A Dissertation on IFS and Catholicism

Feb 2, 2024

Dear Souls and Hearts Member,

I had not intended to send out an email this week; but something happened – and I just had to share that something with you.

Divine Mercy University doctoral student in psychology Christian Amalu successfully defended his dissertation titled An Analysis of Internal Family Systems Therapeutic Factors from the perspective of the Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person. 

And it’s excellent.

And if you are interested in grounding IFS in a Catholic understanding of the human person, you should read it.

And Christian Amalu, in his generosity, is making his dissertation available to you.  You can download a PDF copy of the dissertation for free by clicking here.

I’m really excited about this.  I had the honor of being the third reader on Christian’s dissertation committee, and walked with him as he worked on this project.  At the end of his resoundingly successful dissertation defense, the other dissertation committee members (both DMU faculty for more than a decade) told me this was one of the best dissertations produced by a DMU student ever.

And I totally believe it.  This dissertation is so useful for those who want the answer to the burning question: Can Internal Family Systems be harmonized with our Catholic Faith?

Spoiler alert:  The answer is yes.  And Christian shows us how in his dissertation.

Here’s the dissertation abstract:

Psychotherapy, in its long-standing tradition, has conceptualized the nature of the human person in a variety of ways, whether implicitly or explicitly. Such worldviews identify how changes within a person’s environment, family system, relationships, or personality structure assist him or her to overcome struggles. In essence, each form of therapy explicitly delineates or at least provides an implicit model of why it works and what it is exactly doing for the client, and each lends additional perspectives to the growing study of therapeutic factors. What is often overlooked within treatment models is a robust analysis of these implied worldviews and understandings of human nature, as well as an examination of the other therapeutic factors present within the therapy but outside of the central theoretical foundations of the model. In short, the vision of the person and therapeutic factors operative within a given therapy may be more extensive than the explicit emphases in the methodology. This dissertation has utilized the recently developed vision of the person outlined in the Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person (CCMMP), as well as its view of both flourishing and psychopathology, in order to examine internal family systems (IFS) through a robust Christian lens. This dissertation also has utilized the psychological literature on therapeutic factors to examine IFS. Together, through the use of these two analyses, this dissertation seeks to offer an expanded view of internal family systems’ explicit view of the person and the therapeutic factors operative within this therapeutic method. In addition to an examination of IFS therapeutic factors through a normative Catholic Christian lens, an analysis of implicit anthropology present in the IFS model is conducted. An integrated vision of Catholic anthropology and the IFS model is proposed and discussed.

Again download the entire dissertation here and check it out, it is so worth the read if you are interested in Internal Family Systems and Catholicism.  This dissertation, along with Dr. Gerry’s book (see below), are the two central documents that show how IFS can inform a Catholic understanding of human formation.

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Dr. Gerry on the air…

Join Matt Fradd on Pints with Aquinas for their episode titled Relieving Post-Traumatic Stress and Calming Anxiety Through Healing our Parts with Dr. Gerry Crete where Matt and Gerry discuss Gerry’s new book.  The address IFS, shame, whether Jesus had parts, loving oneself in an ordered way, “tough love,” arguments, friendship, men who have experienced sexual abuse, PTSD, and worry, among many other topics in their 2 hour 36 minute interview.

Gerry was also on This is the Day, discussing his book with Monet Souza and Bishop Robert P. Reed, in this 8-minute video; it’s great to see a bishop interested in human formation and psychological approaches to healing, including parts and systems.

Dr. Gerry also appeared on Hey Everybody! It’s Fr. Edward, where Fr. Edward Looney and Gerry discuss the different movements of the heart in an enlightening conversation about psychology and faith. 34-minute Episode 250: The Role Faith Plays in Counseling and the Movements of our Heart with Dr. Gerry Crete.

And Gerry was on the January 31 episode of Wake UP!, which discusses news, events, and living the Gospel, all from a Catholic, faith-filled perspective for Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and the Gulf South.  Dr. Gerry comes on at about the 27:20 mark in the program, check that out here.

If you need a little sample of the book first, you can check out Chapter 2 for free; the Catholic Education Research Center has reprinted that chapter (with permission from Sophia Press) here, in which Dr. Gerry continues the story of “Alexandre’s” shame, and discusses the psychology of the interior world, dissociation, compartmentalization, and offers a Scripture study on these topics.

Just, FYI, the book has risen to #2 in PTSD New Releases in Paperback on Amazon, and that’s not just for Catholics, but across all releases.  Well done, Dr. Gerry!

Calling all Catholic therapists, life coaches, and spiritual directors!

Here is an opportunity work on your own human formation in a way that is informed by Internal Family Systems and firmly grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person — along with other professionals in your discipline.

Souls and Hearts is now expanding our Foundational Experiential Groups to offer them not just to Catholic therapists, but also to Catholic coaches and spiritual directors (and those in training, too).  If that sounds great to you, fill out our short form here and we will reach out to you personally.

We have had interest from more than 50 Catholic professionals and are forming the FEGs now; we will start meeting in early March 2024.  I will be leading some of these groups, and Dr. Peter Martin and Marion Moreland will lead some as well.

Therapists, find out more in this downloadable flyer.  Coaches and spiritual directions find out more in this PDF flyer, for this excellent opportunity to work on loving yourself more fully and completely so that you can better love your clients, others who are your neighbors, and God, carrying out the two great commandments.

Again, let us know you are interested by filling out our short form here and we will get back to you quickly. We will be finalizing the groups in the next week or so.

Pray for us…

And as always, please keep all of us at Souls and Hearts in your prayers – all of our endeavors have to be supported by prayer in order to succeed.  Please pray for us, we are praying for you.

Warm regards in Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

P.S.  Since I did write you this week, I’ll be taking next week off, but I will be back with a weekly reflection on February 14, Ash Wednesday, with more of my review of Boundaries for Your Soul by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller.

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