The Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person

A multi-disciplinary group of scholars, researchers and clinicians has elaborated a framework for a Christian understanding of the person, relevant to many disciplines, but focused on the filed of mental health practice. This work was developer over two decades at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences and most recently at its School of Counseling.

Winner of the 2020 Expanded Reason Award!


A Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person integrates the insights of three wisdom traditions—the psychological sciences, philosophy, and theology—to provide a framework for understanding the person.

The Meta-Model develops a more systematic, integrative, and non-reductionist vision of the person, marriage, family, and society than is found in any of these three disciplines alone. The Meta-Model is a unifying framework for the integration of already-existing personality theories and therapeutic models. In addition, it enhances assessment, diagnosis, case conceptualization, and treatment planning by addressing eleven essential dimensions of the person needed in mental health practice aimed at healing and flourishing.

The book also explores how the Meta-Model framework can improve client care. Finally, it demonstrates how the Meta-Model assists mental health professionals to better understand how they can be faithful to their Christian identity as they serve all clients—Christians, persons from other faiths, and non-believers.

What benefits does the Meta-Model provide for the mental health field?

1. Expands the vision of the person 

The Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person presents a systematic, integrative, non-reductionist understanding of the person, marriage and family and society developed from the psychological sciences, philosophy, and the Catholic theological tradition and worldview.  The Meta-Model integrates the methods and findings of these three disciplines to understand eleven essential dimensions of the person. These include the narrative of the person as (1) existing and fundamentally good (created), (2) affected by disorders (fallen), and (3) capable of healing and flourishing (redeemed). The person is (4) a unified whole, (5) fulfilled through three types of vocational callings (individual goodness and relationship with the transcendent; vocational states; and life work), (6) fulfilled in virtue strengths and development, (7) and fulfilled in interpersonal relationships. The person is (8) sensory-perceptual-cognitive, (9) emotional, (10) rational and intelligent, and (11) volitional and free. 

2. Enriches mental health practices

The Meta-Model serves as a framework for mental health practice and for understanding the person through: assessment and diagnosis of client strengths and weaknesses, psychological disorders and problems of everyday living; explaining how problems have developed; establishing treatment goals; and selecting and implementing evidence-based treatment interventions.  Adopting the integrative perspective of the CCMMP as a framework benefits clinical practice by providing the structure to integrate existing personality theories and evidence-based therapeutic interventions to fulfill its comprehensive view of persons and the treatment of their problems. Furthermore, the Meta-Model approach also brings benefits by identifying the importance of life callings and vocations of clients and of the development of virtue and character to fulfill them. Finally, the Meta-Model also enhances ethical practice by grounding traditional professional ethical principles and the respect for diversity in a moral normative understanding of the person who possesses innate goodness and dignity in being created unique and in the image of God.

3. Benefits the client

The CCMMP approach to mental health practice helps the clinician and client to understand the client’s life narrative and its challenges through this non-reductionist framework. This framework requires consideration of personal development, interpersonal relationships, values, character strengths and weaknesses, vocational commitments, existential issues, diversity, social contexts, and spiritual life. The client is viewed as a unique person, essentially good and possessing dignity. The practitioner acts collaboratively with the client to understand and implement treatment.  In doing so the clinician acts for the client’s healing and flourishing in a manner that reflects love of neighbor and respect for the client’s conscience and freedom to make life decisions. 

4. Clarifies and supports the clinician’s Christina identity

The CCMMP clarifies how practitioners’ lives are integrated with their professional practice and faith. Becoming a mental health professional is experienced as a calling by God to serve his people.  In accepting this call the clinician becomes responsible for developing the professional competencies and virtues (such as empathy, patience, practical wisdom) needed for effective practice. The Meta-Model’s worldview motivates a capacity and willingness to generously and unselfishly help all people, including disadvantaged populations, religious ministries, and charitable programs. As Christian practitioners, they integrate both professional and Christian ethics in their clinical work to promote their client’s freely chosen goals aimed at psychological, moral, and spiritual flourishing. When some aspects of the clients’ goals are contrary to Christian ethics and to their ultimate welfare, the practitioner works in a compassionate and non-judgmental way to assist with as many of their goals as is allowable, according to professional and Christian ethics.  This ethical attentiveness allows respect for the client’s dignity, conscience, character development, and freedom, while also enabling practitioners to remain faithful to their own conscience.