How can a church become a sanctuary—a place where individuals living with mental health challenges feel safe, supported, and a sense of belonging? The Sanctuary Course for Catholics was created to inspire and equip communities of faith that are asking this important question. Developed in consultation with mental health professionals, theologians, and people with lived experience, this eight-session study guide explores key mental health topics and examines meaningful ways to offer companionship, support recovery, and promote wellbeing.
Who is it for?

The Sanctuary Course for Catholics is a study guide for small groups, designed to raise awareness and start conversations in local churches regarding mental health. Your group might include:

  • People with questions about mental health
  • Mental health professionals with a wealth of knowledge to share
  • Leaders who want to engage their community in mental health conversations
  • People supporting loved ones with mental health problems
  • People living with mental health problems

The Sanctuary Course for Catholics is for anyone who wants to learn about faith and mental health. It requires no previous training or expertise—just a willingness to engage in dialogue with other believers. This course and films address difficult and sensitive topics, and may not be appropriate for a young audience. It is not recommended for people ages 17 and younger.

The Sanctuary Course for Catholics is also available in Romanian, Russian, and Spanish! You can find The Sanctuary Course for Catholics translations on our resource portal. Language preferences are located in the top menu bar.

How do I access it?

You can access The Sanctuary Course for Catholics for free on our resource portal. Simply create an account or login, then get started exploring the course and our other resources.


session 1 Catholic cover page
session 2 Catholic cover page
session 3 Catholic cover page
session 4 Catholic cover page
session 5 Catholic cover page
session 6 Catholic cover page
session 7 Catholic cover page
session 8 Catholic cover page


    The coursebook defines key terms, presents relevant research, addresses common questions, and explores important concepts from three perspectives: the psychological, the social, and the theological. This reading, done in advance of group meetings, helps participants connect around the session’s topic using a shared framework and language.


    The films elevate the voice of lived experience, emphasizing various aspects of the realities of living with mental health challenges. Mental health professionals, theologians, and church leaders contribute insights, helpful biblical integration, and ideas for community support. Participants watch the films together during group meetings. Note that films include content warnings; some participants may choose not to view certain films.

    Also Includes:




    LEADER'S Guide

    Participant's Guide
    Group Guidelines
    Film Transcripts
    J. Michael Miller

    Rev. J. Michael Miller

    Helena Orellana
    Helena Orellana
    Father David Songy
    Fr. David Songy
    • Most Reverend J. Michael Miller, CSB – Archbishop of Vancouver, BC
    • Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, STL  Archbishop of Denver, CO
    • Helena Orellana, PsyD, LCP Clinical Psychologist, Director of IPS Center for Psychological Services, Divine Mercy University
    • Harvey Payne, PsyD Academic Dean, Divine Mercy University
    • Father David Songy, OFM Cap., STD, PsyD President and CEO, Saint Luke Institute
    • Scott G. Hefelfinger, STL, PhD Assistant Professor of Theology, Augustine Institute Graduate School of Theology
    • Dr. Chi-Chi Obuaya, MRCPsych, MBA, MBBS – Consultant Psychiatrist, Co-Director of the Mind and Soul Foundation


    The Sanctuary Course for Catholics has been used in parishes around the world. Read in course participants own words below how this resource has been transforming lives and church communities. 

    “I am so appreciative of this resource! It's fantastic and much needed. We are doing the course currently as a diocesan group of DREs (Directors of Religious Education) and YMs (Youth Ministers), and those involved are finding it quite fruitful. Thank you!”

    “This course provided me with graced moments of inspiration, knowing God touched me, and the gift to serve others.”


    “I gained a better understanding of the role of God and the Church in helping those experiencing mental illness and the gift of love this course can bring.”

    "Everyone agreed this course is needed in the Church. I was grateful to have such a resource to begin conversations regarding faith and mental health."

    “Each of the eight weeks that I helped to facilitate was an endearing experience. I have facilitated the course twice, and each time I get something new and exciting.” 


    “I am a mental health professional, and I was blown away by this content.”



      Sanctuary’s resources integrate theological, psychological, and lived experience perspectives. They are developed with the conviction that informed and empathetic conversations about mental health challenges can transform communities of faith.



      Our resources are developed in consultation with mental health professionals, theologians, and people with lived experience—all from diverse denominational, racial, and cultural backgrounds. This allows us to place clinical and pastoral perspectives in dialogue with personal experience and community practices.


      Listening to someone’s story can broaden your perspective, reframe your understanding, and awaken your empathy. For this reason, the stories of people of faith with lived experience feature prominently in our resources. At Sanctuary, we believe it is important for individuals with mental health challenges to speak for themselves, and it is equally important for church communities to listen.




      Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Psychological perspectives primarily focus on the emotional and relational experiences of people living with mental health challenges. Our content is not intended to produce experts or mental health professionals; instead, it is designed to help you grow in awareness and empathy.


      The social perspective focuses on the ways that mental health challenges affect both individuals and communities of faith. Research suggests that meaningful relationships and supportive communities play a key role in recovery. This perspective gives the opportunity to examine unique ways that the Church can support mental health and wellbeing.


      The theological perspective considers the ways that faith can help us understand and respond to the realities of mental health challenges. In particular, we examine how Christians read and interpret the Bible in light of lived experience, and how the Church responds to the call to be a redemptive community where everyone is welcome.


      The Sanctuary Course for Catholics is available for free on our resource portal. Creating an account is simple, and then you can explore the materials of The Sanctuary Course for Catholics and see how the course can benefit your community.

      Getting started with talking about mental health or facilitating The Sanctuary Course for Catholics in your community can feel intimidating, which is why we designed a Facilitator’s Guide specifically for facilitators of The Sanctuary Course for Catholics. This PDF can be found in the downloadable materials for the course on our resource portal. We have also created a quick start page for facilitators on our resource portal.



      Have any questions? See answers to our frequently asked questions.
      We'd love to hear about your experience! We have a brief, five-minute survey for those who have participated in The Sanctuary Course for Catholics. The feedback you provide helps us improve the course and better serve the needs of parishes. Additionally, it helps us demonstrate impact to our donors and community. Facilitators and participants alike are invited to share their feedback. You can find the survey here

      WHAT'S NEXT?


      Introduction to Mental Health Ministry is designed for Catholic parishes looking to take the next step after completing The Sanctuary Course for Catholics. This resource helps parishes begin to build a mental health ministry for their particular context. The course is offered by the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers and was developed in partnership with Sanctuary.

      In this course, you'll explore seven high-quality films offering in-depth information and featuring vignettes of communities who have started a mental health ministry. You’ll also have access to a comprehensive coursebook and a list of helpful resources to help you with implementation and achieving your goals. 

      This resource is now available on the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers website. You can learn more and get started for free at: