Help-Seeking Attitudes and Coping Strategies Among Roman Catholic Secular Clergy

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Abstract

There is no empirical evidence about how Roman Catholic secular priests cope with stressors. This paper examines help-seeking attitudes and coping strategies used by them. Twelve participants shared their experiences during semistructured interviews that were subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis. Although the priests recognized existing resources of social support or professional help, they generally underused them due to various personal and cultural factors. Religious coping was perceived as an expected strategy to maintain emotional balance. Priests reported avoiding disclosing personal problems to lay people in an attempt to maintain a positive image of themselves and of the Church, and to comply with group norms. They only sought professional help with reluctance and as a last resort, associating it with self-stigma. This study alerts mental health professionals to specific challenges and needs experienced by diocesan priests, and common barriers to help seeking. Further research recommendations are also suggested.

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