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February 23, 2005

A Threat to Clinical Pastoral Training by Perry Miller


Many who provide clinical pastoral training programs are often discouraged by their awareness that seminary graduates applying to their CPE programs do not have an awareness of and appreciation for the social sciences as a valuable resource to integrate into their clinical practice of ministry. The Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY has moved to further compound the problem and to add its support to trainees who resist the employment of the social sciences as a necessary component of their being a clinically trained clergy. The Southern Baptist Seminary has now dumped the inclusion of the social sciences in their pastoral care and counseling curriculum. In its place will be a curriculum "... built upon the sufficiency of Scripture and designed to train pastors to deal biblically with the needs of hurting people...a wholesale change of emphasis built upon the view that Scripture is sufficient to answer comprehensively the deepest needs of the human heart..."

Biblical counseling and biblical pastoral care that excludes the social sciences has been around for a long time. Many of us as psychotherapists and/or clinical supervisors offering CPE programs have had to pick up the pieces of people's lives who have been counseled or supervised by such a limited model. We know how foolish and even dangerous this new movement is to the lives of people.

In recent times there have been major law suits won by those who charged pastors and churches with malpractice because they provided biblically-based counseling and failed to get the person, who eventually committed suicide, the help they needed. This is an easy error to make if one does not have a clinically-based knowledge of the social sciences informed by quality supervision with someone who has integrated the social sciences with their clinical practice.

CPE programs, for the above same reason having to do not only with quality of care but also with liability, must insure they do not compromise their commitment and expectation that their trainees integrate the social sciences in their training process.  Failure to do so creates a potentially risky and even dangerous situation not only for the patients, families, and staff but for the institution and those responsible for the training program. I don't think any CPE program would want to run the risk of having a trainee functioning in their assigned clinical area using a biblically-based model of counseling and pastoral care.

It is a time for those who care about the clinical pastoral movement to raise our voice in protest against this growing phenomenon. The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy along with our colleagues in the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, the Association of Professional Chaplains and COMISS should join together in a major effort to educate the public about this dangerous development while advancing the understanding and value of of a parish pastor, chaplain, counselor, psychotherapist to be clinically trained as one who has integrated the social sciences with their practice of  ministry. If we donít do it, who will? No one!

The silly turf battles between the major certifying and accrediting pastoral organizations pales in the face of this growing threat so well defined by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's move to biblically-based counseling and pastoral care curriculum.

It's time for all of us who care about the clinical pastoral movement to re-claim our heritage. We must again be clear within ourselves and with one another about what it means to provide clinical training programs that embrace the social sciences requiring its integration into the trainee's person, theory, theology and clinical practice of ministry. -Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at February 23, 2005 02:02 PM