to give you a quotation from the works of Jung, although he naturally is not my favourite author: "Among the many patients under the age of thirty-five years and older there was  not a single one whose problem in the long run, would not be reduced to the search of religious outlook on life. " R. Mey says the same. According to a figurative remark of one priest, a spiritless psychotherapy is a headless horseman.

I am convinced that we are much richer than our unbelieving colleagues. How to comfort a mother who lost her son? Only by the truth of God: God has no death. I recall patients with severe oncology. I remember the girl who at the age of 17, after the first adulterous connection was contracted by a severe AIDS. I will not forget the woman who lost everything after the earthquake in Spitak. How can we help these people? To prescribe them some relaxation?  Of course, at the first stage these are pills and conversation, and compassion. All this is very important. And then, if possible, we come to the spiritual work.

Professor Larisa Shehovtsova singles out two problems of orthodox psychotherapy. General - this is providing assistance to a person in overcoming his fallen nature and his awareness of psychological passionate mechanisms. I totally agree with that. And a particular problem – helping a person to solve his specific problems and life difficulties. And here is a very important point, from the problem to conviction of sin and ways of its healing. These problems often hide a sin, sinful passions.

Here is one more important factor. The religious confessional feature of psychotherapy indicates the use of religious experience not on the whole but specifically of Orthodox spirituality. That's why I and many of my colleagues use the term "orthodox psychotherapy". Other terms are also used: spiritually-oriented, religious-oriented, Christian psychotherapy and so on. What was the controversy concerning this term! But then the book by the Greek Metropolitan Hierotheus (Vlachos) "Orthodox Psychotherapy" was published. Just it dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

Two forms are also distinguished in orthodox psychotherapy. The first form is purely ecclesiastical. All the lifestyle of the Church is deeply psychotherapeutic, although the Church is not psychotherapy. It should be understood clearly. And the second form is scientific and practical, i.e. it helps a therapist, clinical psychologist, specialist. The spiritual experience of the Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church cannot and must not be transformed into some kind of psycho-techniques. The fundamental condition is the impact on the patient by the word, by the word of an orthodox doctor. I again draw your attention to the same document, from which we started our lecture, i.e. to the Bases of Social Concept. "In the field of psychotherapy," - as stated in the Bases" the most fruitful is the combination of pastoral and medical aid to mental patients with proper delimitation of spheres of competence of a doctor and a priest. Morally unacceptable are psychotherapeutic approaches based on the suppression of the patient personality and humiliation of his dignity. Occult methods of impact on the psyche, sometimes disguised as scientific psychotherapy, are categorically unacceptable for Orthodoxy." A therapist, psychologist often precede a meeting with a priest. They prepare this meeting.

Let us formulate the basic principles of orthodox psychotherapy. There are three of them, in my opinion.

         1. Confession of orthodox faith by a specialist himself and bringing of its saving truth and spiritual purity into medical and consultative process. It is impossible to be engaged in orthodox psychotherapy and not to pray, not to go to church, not to repent of sins and receive communion.

2. Basing of psychotherapeutic activity on patristic basis.

3. Rejection of methods and directions of psychotherapy which do not satisfy the truths of Orthodoxy.

It is very important to build a society in the Christian attitude to diseases, including mental ones. This thought led me to organize the Institute for problems of forming the Christian attitude to mental illnesses ten years ago. To which diseases is it primarily necessary to form the Christian attitude? These are neuroses, psychosomatics, addictive disorders, suicidal behavior, depression, etc.

We conducted an interesting and in many respects exemplary study during a seminar on psychology and psychotherapy a few years ago. The participants were asked to recall and write 10-12 events of the past five years which left the most vivid trace in their memory. Then, these events were distributed into four sections: "health", "activity", "contacts", "spiritual values."

The first section consisted of events related to health, physical activity, sport, etc. The second section – related to professional, creative, scientific, educational activities, and also self-education, hobbies, etc. Contacts included a wide range of diverse communication, from business to personal. Spiritual values were ​​associated with the problems of religiosity, world view, impressions about books of spiritual content, edifying meetings, etc.

Two hundred and five answers were got totally, of which only four were related to the field of "spiritual values", and only in two cases they referred to Orthodox spirituality.

Such a grim picture. The professionals who are supposed to heal the soul, are not much interested in the very soul (their own and somebody’s else). In our country psychotherapy occurred in the situation of the child, who was plunged into the whirl of life without education and supervision. And, as usual in such cases, the child doesn’t often choose the best. One can cite another analogy. Psychotherapy appeared in the position of a man sitting on a sack of gold and holding out his hand for alms. Spirituality of the Holy Rus was again no longer needed, the light of Orthodoxy didn’t attract the attention of men of science and the majority of practitioners. I am glad that by the grace of God more therapists, psychologists believing in Him appear now, and this inspires hope and optimism.

The distinguishing feature of orthodox psychotherapy is Christian mercy, compassion combined with the ability to use psychotherapeutic and medical knowledge. The following words relating to psychotherapy belong to St. Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky): "Psychotherapy, aiming at verbal rather spiritual impact of a doctor on the patient is generally acknowledged, often giving excellent results of treatment of many diseases." Here we must put a very important accent: the essence of psychotherapy is really no longer in verbal but in spiritual impact. The patients of  a therapist is a very special contingent. Their sufferings are often associated with moral conflicts, family problems, feelings after severe illnesses, spiritual searches. The man who suffers from a lack of love, understanding and support from his loved  stares  in the doctor’s eyes. Medical therapeutic effects of psychotherapy should have hierarchy of goals: from the nearest (to soothe, inspire hope, eliminate the symptoms of the disease) to the main - internal growth and development, appealing to everlasting values. It is my deep conviction that psychotherapy, when possible, should be a "bridge" to Orthodoxy.

Opponents say: orthodox psychotherapy cannot exist; religious doctors should not impose their religious beliefs to other people because other religious teachings have a right to exist. I’ll express my opinion. I see such a solution in this case: if a doctor-psychotherapist is a believer, orthodox man, his pastoral practice will be based on Christian values. And in his therapeutic arsenal there will be no meditative techniques, hypnotic trances, and similar techniques, bearing destruction to the patient’s soul. It is also clear that an orthodox doctor will talk about faith and spirituality with those people who want to hear about it. Convincingly believing that Truth is only one and it is only in the Holy Orthodox, a religious doctor will not offer to "try" the doctrines of other faiths and religions. Thus, an orthodox doctor will cure by orthodox psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy, as defined above, is a specific kind of medical care, because the soul of man is in the focus of its theory and practice. Naturally, in this case an orthodox man tries to be accepted by an orthodox doctor. I will also point out the fact that orthodox people in Russia are the main culture-forming layer of our society, they are millions of people. And we, orthodox doctors, are tirelessly told: "You have no right!... You should not do it! … You are trying to limit the scope of science by biblical ideas! ..."  But, excuse me, why? After all, if at a reception of a religious doctor there is a religious patient, why they should hide their beliefs from each other? And it also happens: seeing icons, icon-lamp in the doctor’s consulting room the patient himself asks to be told about Christian faith and Church and the conversation takes an entirely different content.

Psychotherapy can help a patient to better understand himself, his emotional state, deeper evaluate a particular conflict situation, calm down, etc. However, no therapy is able to overcome the sins and passions in the human soul, it can do only the Lord provided that a man will make all spiritual efforts for this.

Thank you for attention!


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