My Therapist is a Nun

For ten years, I saw the same therapist, “D,” here in Pittsburgh. I was referred to her by my then-PCP because she was in a unique practice specializing in treating my diagnosis. The psychiatrist in the practice moved out-of-state after a few years, but I stayed with her. She was a tremendous support to me and often bent over backwards to engage me – she had an on-call service, she emailed and texted, and she was very accessible.

Mental Health Awareness MonthBut after ten years, I felt an itch – mostly due to my ongoing struggle to find a psychiatrist. My then-doctor had left the country for two weeks without telling me or updating her voicemail or having an on-call coverage plan. So I needed a refill and got really stuck. My long-term relationship with my therapist really paid off as she went to bat for me to solve the problem, but she ultimately had no control over the decisions of psychiatrists.

That’s when I made the decision to switch to Persad Center to access a treatment team that was all in-house. Persad has two psychiatrists on staff and lots of administrative staff to answer the phone and explain things like European vacations.

Persad Center
End table in my therapist’s office

I had heard that they had a nun on staff. And I wasn’t overly shocked to be assigned to her. It felt inevitable given my strong historical ties to Catholicism (and nuns.) A conversation I had had with Joy KMT a few months prior had opened my eyes to the benefits of using my own faith traditions as healing tools. I wasn’t necessarily seeking that out, but it doesn’t surprise me that life worked out that way.

Let me be very clear – she doesn’t “bring the nun stuff” into therapy. She didn’t mention it until I asked her straight up. She and I discussed at length how that element of her identity impacted my treatment. I would be very comfortable referring anyone to her unless I knew that it would be a barrier. She seems to be very good with boundaries. And I don’t have to tiptoe around *her* feelings about Catholicism – I can say exactly what I want. The bigger barrier to our communication is her lack of familiarity with social media. LOL.

My personal history with the Catholic Church is intense and riddled with a lot of pain, as well as a deep emotional connection that I can’t shake. I grew up Catholic, attended a Catholic college and spent a few years working as a social service missioner in my 20’s. I also attended the funerals of friends molested by our parish priest and see the fallout in the lives of those who survived, even 25+ years later.

It helps me to discuss my history with someone who truly understand the politics of the Church and also the way our faith traditions meld our lives. These aren’t topics that come up every session, but it helps to be able to reference them without a lot of backstory or explanation. And you’d be surprised at how much life experience a nun has these days.

I wasn’t looking for a Catholic therapist, but I’m glad it worked out this way. My former therapist was terrific and I’m grateful for what she brought to my life and my recovery. The ups and downs of trying to find and maintain a relationship with a psychiatrist give me great appreciation for the stability of my therapists.

Did you know that…

  • About 1 in 5 American adults will have a mental health condition in any given year?
  • But only 41 percent of them will receive services?
  • About 10 percent of the American adult population will have a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar?
  • And 18 percent have an anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you are experiencing symptoms, please consider using these screening tools and reaching out for support. One local resource is Persad Center in Lawrenceville.

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