Today, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Statistics such as these stand as evidence that society isn’t offering the tools we need to be happy.

Fr. Spitzer talks extensively on happiness and explains that there are four levels of happiness:

  1. Pleasure
  2. Ego-comparative
  3. Contributive
  4. Transcendent

(To learn more, read Father’s article or watch his video on “The 4 Levels of Happiness.”)

While Fr. Spitzer recognizes that there are often chemical and situational causes of depression, he also notes that depression may be caused or aggravated by a disordering of the four levels of happiness in a person’s life.

Positive Psychology: a step in the right direction

Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that focuses on happiness or human flourishing as opposed to simply treating neurosis. This is a good development in psychology, because it correctly recognizes that the ultimate goal for the human person is happiness and seeks ways to help us achieve that goal. Unfortunately, however, many psychologists who operate in this area focus almost exclusively on properly ordering happiness levels 1-3.

The reason for the disregard of level 4 happiness is based on a perspective of the human person that negates or minimizes the importance of transcendence (i.e., the soul or the spiritual aspect of the person). People who adhere to this concept of the person believe that a good and balanced earthly life is the best that we can (and should) hope for. Anything more would be unrealistic and/or unattainable.

Enter the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person

While secular psychology struggles to understand the totality of the human person, there is a graduate school of psychology and counseling that is doing just the opposite. Divine Mercy University (DMU), based in Arlington, VA, works with an understanding of the human person that not only sees them as both body and soul, but also acknowledges what that means in our current time and culture.

Through psychological, philosophical, and theological research, DMU’s faculty and academic contributors have developed a Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person that is described as follows:

“The human person is an individual substance of a rational (intellectual), volitional (free), relational (interpersonal), sensory-perceptual-cognitive (pre-rational knowledge), emotional, and unified (body-soul) nature; the person is called to flourishing, moral responsibility, and virtue through his or her vowed or non-vowed vocational state, as well as through life work, service, and meaningful leisure.;”

The definition goes on to include the human person’s origin and calling:

“From an explicitly theological perspective (Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium), human persons are also created in the image of God and made by and for divine and human love, and—although suffering the effects of original, personal, and social sin—are invited to divine redemption in Christ Jesus, sanctification through the Holy Spirit, and beatitude with God the Father.”

Not only for Catholics

Though the second half of the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person is theologically based, DMU student, Abby Kowitz, argues that one not need to be Catholic to adhere to it.

“The CCMMP speaks to the truths written on the human heart and the blue-print with which God designed each one of us, and sometimes, our ignorance of things makes them clearer from an objective standpoint. While it can’t explain or solve every problem, it can place the problem in context, but even more so, provides an understanding of the person, their particular struggles, and how to respond to that real-life encounter.”

A new generation of mental health professionals

What a gift to have mental health professionals who see their patients as eternal beings called to flourish in this life and the next. Their integration and understanding of all facets of what makes people tick is much needed in our culture. Pray that this new generation of mental health professionals be a beacon in lowering the numbers in depression statistics and guide the suffering into a life a purpose, peace, and, of course, happiness.

Divine Mercy University is accepting applicants for all of its programs, including a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology (on-site in Northern Virginia); an M.S. in Psychology (online); and their newest program, an M.S. in Counseling (online). Request more information today!

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