New Research Finds Tele-Counseling To Be Even More Effective Than Face-to-Face

Since the beginning of the global pandemic, there have been significant changes in the way physical and mental health care are delivered. Many providers and patients have moved to tele-health, which certainly makes health care more accessible, but is it as effective as face to face treatment?

Timely research that began prior to COVID-19 and continued after utilized randomized control trials to evaluate the effectiveness of tele-counseling.

A recent study, involving randomized control groups found that that tele-counseling across a variety of modalities (e.g., telephone, videochat, etc) is, in many ways, more effective than traditional face-to-face counseling.

According to lead researcher, Zena Samaan, “The common understanding was that face to face psychotherapy has the advantage of the connection with the therapist and this connection is in part what makes the difference in treatment…However, it is not surprising that electronic interventions are helpful in that they offer flexibility, privacy and no travel time, time off work, transport or parking costs. It makes sense that people access care, especially mental health care, when they need it from their own comfort space.”

As Samaan describes, not only is tele-counseling an equally if not a more effective in treatment that face-to-face counseling, tele-counseling creates greater accessibility to individuals with busy schedules or limited resources (i.e. those who are home bound, in rural areas, or areas with limited specialized counseling).


Could you benefit from counseling?  Take our quizzes!


As leaders in the field of pastoral tele-counseling, Catholic Counselors has been providing pastoral counseling for individuals, couples and families by telephone since 1999 and conducts  over 15,000 hours of tele-counseling services per year. Interested in learning more about how Catholic tele-counseling—and our many other resources–can help you get more out of your marriage, family or personal life? Visit us online at

Become A Certified Catholic Counselor or Life Coach–Holy Apostles College & Seminary Offers 2 New Programs

Pastoral Counseling

Would you like to discover how to apply the timeless wisdom of our Catholic faith and cutting-edge insights from contemporary psychology to help the faithful lead more graceful and abundant lives?

According to an American Association of Pastoral Counselors/Greenberg Survey, 34% of Catholics in the US would prefer to receive counseling from a therapist who was knowledgeable about their faith and knew how to employ faith-based techniques in their clinical work.  That’s almost 25 million potential consumers of mental health services in the US alone whose needs are not being met by available community and church-based mental health resources!

Holy Apostles College and Seminary offers two new, online programs to help you meet Catholics’ needs for faithful guidance in facing life’s challenges.

The Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies with a concentration in  Catholic Pastoral Counseling


the Graduate Professional Certificate in Catholic Pastoral Counseling for Licensed Mental Health Professionals  (scroll down on page past Youth Ministry Cert)

Developed and directed by Dr. Greg Popcak, both distance-learning programs are intended to give learners the skills they need to help people lead more fulfilling, healthy, and godly lives and relationships. Students will acquire the skills necessary for fostering the emotional, spiritual, and relational development of people-of-faith, in addition to being able to develop ethical and effective psycho-spiritual interventions to assist people in crisis.


These programs are an excellent fit for…

people in church ministry who would like to sharpen their psycho-spiritual/pastoral intervention skills and be more effective, first-line responders to people needing emotional and relational support.

any person who wishes to become a Christian Life Coach and/or Board Certified Professional Life Coach.

licensed mental health counselors who wish to engage in ethical and effective faith-integrated approaches to professional counseling.

Although this program is not intended to prepare learners to practice as state-licensed mental health professionals, all graduates (whether or not they are currently licensed mental health providers) will have advanced standing to become a Board Certified Coach through the Center for Credentialing and Education.

To learn more about how you could become a Catholic Pastoral Counselor or Pastoral Life Coach, visit  Holy Apostles College and Seminary.  We are currently accepting applications for these programs which begin in the Fall of 2017.

Setting the Captive Free! New Research Illustrates our Power to Overcome Depression

In response to my post linking the new study questioning the serotonin-deprivation theory of depression, I received a very thoughtful email from a reader who wrote, shutterstock_212803426

“Dr. Popcak, some of my friends who suffer with depression are saying that in this article you are blaming them for their depression. Can you explain further?”

Blaming the Victim?  A Response

I am grateful for her question because I would never want anyone to think that I was blaming sufferers of depression for being depressed. She was referring, I suspect, to this part of my post where I addressed the notion that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance.  I wrote, “every choice you make, every behavior you exhibit sends a wash of chemicals through your body.  It stands to reason that healthy thoughts, choices, and behaviors would facilitate a healthy chemical balance and unhealthy thoughts, choices, and behaviors would increase the likelihood of an unhealthy chemical imbalance.”

As I assured my correspondent in the comments section of that post, it was not my intention to blame depression sufferers, rather it was (and is) my intention to show depression sufferers that they don’t have to be passive victims of this horrible disease, that there is a lot that they can do to contribute to their healing.

Depression: No One’s Fault.

It is not the depression-sufferers “fault” that they think the way they do, approach problems they way they do, or have some of the unhealthy habits and/or relationship patterns they have.  For the most part these things were taught and modeled and “caught” unconsciously in one’s family-of-origin over the course of tens of thousands of interactions between parents and children and grandparents and siblings and the community and the belief system one is raised in.  No one person could possibly be personally responsible for all that, but it still impacts us mightily.

How Environment Influences Depression Gene Expression

On top of all this, biology certainly is a factory, but it isn’t as straightforward as saying, “depression is caused by genetics and biology.”  In the first place, depression is not so much genetic as it is an epigenetic illness.   Epigenetics studies how environment effects the expression of certain genetic traits and profiles.  Certain genes won’t “turn on” if the environmental conditions aren’t right. Depression has genetic and biological components, yes,  but those components, by and large, won’t come online unless the environment tells them to.  And, curiously enough, once our life experiences activate our genes they can be passed on to the next generation, communicating positive and negative environmental experiences from parents to children through genetic encoding, which is why depression tends to run in families.

Victim No More

The good news is, we don’t have to be passive victims of any of the “bad programming” from these environmental and epigenetic triggers that cause poor thinking habits, unhealthy attitudes, and destructive approaches to life.  Medication can certainly take some of the edge off the worst of it, but counseling can help us make dramatic changes in our thoughts, behaviors, and relationships that not only help us feel better emotionally, but rewire our biological and genetic programming, bringing healing both to us and the next generation.  With God’s grace and consistent effort, we can master the environmental programming–even the environmental programming that triggers certain biological responses–that causes depression and other emotional illnesses.

A Light in the Darkness

To my way of thinking, that is anything but “blaming the victim.”  That is a tremendously liberating and hopeful idea, a light that shines the way out of the terrible darkness that is depressive illness.

If you would like to learn more about faithful and effective treatments for depression and other emotional and relational problems, visit the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s website (or call 740-266-6461) to learn more about how our Catholic telecounseling practice can help you set you free.



The Emotionally Distant Marriage–Can Catholics Accept It?

New research shows that a “happy marriage” depends less on whether a couple is actually close and more on whether the couple is as close as they care to be.

I often run into this with the couples I counsel.  One spouse wants more emotional/spiritual/psychological intimacy and the other is fine with the way things are.  They then challenge me to tell them who is right, while simultaneously asserting that no one has the right to tell them how they should live their marriage.  This is where Catholic approaches to marital counseling differ significantly from secular approaches.

The secular counselor would try to split the difference, saying that there is no objective ideal of what a good marriage looks like and that the couple just, basically, has to find a level of intimacy they can both tolerate and try their best to just camp out there.  That makes sense if marriage serves no greater purpose than the mutual comfort of the couple.  But, as a Catholic counselor working primarily with Catholic couples, I think this approach is deeply flawed.


For me, it all comes down to who gets to define what a happy marriage looks like.  For most couples–especially those who get married by a JP or in a denomination with a limited theology of marriage–the answer is, “they do.”  For these couples, as long as they fulfill the basic, civil, commitments of financially providing for each other and raising whatever kids they have, they are allowed to define their subjective union however they like based on whatever makes them comfortable.

Catholic couples (or at least Catholic couples who marry in the Church) don’t have this option.  When a couple gets married in the Catholic church (whether the couple realizes it or not) the couple is promising to live up to the Catholic Church’s definition of what a marriage ought to look like–not their definition.  When you get married in the Church, you surrender your “right” to define what your marriage ought to look like.  That’s why the Church doesn’t allow couples to write their own vows.  The vows you say define what you have a right to expect of each other and the marriage.   When you get married in the Church, the vows you make commit you to becoming a living, breathing example–not of your vision of love and marriage–but the Church’s vision of love and marriage.  Choosing to be married by the Church and in the Church means that you want to bear witness to the rightness and value of the Catholic vision of love–not yours.

The Catholic Vision of Marriage.

Living up to the Catholic vision of love is a tall order.  Catholics believe that marriage is a sign of the intimate union Christ desires with the Church (c.f., Eph 5:32), and we know from the saints that God desires a complete, total, all-consuming union with us.  He wants a free, total, faithful, and fruitful love with his bride and he wants the world to know it.  It falls to Catholic couples to be a witness to the world of the kind of love Christ desires with each of us by being a physical representation of that love.  The world needs to be able to look at any Catholic couple and see–not perfection–but a consistent striving toward a one flesh, intimate partnership that inspires and reminds them that the Church is the place to turn to discover the love everyone aches for, but few believe is possible.  Catholic couples are challenged by the Church to stand out in the world as a prophetic witness to a love that never fails, that welcomes children as a sign of love and hope, that makes two into one.

So when Catholic couples come to me with different desires about the degree of closeness they want to experience in marriage and say, “Who’s to say which of us is right” I am able to competently answer, “The Church does.  And by marrying in the Church, you agreed to apprentice her definition of what your marriage should look like.  So let’s all get the chips off our shoulders and get to work building the prophetic union you promised to build when you stood at the altar and signed on the dotted line by saying, ‘I do.'”

The Catholic Difference in Marital Counseling

Granted, no couple is going to totally achieve that kind of intimacy this side of Heaven, but we have an obligation as Catholic couples to, well, die trying.  That’s why, when Catholic couples are struggling in their vocation, it is so important to seek a counselor who understands the Catholic vision of love and marriage (incidentally, it isn’t enough that your counselor is Catholic.  He or she really has to have a practical understanding of the Catholic vision of love and personhood). A secular marriage counselor can only get you to the place where you cobble-together a marriage that fits inside your comfort zone.    A well-formed, Catholic marriage counselor is going to give you the tools and support you need to pursue that Catholic ideal of intimacy and partnership in every aspect of your lives together.  A well-formed Catholic marriage counselor will give you the tools to overcome the challenge you are facing presently, but he or she will also remind you of your destiny as a Catholic couple to be intimate partners to one another–the kind of partners that show the world what love really is and what love can really do.


For more information on living out the Catholic vision of love and marriage.  Check out these resources.

~For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Life Long Marriage.

~Holy Sex!  A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.

~The Pastoral Solutions Institute Catholic Tele-Counseling Practice–for Catholic-integrated telephone-based counseling/psychotherapy services

~Retrouvaille— A healing retreat for couples who are struggling in their marriage.