Catholic counselling support group

Catholic counselling support group

Peter Watt

THE CATHOLIC COUNSELLORS Professional Network had its origins in Perth as a group of Catholic professionals who met informally to support one another in their faith, and explore the links between the practice of their faith and the practice of their profession in order to better serve their clients.

A basic tenet was that the inclusion of the faith dimension would yield a fuller, more complete picture of the human person, and contribute towards an understanding of what constitutes "health". A shared faith would provide the group with a common language and reference point from which to then debate a complex diversity of clinical approaches, and suggest a specific attitude towards treatment.

The network became an official Catholic organisation in 1995, when a code of ethics was submitted to Archbishop Hickey, and endorsed. The network later became a national organisation with members in most states, each subscribing personally to the code of ethics. The code of ethics emphasises a commitment to working in harmony with Church teaching, professionism and on-going personal development, a deep respect for clients, and a spirit of service. The code reinforces the accountability of counsellors as individuals, apart from the organisations and professional bodies that represent them.

The network originally published quarterly newsletters and updates of its membership register, for the benefit of networking, and Mass was offered for clients as a regular intention. However, as schedules became tighter, the group struggled to maintain regular meetings, whilst still existing as a network of practitioners. Following a suggestion by Franciscan priest-psychologist Fr Daniel Pietrzak, an open invitation was offered to Melbourne-based practitioners to determine whether there was an interest in meeting to form a group in Melbourne, and was received favourably.

The invitation is extended to all Catholic practitioners working as professional counsellors, psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, or psychiatrists, who are registered with their professional body or under supervision. Students of these fields are also welcome. A copy of the existing aims and code of ethics, which are currently being considered by the group, is available by contacting Irena Bomford on (03) 9568 0414.

It is envisaged the group will provide counselling professionals with support in their faith, Church personnel and Catholic doctors with increased confidence in making referrals, and clients with an increased potential for growth. For further information and details regarding the next meeting, contact Peter Watt on (03) 9525 7711.

Peter Watt is a psychologist and psychotherapist in private practice and a founding member of the Catholic Counsellors Professional Network.

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