From collar to counselor

George McClendon

Photo By Tom Angel

As a priest, George McClendon was happy to embrace God and the church’s teachings. But ultimately, he wasn’t OK with the no-marriage thing. That was a deal-breaker for the Catholic church, so he left and became a licensed marriage and family therapist. When his wife, Carol, retired from teaching junior high, they decided to move to Chico. They have twin daughters, Sarah and Jennifer, aged 24. But, at almost 70, McClendon realized he wasn’t ready to hang up his therapist hat just yet. Last month he opened a practice at 5 Governor’s Lane, Suite B in Chico (898-9393), where he specializes in individuals, couples, men and spiritual guidance. The Kleenex is provided at no extra charge.

How did you decide to go back into practice?

I had done it for 30 years, and recently I had been commuting down to the Monterey Bay area. I clearly had difficulty separating out and quitting. I’ve had such a long time being allowed into people’s lives.

What’s a “recovering Catholic"?

We’re all recovering from one thing or another. A recovering Catholic is one who’s looking to rediscover what was really meaningful to him as a Catholic. There have been a lot of structural changes in the church and a lot of things have gone on that are very painful. They can come to terms about what it means to be a Catholic [and] recover the spirit.

Do you ever miss being a priest?

I miss being active in the priesthood. I still marry people. I get to do that.

Did you save the collar and stuff?

You know, I didn’t. But I did keep my old monastic habit [from when I was a Benedictine monk].

What’s wrong with most people?

I don’t look at it that way. I think most of us forget who we are. We lose who we are as individuals [on our] spiritual journeys.

You specialize in men. Do they have more trouble opening up?

I think that’s culturally what’s happened to us. We’re told to be strong and silent. [Sometimes] they cry. It’s like with all people when you uncover feelings like sadness, anger or grief. I give them permission to feel.

How long does it take to fix people?

[Laughs.] It depends on the person. I don’t have a set time. I give people permission to come to therapy and get what they want to get, and they can leave, or if they want to come back they can. They can come back for "tune-ups."