CPA History

A Brief History of the CPA

By Ann G. Howe, PhD

The Catholic Psychotherapy Association (CPA) began as a guild of the Catholic Medical Association in Atlanta, Georgia. Under the title Therapists of Our Mother of Good Counsel, several Atlanta clinicians from diverse backgrounds but with a common bond of faith and willingness to serve began to hold monthly meetings at the home of Sandra McKay, who for many years had cherished the hope of bringing together clinicians who loved their faith. These meetings included prayer, study and clinical case review.

In 2002, this group of professionals sought and received the blessing of the local Archbishop, John Francis Donohue in order to promote the organization as a Catholic lay group. It was at about this time that providentially Dr. Ann Howe, one of the members of Our Mother of Good Counsel, became acquainted with Dr. Kathy Benes, then Clinical Director of Catholic Social Services of Lincoln, Nebraska. In Lincoln, the first APA-accredited Psychology Internship had been established which was also fully consistent with Catholic social teachings.

In Lincoln, a group of clinicians were also working, praying and studying how best to integrate Psychology with the full understanding of the human person as articulated by the Catholic faith. Under the encouraging direction of Dr. Benes and Fr. Joseph Walsh, the CEO of Catholic Social Services in Lincoln, the Therapists of OMGC became acquainted with the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and also met fellow clinicians scattered about the country who were in search of for a professional organization which would meet the needs for training, support, and spiritual formation.

The last piece of the formation of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association involved connecting with the faculty and students of the Institute of Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia, the first fully Catholic Psychology doctoral program in the US (now Divine Mercy University). By April 2007 a meeting of representatives from Lincoln, IPS, and Atlanta met at the spring conference of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists which was being held at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. It was at that meeting that these professionals committed themselves to the development of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association and consecrated this endeavor and themselves to Our Mother of Good Counsel. Since that time, a Board of Directors has been constituted, by-laws have been agreed upon, non-profit status has been established (in the State of Georgia), and membership has been opened up to mental health professionals and others who want to come to a fuller understanding of how the Catholic faith can complement, enrich and deepen their work for individuals and society.


Attendees of the first national (US) conference of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association, Atlanta, Georgia. (2010)

Prayer to Our Mother of Good Counsel

Composed by Sandra McKay, founding President of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association. She drew upon writings attributed to Pope Saint Pius XII, who was devoted to Our Mother of Good Counsel. 

Our dear and sweet Mother whose counsel is ever-wise and knowing, we consecrate ourselves to you, Our Mother of Good Counsel. Grant your intercession throughout the days of our world with people in need. 

Place in our hearts and on our lips the words of healing that Your Son would have us know and say.  Grant us the gifts of Healing and Wisdom that our work might always serve God and His desire for holy and healthy people, marriages, families, and communities.

Oh Holy Mother Mary, we pray that you will intercede for us that we may teach and live the holiness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Sacrament of Matrimony, or our vocation in this life, and that we may always have a full and complete respect for the dignity of each human being and that we may love and teach loveas we have been taught by Jesus Himself, you and all the saints. Amen.

Our Mother of Good Counsel Image

By Ann G. Howe, PhD

The painting of Our Mother of Good Counsel is an Eleousa, (The Mother of Tenderness). The Christ Child nestles close to his mother. The image is a half figure.

The Christ Child rests on Mary’s left arm, her head bends toward him, their cheeks touch tenderly. The left hand of the child gently grasps the rim of her dress, indicating the intimacy of nursing.

On April 26th the Church venerates the Blessed Virgin under the title of Our Mother of Good Counsel. Sometimes referred to as the Madonna of the Popes, this devotion to Our Lady reaches back over five hundred years to a small village in Italy. The Augustinians in 1356 were asked to undertake the renovation of an church dating from the fifth century named St. Mary of Good Counsel Church in Genazzano, Italy.

The ancient edifice had fallen into significant disrepair and even with the efforts of the good friars the work had proceeded slowly until the dedication and devotion of a lay woman in the community by the name Petruccia committed her meager income and her life to helping the friars rebuild the church.

Petruccia was apparently regarded as having taken on an impossible task since even the walls of the church were in ruins. Then a miracle is said to have occurred. An image of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus in her arms like a nursing babe appeared miraculously and rested itself on a small shelf. As if to confirm the miracle the painting did not even rest against the wall and had only a minimal support from the small shelf. Thus the devotion of the icon began in Italy. There is a further part to the legend which begins in Albania. In that country there existed a deep devotion to Mary.

Faced with invaders and other outside threats the people of Albania had turned to Mary. In the town of Scutan there had been an icon of Mary with the Infant Jesus resting in her arms. Legend has it that in the same year that the image appeared in Genazzano the icon from Scutan disappeared being lifted miraculously out of the church and carried away in a cloud. Two men of the village are said to have traveled into Italy in the hopes of discovering where their beloved image had been taken. It is said that having heard the rumors of a painting of the Madonna appearing in Genazzano they traveled there and confirmed that this was in fact their beloved icon.

The devotion to Our Mother of Good Counsel was particularly encouraged by Pope Leo XIII who had the title included in the Litany of Loretto. As recently as 1959 Pope John XXIII visited the Church of Our Mother of Good Counsel in Genazzano. Devotion to Mary under this title is today promoted especially by the Augustinians. Our Mother of Good Counsel is considered a patroness for lay movements in the Church since her image appeared in response to the prayers of a devout laywoman seeking to help build a church and rebuild her own community of faith.

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