Fr Jacob Choi, Augustinian priest, has just completed a course to become a Psychotherapist & Counsellor.
This fits with the Augustinian spirituality which seeks to meet people in a variety of ways at different stage of their life.
We interviewed him about his life and why he chose a vocation within a vocation.
Why did you decide to become an Augustinian friar?
Why follow St Augustine?
Jacob Choi O.S.A.: Since the age of 17, I was seriously thinking about what to do with my life. I was looking for something I could passionately dedicate my entire life to. I was attracted to religious life much more than priesthood.
One day, I was reading a Catholic newspaper, and saw a section dedicated to advertising vocations for many religious groups, e.g., Franciscans, Augustinians, Jesuits. I played the lottery, closed my eyes, and pointed at one of them: it was the Augustinians!
I was a fresh 3-year graduate from Computer Science. I had no knowledge of theology, spirituality or philosophy. So, after joining the Augustinians, I was still asking the same question ‘What am I going to do with my life as a religious?’.
When I was under formation from 1988, I was taught by the Formation Directors that the charism of the Augustinian Order was community life above all else. I asked them back, ‘How is Augustinian community life different from Franciscan community life or any other religious orders?’ The answers I got were unsatisfactory.
What is the difference then?
Jacob Choi O.S.A.: For Augustine God is Truth, Wisdom and Humility. In the time of Augustine, priests didn’t celebrate mass every day. Even Sunday Mass was not celebrated every Sunday. So, what Augustine meant by loving God was not going to church more frequently. No, it’s worshipping Truth, Wisdom and Humility in relationship. In other words, if we really mean that we love God, we must help each other to become more truthful, wiser, and humbler. (Otherwise, we worship our own egos, and egotism rules the relationship.)
How is St Augustine’s ideal relevant to psychotherapy?
Jacob Choi O.S.A.: Augustine said everybody wanted to be happy, and there were two ways people tried to be happy. One was a materialistic way and the other an incorporeal, or spiritual, way. Truth, Wisdom, Humility we can’t see. So, Augustine tried to be happy with himself by becoming more truthful, wiser and humbler. As a therapist, I help my clients to pay attention to how truthful, wise, humble they are. It’s difficult to be honest with our own selves. So, like Augustine, I encourage my clients to grow in truthfulness (by creating the right conditions).
What has been your path towards psychotherapy?
Jacob Choi O.S.A.: As a friar, I studied 2 years of philosophy, 4 years of theology, and spent 1 year for a MA in Spirituality. It was my first postgraduate study. Between 2013 and 2018 I wrote a PhD thesis ‘Augustinian Interiority’ at Durham University. At Regent’s University London I did 2 years MA in Psychotherapy and Counselling, and afterwards 2 years Advanced Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy.
When did you start practicing psychotherapy?
Jacob Choi O.S.A.: From 2nd year of my MA in 2015 in a counselling centre as a placement. In 2016, I started to see private clients. I have now officially opened my practice at St Augustine's Priory in Hammersmith, London.
Please tell me a bit more about your practice?
Jacob Choi O.S.A.: I am tri-lingual oral Deaf (English, British Sign Language, Korean). I use a microphone/transmitter and a receiver in conjunction with my hearing aids when I work with hearing clients. For d/Deaf clients I use BSL and/or lipreading, while for d/Deaf-and-Blind clients Hands on signing. I offer online counselling only to BSL users.
I love to journey with others for personal change in terms of feeling, thought, and action/behaviour. I take an integrative approach, exploring how the past/culture have shaped the current self, and how ideally the self needs to be changed: I like to take psychodynamic approach for the former, while existential/philosophical approach for the latter as I received a PhD in Philosophy before my training in Psychotherapy/Counselling.
Last comment for our readers?
Jacob Choi O.S.A.: Psychotherapy is for those who feel restless, need someone to talk to, want to know themselves more.
Fr Jacob’s has a new Psychotherapy & Counsellor Practice - please have a look at Fr Jacob’s website jacobchoi.net
Location: St. Augustine’s Priory, 55 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London W6 8AU
Contact details: email@example.com, 07305074943 (SMS only)
Languages spoken: English, British Sign Language, Korean