Psy.D. student James Hernandez recounts what attracted him to IPS and what it took to ensure his acceptance into the program.
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you…plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me…and I will change your lot. Jeremiah 29: 11-14
“I have been Catholic all of my life, but it wasn’t until my senior year – after a series of bad choices – that I encountered Christ and the richness of the faith.
Thus, with the fire of a recent “convert,” I began college at the University of Louisiana. And the relativistic culture that pervades much of academia seemed to blow out that fire.
It seemed to contradict everything that I had come to know and believe about the faith. It made my faith seem nothing more than a powerful placebo effect.
Needless to say, this period of time was difficult because I perceived that I was being taught two different ways of knowing that contradicted each other, and I did not know who to trust.
But, God gave me this time to struggle with the question of “What is Truth?” He put a desire in me to seek true Wisdom, not just the passing opinions of people who appoint themselves as the authority on knowledge. At the same time, he also put a desire in my heart to love the ‘poor in spirit.’
In my last semester of college, I realized I wanted to be a counselor. I didn’t know where I would go to graduate school, but I started thinking about it. Then, I went to a week-long course on the Theology of the Body.
After attending this course, I knew I had to somehow integrate the Theology of the Body and the Church’s understanding of the person with counseling.
I figured I would do this by getting my master’s (in the theology of marriage and family) from the John Paul II Institute and then getting a master’s in counseling from a university.
Fortunately, someone from the Theology of the Body Institute introduced me to a Catholic counselor who told me about IPS. When I saw the website, I knew it was where I needed to go.
It was everything I wanted so I applied to IPS and another counseling program. I got into the other program but not IPS! I was shocked because I thought since IPS was a new program, I would be a shoe-in with my good GPA and decent GRE scores.
Obviously, I was very disappointed. I really believed IPS was the best place for me to learn how to be a good Catholic psychotherapist. So, I decided to retake the GRE and boosted my score significantly. I also took a few additional psychology classes, and the following year I was accepted into the program.
In hindsight, this was the best path for me! I got married on New Year’s Eve that year, and it would have been extremely difficult to be away from my fiancé for the semester while adapting to an entirely new environment.
It was one more lesson (among a million others) that reminded me to trust in God!
IPS has lived up to my expectations, and more. The Institute has helped me on my quest for Truth. It has given me a framework in which to see and understand the human person without being deterministic.
This has helped me to better appreciate the gifts and also the shortcomings of others, and to be able to accept my own limits as a psychotherapist.
Furthermore, I believe that the education and training we receive at IPS can match that of any other clinical psychology program, and I would even say that we have an edge over most. Our edge is that we are open to God and His graces.
Another edge is that we have holy teachers! When one studies under a holy person, it is much easier to trust him/her and to want to learn.
My advice to a prospective student would be, ‘Only come to IPS if you’re serious about learning to be a holy, Catholic therapist.
This entails wanting to pour your heart and mind into your studies and training, as well as being open to God’s healing within yourself. Without this determination, IPS may not be for you.’
With all of this said, God knows the plans He has in mind for you.”