I will be shocked if any of us have not been affected either directly or indirectly by an affair. I know that my friends whose parents have had affairs have deeply affected their families to the point where some of my friends are still feeling the emotional fallout. When I began researching ways of therapeutically working with couples I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of work our secular colleagues had done regarding helping couples recover from what I call the nuclear option in a marriage. However, I found that there had yet to be a Catholic response to this significant clinical problem. Catholic Marital Infidelity Treatment (CMIT) was developed to provide such an answer.
Catholic Marital Infidelity Treatment desires to help Catholic therapists conceptualize the human person, marriage, and infidelity from a Catholic anthropology. For example, the human person naturally finds their flourishing within a vocation (e.g. marriage), and thus recommending divorce to the couple is not part of CMIT. The couple is also led towards resilience and virtue development within the therapy room, something that many of our secular colleagues would not consider as part of a treatment plan. Thus, CMIT provides a unique viewpoint within the psychological literature since it centers on the truth of the human person. It is easy to add CMIT to any current therapeutic modality (e.g. EFT or the Gottman Method) which makes it relevant for any clinician. What will hopefully be of great interested to the CPA members is the case study I plan to share which will show CMIT’s process with a couple who showed great fortitude and recovered from infidelity.
Catholic Marital Infidelity Treatment seeks to begin a movement which involves the following. The Catholic therapist views couples suffering from infidelity as two individuals living as a loving communion of persons within the marital vocation. They have deeply held core beliefs regarding marriage and marital life, are part of a larger family system which has shaped them, and who have suffered a profound attachment injury (i.e. the affair) which a traumatic event. Such a Catholic approach is necessary given that the human person is both complex and simple. He is complex in the sense that he is composed of a variety of systems (e.g., biological and psychological), but simple because all of these systems work together. Therefore, any attempt to help him to heal requires the therapist to utilize a variety of methods but understanding that those methods should unify. I look forward to sharing CMIT at this year’s CPA Conference and adding to the great work that we as Catholic mental health professionals are performing in our communities.
William T. McKenna, Psy.D.
Private Practice, Richmond VA