My books are sold at, through the links below and also available at

Sex, Gender, Fantasy and Desire by Deacon Ray Biersbach PhD

Through the Lenses of Christian Anthropology and Catholic Psychotherapy


Connecting sex, gender, fantasy, and desire is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The many pieces all have a place. Plus, all the parts interlock with the others, and each is essential to seeing the whole picture. In this book, each part is linked to professional resources. Then, each part is evaluated from Christian anthropology and evidence-based psychotherapy perspectives. Catholics' moral and lived experiences inform the goals and interventions of therapists, clients, and readers.


There is no one explanation for the multiple expressions of gender. Rather, many influences shape any individual's self-image and gender presentation. Among those influences have been advances in both philosophy and psychoanalytic theory. They have each contributed to our understanding of self-image and self-expression in gender. What has resulted is that birth sex has become less normative for about 20% of young adults. Instead, that group presumes that defining how they think about their gender and express it is part of authentic development. Essential to the responses of psychotherapists, parents, and others is to deepen our capacity for empathy. Advanced empathy skills include reminders that humans live "in time" and that the journey toward maturity and Christian holiness is not instantaneous but gradual and step-by-step. One tool for expanding empathy is to find the courage to acknowledge our fantasies. They can be clues to both our inner needs and motivations along that journey and the journeys of those we know and care about. Also, as part of accompanying those on their life journey, psychotherapy becomes "Catholic" when evidence-based treatment is linked to the Church's insistence on the centrality of life, the church's sexual morality, our call to holiness, and the belief that to live a happy life requires virtue, courage, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This book reviews the multiple influences on self-image and gender expression. Each chapter includes a couple of connections to the vast treasure trove of Christian anthropological and Catholic psychotherapeutic resources. The forty short chapters include definitions of terms and brief introductions to personality influences. The book also adds that navigating our developmental journeys involves examining our expectations, loneliness, similarity versus complementarity, genuine self-love, attractions, romance, and intimacy. Lastly, shaping our desires requires responsibility, virtue, courage, and a commitment to modeling our sexuality on the inner life of the Trinity.

Deacon Ray Biersbach, PhD

Discernment through Parables and Stories by Deacon Ray Biersbach PhD


An issue for psychotherapists is how to form new members in competent praxis. The preparation for work as a psychotherapist takes too many years of postgraduate academic training and clinical supervision to allow additional academic or supervisory time. However, the vision of this book is that a combination of biblical parables and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) can provide a path to competent practice as well as spiritual and psychological discernment.


The parables represent a third of Jesus’ recorded teaching. Similar stories, metaphors, and similes pervade the Bible. However, stories are also central to psychotherapy. Every client I saw for psychotherapy over a forty-year period was intent on sharing their story. Each chapter of the book, therefore, contains references to biblical parables and stories as well the information and wisdom those stories convey. Plus, each chapter also contains one or more element of ACT processes. In brief, ACT is a modern CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) approach to psychological dynamics within psychotherapy.


This book cannot claim the final word on either psychotherapy or biblical storytelling but hopefully it can be a conversation starter and an emerging model for forming future Catholic psychotherapists in the dynamics of spiritual and psychological discernment.


Deacon Ray Biersbach, PhD

The Catholic Psychotherapist and Religious Experience: Theory, Practice, and Witness by Deacon Ray Biersbach PhD

All the great religions begin with the religious experiences of their founders. Yet, for many, those experiences seem to have been long ago and far away. Still, others, however, report spiritual experiences as motivating them to change their lives for the better. Though religious experiences always convince the person, far too often, they convince no one else. For clients and therapists, religious experiences are a puzzle. They are brief, hard to put into words, convey information about spiritual realities, have a timeless quality, and often come to those who don't even seek them. 

My book, The Catholic Psychotherapist and Religious Experience: Theory, Practice, and Witness, reviews what psychological and theologians have to say about those encounters. I used a question-and-answer format to offer solutions and attached accounts of his own experiences. 

The book examined four questions. 

Question #1: Why are religious experiences a fit study for psychotherapists? The answer to that is that all the great religions begin with the spiritual experiences of their founders. Further, many believers have found religious experiences meaningful despite the reality that many people respond to such accounts with skepticism. Because of such cynical reactions, the more organized a religion is, the more cautious it tends to be about the very spiritual experiences that invigorate religious practice. The book includes essential psychological contributors to the understanding of spiritual experiences. The psychological contributors include William James, Abraham Maslow, and a whole list of current social scientists who reflect on religious experiences. Further, the book also outlines Catholic authors who have contributed to understanding spiritual/religious experiences. The Catholic contributors include St. Teresa of Avila, St. John Newman, St. John Paul, and many others. Dr. Biersbach has provided a rich set of professional references to bolster the book's inferences and, for those interested, further reading suggestions to learn more. 

Question #2: How do language and culture mediate religious experiences? The book examined the complex and powerful ways in which language and culture influence how people perceive and respond physically, mentally, and emotionally to religious experiences. Each of the psychological and religious authorities cited in the book have helped clarify our awareness and response to spiritual experiences. 

Question #3: How can someone sort through and assess the many psychological and religious understandings of spiritual experiences? In the book I used Aristotle's philosophical categories to compare the many approaches to spiritual experiences. His categories asked what the plan, the purpose, the process, and the concrete expressions of religious experiences as understood by psychotherapist authors. I compared the scientific approaches to the unique perspective the Church offers to Catholics. The book especially focuses on the Church's careful doctrinal language and sacramental culture as powerful shaping and mediating factors for religious experiences. 

Question #4: How can Catholic therapists integrate religious experience into their psychotherapy practice? I outlined two tactics. First, I invited psychotherapists to reflect on their own spiritual experiences. Second, I encouraged psychotherapists to work toward competency in working with clients' religious encounters. I also proposed two long-term strategies. First, I advocated for a Special Interest Group (SIG) within the Catholic Psychotherapy Association and, second, urged research into spiritual/religious encounters. By anchoring his assertions within both psychological and theological sources, Biersbach provides a rationale for Catholic psychotherapists' essential work of "hearing" spiritual/religious experiences from secular and Christian perspectives. 

The examples of my spiritual/religious experiences in the many appendices include examples of: 1. "Words" from God and how to understand and evaluate them. 2. Model interactions with clients reporting spiritual experiences. 3. Stories of spiritual affliction healings. 4. Reports of God's help throughout his spiritual journey may echo your experiences as well. The effort to link Catholic psychotherapy and religious/spiritual experiences is crucial for clients who seek someone who can both provide empirically validated psychotherapy and Christian appreciation and understanding of their spiritual experiences.


Hopefully, the book will be a valuable tool for clients and therapists who find encounters with God confusing, motivating, or a little of both.

Deacon Ray Biersbach PhD

Hear the Word: Catholic Psychotherapy and Faith: Reflections on Seven Parables of Jesus by Deacon Ray Biersbach, PhD

This book connects resources from psychotherapy with resources from the equally vast fields of Christian theology and Christian anthropology. Christian anthropology asserts that humanity began with God, will end with God, and, in the time in between, we women and men are free to choose to walk with God…or not. Applied Christian anthropology works to develop awareness of God's intent by seeing psychotherapy as a resource for understanding human psychology, development, and needs. 

I have been inspired by the Catholic Psychotherapy Association (CPA) whose mission is to support mental health practitioners by promoting the development of psychological theory and mental health practice which encompasses a full understanding of the human person, family, and society in fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. 

This book will also foster both the development of a community of CPA members and function as an opportunity for professional development both as therapists and as people of faith. This book most specifically aims to respond to CPA's goal to "Encourage and support the presentation of scholarly work and writing that is relevant to the mission of CPA…" At this early stage of CPA history, a preliminary grouping of resources linked to the normal course of development in the Christian life might appear useful for client seekers as well as therapists, clergy, and teachers. It his hope that his book will contribute to Catholic psychotherapy literature and a jumping off point for others to improve. This volume deals with the beginnings of faith because without faith further steps become impossible. I came to refer to Catholic anthropology rather than Christian anthropology. Though Catholics share many elements of Christian anthropology with other Christian traditions, with the passage of time, the Catholic understanding of the human person has continued to diverge or at least become distinct from the understanding of our brothers and sisters in other religious, even Christian 

Pope Benedict XVI (2010, p. 50-56) advocates that truth is possible and that we need to have the courage to assert the truth as we understand it. For me that means that he does not aim to impose on anyone what he sees as the truth by force. Rather, as Pope Emeritus Benedict puts it, "The truth comes to rule, not through violence, but through its own power; this is the central theme of John's Gospel." To paraphrase Benedict's chapter, he advocated that we have "…criteria for verification and falsification…" (p. 51) but we accept others even if their values are not ours. Too often we do just the opposite: we are relativistic about our values and rejecting of persons with different values. In psychotherapy the only place the client can begin is from where the person is. As a practicing psychotherapist for 40 years Deacon Ray's job was to acknowledge the values of others as theirs, accept that the begins from another place, and to then to get to know and try to understand wherever the other's starting point might be. Readers will see that Deacon Ray's outline is from chapter 13 of Matthew's gospel. That chapter functions as an outline for his purpose of stitching together faith and psychotherapy. Matthew 13:1-52 talks about basic faith and the spiritual life of faith... or the lack thereof. His starting point is intended as an entry point for searchers of all types: the "nones" (White, 2014, 2017) who claim no religious affiliation, the confused, the depressed, the anxious, the skeptical, or the uninformed. Chapter 13 highlights a few basic elements of Christian faith quoting Jesus' own words. The hope is that those words may provide motivation for the uninvolved, food for the starved, and relief for those stuck on their journey in faith or psychological healing. 

Deacon Ray Biersbach PhD