Thomas Keating and the Divine Therapy


Thomas Keating has a very influential psychological model through which he interprets Centering Prayer.  He calls it "The Divine Therapy."

In this model, during Centering Prayer, God takes a role similar to a psychotherapist.  Over time, as we experience deep rest in the presence of God, we begin to encounter emotional traumas that we have been holding within.  As this material from our unconscious is "released," we are able to address these incidents with God's help.  Here, Keating describes the process by which he believes we can become "purified":

"The second purpose of the Divine Therapy is the process of purification.  In the ongoing course of the treatment, we are gradually made aware of the dark side of our personality and of the repressed emotional trauma of a lifetime.  To state the issue in another way, we are made aware over time of whatever in us is opposed to the image and likeness of God in which we were created.  The affirmation of our basic goodness, as sublime as it truly is, is only half the story.  At the same time as these affirmations are going on, the Divine Therapist, proportionate to our desire to be healed of our false selves, is taking away the support systems that keep the false self firmly in place.  

Through external circumstances, but mostly through reducing our attachment to our emotional programs for happiness and our over-identification with our group, God regularly interrupts these delightful spiritual consolations with lengthy periods in which we confront the emotional wounds of a lifetime.  Thus, in daily life we are likely to perceive how we project our frustrating emotions on other people so that we don't have to feel them ourselves.  Or again we may indulge in various kinds of compensatory activity in which we try to manipulate other people or events to hide from ourselves painful emotional traumas that we may have been subjected to in early life and from which we are continuously running away through one means or another.  

The Divine Therapy, through the intensification of our experience of God and the deep rest that occurs from spiritual consolation, loosens up the residue of the painful emotional traumas.  In early childhood, in order to escape emotional pain, we are likely to repress these traumas into the unconscious.  God gently, but with incomparable skill, brings these emotional wounds and painful truths about ourselves to our attention both during prayer and in the course of daily life.  

The Divine Therapeutic process normally takes years to negotiate.  It is something like an archeological dig."

– Thomas Keating, On Divine Therapy


Thus Keating believes that through the ongoing practice of Centering Prayer we can become healed of our emotional wounds.

For more on Centering Prayer, Keating, and the Divine Therapy, see the Centering Prayer page.  The following is also some brief audio of Keating.  Much of his recorded work has also been made available for free on the Contemplative Outreach Youtube Channel.