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Wrestling with Our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness

ISBN: 978-0-470-45541-8
176 pages
May 2009, Jossey-Bass
Wrestling with Our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness (0470455411) cover image


Wrestling with Our Inner Angels is Nancy Kehoe’s compelling, intimate, and moving story of how she brought her background as a psychologist and a nun in the Religious of the Sacred Heart to bear in the groups she formed to explore the role of faith and spirituality in their treatment – and in their lives. Through fascinating stories of her own spiritual journey, she gives readers of all backgrounds and interests new insights into the inner lives of the mentally ill and new ways of thinking about the role of spirituality and faith in all our lives.
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Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Acknowledgments xi

Prologue xv

I Exploring New Terrain 1

2 Beverly’s Quest 19

3 Creative Spirits 35

4 Buddy, an Unlikely Prophet 53

5 The Role of Ritual 71

6 The Dilemma of Voices 91

7 Wrestling with God 107

Epilogue 129

Appendix Religious History Questionnaire 131

Notes 139

The Author 143

Index 145

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Author Information

NANCY KEHOE is a nun in the Society of the Sacred Heart and a distinguished clinician well known for her pioneering work with the mentally ill. She is a clinical instructor in psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Health Alliance, affiliated with Harvard Medical School. She can be contacted through her website www.expandingconnections.com.

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The shadow of Freud and his view of religion as illusion still looms over psychotherapy, making it problematic for therapists to engage their clients about a subject that can be of great importance and potential benefit. Because she is both a nun and a clinician, author Kehoe can draw on both her psychological and religious training to approach with insight and sensitivity the role of belief and motivation in the lives of people troubled by mental illness. Neither illusion nor panacea, religious belief helps people organize their lives and make decisions. Kehoe has listened for years to people with illness, and she shares their compelling stories. She also discloses her own wrestling with inner religious promptings and their influence in her own choices. This book will be most helpful to other professionals in the field, but its honesty and humility also make it useful for anyone interested in faith and mental illness, particularly anyone with an emotional stake in the difficulties of mental illness. (June) (Publishers Weekly, May 11, 2009)


"Wrestling With Our Inner Angels is an important book...All concerned with faith, mental health and the journey to wholeness -- whether from a spiritual-religious or a psychological perspective -- will not only enjoy reading this book but be encouraged to reflect more deeply on the author's thesis." (America magazine October 26, 2009)

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Press Release

June 01, 2009
WRESTLING WITH OUR INNER ANGELS: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness

The religious beliefs of persons with mental illness often elicit fear, hesitation, and confusion from their counselors and loved ones, many of whom think that those beliefs are dangerous delusions. In return, persons with mental illness can refrain from disclosing their values out of fear that their religious worldview will be considered a part of the very illness for which they seek treatment.

WRESTLING WITH OUR INNER ANGELS: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness (Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint; June 2009; $19.95 / Cloth; ISBN: 978-0-470-45541-8), by Nancy Kehoe, both a Sacred Heart nun and psychologist, is a moving narrative of how one woman’s respect for her clients’ religious beliefs actually opened the way to greater meaning, support, and even healing in their lives and illnesses.

Given that the vast majority of Americans say that they have an active religious faith, counselors and clients need serious insight into understanding the psychology of belief. WRESTLING WITH OUR INNER ANGELS draws on both Kehoe’s experience in conducting group counseling sessions for persons with mental illness and in training professionals how to understand the role of religious beliefs in the lives of their clients.

By weaving together both practical resources as well as fascinating stories of her own journey as a psychologist and person of faith, Kehoe reveals the surprising wisdom possessed by those whom society has stigmatized and challenges the assumption that their illness precludes the capacity for a rich spiritual life.

For those with mental illness, their counselors, and their loved ones, WRESTLING WITH OUR INNER ANGELS artfully sheds light on a long-neglected, but significant, part of their treatment.

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