Turning Despair into Hope with the Culture of Life

A scenario that leads many therapists to run the opposite way is the prospect of counseling a client with a personality disorder.  Unlike clients with run-of-the-mill anxiety, depression, or adjustment problems, the prognosis for clients with personality disorders, particularly in the past, has been very bleak.  In fact, most insurance companies will not reimburse therapy for a personality disorder diagnosis alone because of the futility documented in the research literature.  The message almost was that personality disordered individuals were throwaways and not worth the investment of time and money.

So when I had the opportunity to listen to Jeff Riggenbach, Ph.D., a psychologist with a practice specializing in treating individuals with personality disorders, it made me feel proud where the mental health field has come.  Dr. Riggenbach and his colleagues implement research-based treatment approaches that allow people with personality disorders to make modest gains and improve the quality of their lives.

I heard the Church’s teaching of the dignity of the human person as Dr. Riggenbach shared case studies from his program.  Every person, no matter what their circumstances are, is of value.  This is in contrast to the culture of death that tells us a select few should decide the worthiness of life for the vulnerable in our society.

My favorite case study was a 50-something woman with Paranoid Personality Disorder.  When she began Jeff’s program her baseline level of trust others was  0%.  Upon conclusion of her treatment she was able to trust 12% of people.  Jeff expressed that the number may seem low but he pointed out that after treatment, for the first time in her life, the woman learned to trust Jeff and have the first friend in her entire life. All because someone felt she was of value enough to invest time in and to help her grow and heal.

The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationship Tip:  Make sure to treat every person with dignity.