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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Gregory Bottaro, Psy.D.

Gordon: When did you join St. John the Evangelist Basilica, and if you were recommending a parish to someone,  what are the principal reasons that you would recommend St. John the Evangelist Basilica?

Dr. Bottaro: We joined St. John’s a few years when we moved up to the area. Even though we’ve moved to the next town since then, we remain parishioners there because of the great community. The pastor is a wonderful, faithful, orthodox priest who truly pastors his people with love and truth. There are many large families there so it’s nice to worship in a parish home where you can relate to a lot of people and establish solid friendships.

Gordon: You serve as Executive Director of the Catholic Psych Institute. Catholic psychology is a new approach to mental health and relationship challenges.  Could you provide our readers with an overview of how Catholic psychology differs from from traditional psychology?

Dr. Bottaro: Catholic psychology is essentially psychology the way it should be. Every profession that attempts to heal a part of the human person should have a solid foundation on which it builds an understanding of that part. A heart doctor needs to know how the heart was made, why it does what its supposed to do, and how it does it. Psychology studies the whole person, yet many “psychologists” don’t have a unified vision of who the person is, what the person is supposed to be, or why. Looking through a Catholic lens, one can find a unified vision of what a healthy human person is supposed to look like. Only then can we understand what an unhealthy person looks like, or how to move people closer to health.

Gordon: Could you comment on how you provide on-line therapy?

Dr. Bottaro: Many people contact me from all over the world looking for referrals for Catholic psychologists. When I first started, I didn’t know many others that were out there, so I offered to see people myself over video conferencing. This has worked out extremely well. The modality is growing as a practice, and research consistently shows that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy. It seems like something should be missing from the experience, but we are working on specific issues, so the online modality actually works quite well.

Gordon: You have a videos from EWTN on Psychology and Freedom that provides a great background on your history

Gordon: Sunday Night Prime - 2014-3-2- Gregory Bottaro - Psychology and Freedom

You have special commitment to the poor. Could you provides our reader with some background on your experience working the with poor?

Dr. Bottaro: In college I had the blessing of joining a mission team to work in Haiti. I immediately fell in love with the poor. I was also attracted to the spirituality of St. Francis and spent 4 years as a brother in temporary vows with the CFR Franciscans in NYC. Living and working with the poor are a passion of mine. Since leaving, getting a doctorate, getting married and establishing a practice, I still return to Haiti often and working with the poor continues to shape me as a person.

Gordon: You also have a special commitment to the challenges of relationships and marriage, and have e written some articles for the Catholic Match Institute. What are some of the more serious relationship challenges that affect mental health?

Dr. Bottaro: Marriage, like the human person, can only be properly understood through a Catholic lens. Marriage is not meant to be heaven on earth- it is a path to holiness. People think they need to find the perfect person to be a spouse, but the truth is that perfection is attained only after a long life of marriage (that’s the goal anyway). The most serious relationship challenge that affects mental health is the inability or refusal to die to self. “I do” means “I die.” It means “I give myself entirely to you, body, mind and soul, and I no longer live for myself but for you.” This is the single most important truth about marriage that is neglected in most marriage prep programs, that most couples don’t realize they are saying on the altar, and that causes the most difficulty after marriage. Besides that, more practically speaking, pornography is destroying marriages and family.

Gordon: You blog regularly at .and several other websites, and we appreciate the privilege of featuring many of your blogs in our Library. How valuably do you find blogging a communications resource and how could parishes use blogging as an evangelization tool?

Dr. Bottaro: My feelings about blogging change throughout the year. Sometimes I find it to be an effective outlet to try to reach people. Many times I think the internet is a huge waste of time that many people get pulled into. Overall, I figure if people are going to be spending their time online, it’s probably better to contribute to some of the more helpful content that’s out there.

Gordon: We recently learned that heroin deaths surpass gun homicides for the first time and there appears to be an epidemic of many forms of addiction including  prescription drug addiction, alcohol addiction, pornography addiction and even cell-phone addiction, Is there a relationship between all forms of addiction, and what can be done to reduce our tendencies toward addictive behavior?

Dr. Bottaro: Yes, all addiction can be summed up as an attempt to satisfy our desires for something infinite with something that is finite. Catechesis and spiritual development will help reduce our culture’s tendency toward addictions.

Gordon: Based on your experience in the seminary, should priests have more education on mental health challenges?

Dr. Bottaro: Absolutely. Priests are incredibly effective collaborators with mental health practitioners when they are educated on mental health issues. Unfortunately not all dioceses take this seriously (though many do very well), and sadly many priests own mental health needs are being neglected.

Gordon: Congratulations on the publication of Sitting Like A Saint .

Gordon: What inspired your and your wife Barbra to write the book?

Dr. Bottaro: This is a practice that my wife and I have used for years to help our children calm down and focus on the presence of God. We use these stories to teach them about God, and the exercises to connect with them that uses our bodies, minds, and spirits.

Gordon. The illustrations are beautiful;. How did you learn of the artist?

Dr. Bottaro: The illustrator and I discerned a religious vocation together years ago with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

Gordon. The subtext of the book is mindfulness.  Since we have readers is 61 counties, some may not understand what mindfulness is. Could explain mindfulness i?

Dr. Bottaro: Very simply, it’s learning how to pay attention to the present moment. The program I teach helps people learn how to develop their ability to focus instead of being so distracted, and ultimately applying that ability to a relationship with God.

Gordon.  Were any of the lessons based on experiences with your children?

Dr. Bottaro: Pretty much all of the exercises are the fruit of my training and expertise integrated with real world experience with our children.

Gordon. Why was each saint featured?

Dr. Bottaro: They are the saints dear to our own family.

Gordon. Foe what age range was the book designed?

Dr. Bottaro: Generally 2 to 12 years old, however many parents have told me they are using the book for their older children, maybe with some modification.

Gordon:  How do you treat pornography addiction?

Dr. Bottaro: Most important to treating porn addiction is treating the underlying shame that fuels it. Behavioral addiction prevails when the patient sees himself as the problem. Through the interpersonal process approach to therapy, we explore the shaming messages internalized in the patient's youth, often from their family of origin. Through the healing truths of the patient's intrinsic goodness, past lies are dismantled, past traumas are faced and processed, and the shame can be disarmed of its power. Behavior modification and emotional regulation are simultaneously worked on in helping the patient establish and maintain greater sobriety. In conjunction, lies regarding human sexuality are countered with the truths of the Catholic faith facilitated by the helpful teachings of the "Theology of the Body."  

Gordon:  Are there any benefits of Group Therapy for Pornography addiction?

Dr. Bottaro: Yes! Group work is tremendously beneficial in porn addiction treatment. Since porn addiction is an "intimacy disorder," the nature of being open, vulnerable, and humble within the presence of others is potent. As each member learns to trust that he is safe to be honest, transparent, and weak, the group is able to provide corrective emotional experiences that diminishes one's shame and brings true healing. The members experience healthy intimacy through humility, surrender, and the truth of being seen and loved. The members also provide support and accountability in spurring each other on towards greater sobriety and recovery. 

Gordon: What is the relapse rate after treatment Pornography addiction?

Dr. Bottaro: Relapse varies quite a bit, but recovery from porn often involves regular relapse throughout the treatment because of the ease of accessibility and the inundation of triggers normalized in our society. It's almost like an alcoholic who is carrying a beer around with him wherever he goes. Long-term sobriety can certainly be achieved, often with relapses gradually lessening over time.

Gordon: Based on your experience in the seminary, should priests have more education on mental health challenges?

Dr. Bottaro: Absolutely. Priests are incredibly effective collaborators with mental health practitioners when they are educated on mental health issues. Unfortunately not all dioceses take this seriously (though many do very well), and sadly many priests own mental health needs are being neglected.

Gordon: There are many people globally suffering from anxiety as a result of the coronavirus pandemics, What advice can you give them”

Dr Bottaro: We have to be balanced between reasonably cautious and peaceful in our trustful surrender. Too many people find comfort in the extremes. We should listen to the experts, take the necessary precautions such as social distancing and quarantining, but also not fly off the handle. God is still in charge.

Gordon: What role can faith have during the pandemic?

Dr Bottaro: Our faith is everything. It should give us our foundation of peace in good times and in bad. This world is our ship, not our home.

Gordon: In closing, I wanted to share your video series on St. Joseph with our readers.


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