Angela Guarnere, M.S., Class of 2007
M.S. graduate Angela Guarnere plays a pivotal role in establishing a Catholic mental health clinic in rural Colorado.
“It wasn’t until I was sitting in a typical clinical staff meeting discussing cases with my colleagues in a rural community mental health agency that I finally saw the full impact of what I had become so accustomed to at IPS: the strength of integration.
The concept of being able to practice in the field of psychology without having to sacrifice my Catholic faith, or even better, actually utilizing it to enhance the therapeutic process, is what attracted me to IPS.
I had completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at a college “in the Catholic tradition” which gave me a strong background in psychology, but left me wondering where faith and spirituality fit in to a person’s journey to healing.
At IPS I realized this integration process is still very much in progress and appreciated how we were taught to approach a case by looking at the whole person, not simply reviewing a list of mental/emotional symptoms.
What have you been doing professionally since graduating from IPS?
After graduating with an M.S. in 2007, I moved to rural Colorado and worked as a clinician in a community mental health center. My caseload primarily consisted of children, adolescents, and families.
I was surrounded by highly educated professionals who were content to treat “episodes” and manage symptoms, but seemed to lose sight of what wholeness or healing could encompass. The only role faith played in a client’s case was to describe any “cultural considerations” that may impact their symptoms or strengths.
After three years of working in the field, priests at the surrounding parishes began to ask if an arrangement could be worked out for me to see clients at an office in the church. Although that arrangement was not possible right away, I did feel God calling me to leave the secular psychology environment and offer my talents to the service of the Church.
Starting in early 2011, the Bishop of my diocese requested I complete three assessments on how certain areas of ministry were functioning throughout the diocese. I took the next 18 months traveling the 48,000 square miles of our diocese researching youth, family life, and Hispanic ministries, compiling documents and articulating the needs I identified.
During my assignment, a recurring theme emerged: priests indicating their parishioners were dealing with intense issues and they had no trusted place to refer them for therapy. Catholic Charities had recently closed its clinical program due to lack of funding and I began to receive more phone calls from priests, and even the bishop, asking if I could just talk to this couple or that elderly man because they needed help and there was no one else to call.
By the grace of God and with the guidance and help of Dr. Kathryn Benes*, on August of 2012, we were able to open Spe Salvi Institute, a Catholic counseling clinic in Pueblo, Colorado. At Spe Salvi, we aim to provide professional clinical services, outreach and education programs, and operate consistently with the teachings of the Church.
What future professional goals do you have?
In the future, my hope is to be able to improve accessibility to psychological services consistent with Catholic doctrine throughout the entire Diocese of Pueblo. I want to help strengthen individuals and families both in the church and the general community. There is such a great need for Catholic practitioners, especially ones that are trained in the intricate task of integration!
For more information about the Spe Salvi Institute visit www.spesalviinstitute.org.
* Former faculty member at IPS.
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