An Opportunity for Health Care Professionals to Acquire Psychological and Bioethical Skills

April 5, 2024 2:38 am

By Dr. Chris Gross

Divine Mercy University brings its unique blend of the best of science combined with the best of Catholic-Christian thought to educate professionals trained to heal the integrated person.

Catholic medical providers face a multitude of challenges in the current health care climate. On the one hand, some of those challenges concern ethical dilemmas and understanding the moral guidance that the Church offers about beginning and end-of-life issues, as well as the moral evaluation that it provides of particular medical procedures. On the other hand, some of those challenges concern how medical professionals can accompany patients and their families who are facing difficult diagnoses and prognoses. For example, what morally licit options are available to a couple who is suffering from infertility? How can a Catholic health care provider offer them not only relevant medical assistance but also psychological and spiritual support in their suffering, so they do not resort to illicit reproductive technologies? Or how can health care professionals assist elderly patients, who frequently struggle with depression and a diminished sense of dignity, which impact their physical health? To confront these challenges and the pressing need for more holistic training, Divine Mercy University (DMU) and the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) have come together to offer a Master’s in Psychology with a concentration in bioethics.

The coursework at DMU provides an integrative vision of the human person that brings together insights from psychology, theology, and philosophy, while the coursework at the NCBC is centered on Catholic medical ethics, including training in fundamental moral theology and case studies. Both DMU and the NCBC share a deep concern for upholding, promoting, and responding to human dignity, and this concern drives this essential collaboration.

The program offers a clear vision of the flourishing person that is deeply grounded in a Catholic-Christian anthropology and applies this vision to real-life dilemmas. For individuals who have received medical training, this program provides additional formation in the areas of psychology and moral theology, and this added training enables them to approach their patients in a more holistic way.

Speaking of the benefits of the program, student Marie Morrier notes, “As a physical therapist, I often wanted to do more for my patients but felt limited in what I could offer them. The MSP program gave me a lens to identify the inherent goodness, resilience, and potential in every patient, especially amid adversity. It gave me tools to help my patients recognize that flourishing is always available to them and to encourage healing through their ability to express their unique goodness in their physical nature, even in the presence of impairments.”

Marie Keller, an experienced nurse who completed the MSP at DMU, shares a similar perspective.  She explains, “This program has helped me to challenge myself overall to view people from the Catholic Christian perspective despite their fallen nature and to see and help them see the goodness God has created in them.”

As part of the fully online Master’s of Science Psychology at DMU, students will have the opportunity to pursue a concentration in bioethics by taking the NCBC Bioethics Certification program and transferring it as 9 graduate credits into the MSP. By studying psychology at DMU, students will learn to integrate a Catholic-Christian vision of the person with best practices in psychological theory, research, and intervention. Courses at the NCBC will enable students to evaluate complex bioethical issues. Given the emerging mental health crisis in the United States, it has become clear that, in addition to ethical guidance, those in health care and ministry settings also need to be equipped with the psychological skills to care for those suffering through diverse and challenging medical situations.  This collaborative program is a unique opportunity for health care professionals to acquire those much-needed skills.

To learn more, contact Program Director Julia Klausli, PhD, MA, LPC at jklausli.ips@divinermercy.edu or click here.
Dr. Chris Gross is an assistant professor in the M.S. in Psychology program.

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