Psycho-spiritual training for ‘healed healers’

Over 100 priests and religious have received training at the Psycho-Spiritual Institute (PSI) in Nairobi, Kenya, which was established in 2012 to offer psychological and spiritual care to African clergy, religious, and lay Christians, focusing on personal growth and emotional support.

By Sr. Titilayo Aduloju, SSMA

The Psycho-Spiritual Institute (PSI), founded by the Lux Terra Leadership Foundation in collaboration with Missio Aachen, Germany in 2012 to train and graduate experts in Psycho-Spiritual Therapy and Christian Counseling for African countries.

PSI was established in Karen, Nairobi, Kenya, through the instrumentality of a Nigerian priest, Fr. Dr. George Ehusani, as a response to the psychological and spiritual care of many clergy and religious, as well as lay Christians.

The programme provides support for those who find themselves in difficult life situations of an emotional and psychological nature.

In an interview with Vatican News, Fr. Dr. Joyzy Egunjobi, the Director of the Psycho-Spiritual Institute, spelled out the goals, and prospects of the programme and how it has benefited the trainers and trainees.

Frs Ehusani and Egunjobi with Missio staff during a visit to PSI

Frs Ehusani and Egunjobi with Missio staff during a visit to PSI

Why Psycho-Spiritual Training?

Psych-spiritual training is a response to an urgent need to provide professional psychological and spiritual care for priests, religious, and lay pastoral workers in Africa, who often struggle with compassionate fatigue, co-dependency, and emotional challenges.

“Unfortunately, many of these people don’t seek help. They are just giving and giving and giving and they’re not having time to actually take care of themselves,” Fr. Egunjobi stressed.

“Sometimes, they suffer kind of burnout and other challenges, of course, some of them have got into addiction, yet they don’t seek help,” he added.

The Director further stated that “Many in the past have ended up with professional psychotherapists who are not grounded in, or do not share in the theological and spiritual traditions of the sufferer, and so could not offer holistic support for the required healing process.”

“Others have ended up with deeply spiritual counselors, who however are not conversant with such modern skills and approaches in Psychotherapy, that when combined with their spiritual tools, would have more easily facilitated healing for the sufferer,” he said.

Thus, PSI was established to bring spiritual healing, personality integration, and peace, as well as enhance self-awareness and ongoing personal growth and transformation for African Christians, including pastoral agents,” the Director continued, “who now and again find themselves in difficult situations of a psychological and emotional nature.”

Are African priests and religious benefiting?

According to Fr. Egunjobi, PSI has trained over 100 priests and religious from various African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia

“Recently too, people from French-speaking countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and India, to mention a few have benefited from the training,” he added.

Many individuals who engaged in the programme experienced rejuvenation, finding purpose and meaning in life again. Fr. Egunjobi added, “They were able to manage their own healings, eventually able to minister the same grace of healing and joy to others.”

The Director highlighted that some clergy and religious have established counseling offices and pastoral centres, while others provide spiritual direction and psychotherapy counselling at seminaries, formation houses, NGOs, and even at the United Nations.

The ‘healed healer’

The Director affirmed the saying ‘We are all wounded healers’; yet, the truth is, at PSI, he continued, “We are not just training wounded healers.”

“We are not training wounded people to remain wounded, and as psychologist Carl Jung would say, because of their wound, they are able to deal with other people’s wounds.”

According to the Director, many ministry professionals are experiencing emotional and personal issues that have led to reactive behaviour.

Thus, through counseling, spiritual direction, growth group, and living together, PSI addresses unresolved issues in our lives and ministry, possibly childhood ones affecting their adult lives.

Fr. Egunjobi stressed that a healed healer is someone who has dealt with hidden issues through counseling, psychospiritual therapy, and growth groups.

“This leads to a better, integrated person who can handle others’ situations healthily,” he said. “The goal is not to be healed before entering a programme, but to live a life of healing and help others.”

“So, we train healed healers,” the Director affirmed.

PSI Director with graduates of the institute

Participants’ success stories

Sister Geneveva Mwongela (LSSJ), from Kenya, said she has greatly benefited from the programme. “My self-awareness, and interpersonal skills have improved, and I have a better understanding of myself after the programme,” she said.

Sr. Mwangela is now serving as the congregation’s general leader, assisting her sisters through workshops and conflicts.

A PSI alumnus and priest from Nigeria, Fr. Innocent Kachalla, has significantly benefited from the programme, enhancing his emotional maturity and helping others.

“It has helped me develop emotional maturity, psychological stability, and emotional management, which helped me to provide counseling and therapy for others at the LUX Terra Foundation,” he explained.

“The programme has helped me to identify and heal disjointed aspects of my life, and reoriented my spiritual life,” Nigerian Br. Anthony Okoye affirmed.

He works now as a formator in a seminary and director of a retreat centre where he is able to facilitate healing among others.

The psycho-spiritual counseling programme, despite facing challenges like personnel shortages in dioceses and religious congregations, continues to grow and improve, receiving awards like “Best Programme” from the International Institute of Psychological Services in 2019, Fr. Egunjobi concluded.

Sister Xavera Mukarugwiza (AS), a 2018 PSI alumnae from Rwanda, shares her experience of healing from traumatic experiences related to the 1994 genocide. Through counseling, spiritual direction, and growth groups, she became a healed healer.

She said, “PSI helped me to deepen my relationships with God, myself, and others.”

Sr. Mukarugwiza is serving as the Deputy Counselling Coordinator at PSI, where she offers spiritual direction, psychotherapy, and facilitation at ChemChemi, Tangaza University College, and Marist University College, all in Nairobi, Kenya. 

PSI Graduating students during convocation

PSI Graduating students during convocation