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March, 2005

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The College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy is a theologically based covenant community, dedicated to "recovery of the soul" and promoting competency in the clinical pastoral field.


March 15, 2005



Spring has already begun to bud in its own joyous way. Despite the gray snow lining our curbs, there are signs of new life and growth peeking up between the concrete slabs of the city sidewalk.

Our National Clinical Training Seminar this March 3-4 held at Carmel Retreat House in Mahwah, New Jersey was an opportunity to witness signs of spring within our CPSP community as well as reflect on our personal growth as pastoral caregivers.

Supervisors-in-Training and Supervisors from different centers gathered in small groups to offer their own life experiences as a resource to help support encourage and provide feedback on their colleague's work. Some would use the small group setting to present themselves and ask the group to offer feedback on their professional journey or a personal issue that seemed to keep them from new growth. It was clear from the report back in the large group, that all members had gleaned a new insight, a different perspective, and a word of encouragement and support for their work.

Our featured speaker for the seminar was Dr. Perry Miller who facilitated a two part talk and discussion on The Theory and Practice of Supervision. Perry's talk on Thursday evening focused on the goal of supervision as inviting the trainee into the Fall. The Fall, for the trainee is the trainee's confrontation with his/her own unconscious and the experiencing of raw primitive pain of early childhood in the service of the patient's work. Supervision should afford the trainee the opportunity to explore where his/her suffering is held in tension with his/her professional life; the supervisory process must make use of both. The supervisory role is one of courage as well as compassion as the supervisor must be willing to take on the projections of the trainee and feed these back to the trainee in a way that is not toxic. Such supervision is life changing and transformative for the trainee; wanting less for our trainees is failed supervision and theologically corrupt. Perry invited the group to reflect on how their own practice of supervision might be enriched through a deepened relationship of mutuality with their trainee's in which transferences and counter transferences, mutual resistances and feedback on the process are part of the supervisory relationship.

Perry's discussion on Friday centered on the selection and interview process of trainees for CPE programs as well as his views on how technology can play a role in expanding our view of how supervision can be offered. Given Perry's talk on the practice of supervision on Thursday, it was no surprise to learn that Perry encouraged the community to explore ways in which the trainee interview and selection process might be seen as a significant first step in the budding supervisory relationship. Perry encouraged the group to consider the interview process as more than a singular interview but several in which the supervisor's goal is to determine if the candidate is one who is willing to take the risk and rigors of entering into a life transforming process or merely seeking a set of skills. In Perry's view, mutuality should extend to the selection process of which trainees are matched with which supervisors; the process, supervisory relationship and the clinical training program itself can only benefit from an attentive and deliberate selection and interview process.

The conference also gave us an opportunity to gather as a community for a Tavistock group experience with Dr. Raymond Lawrence serving as consultant. Tavistock allows the community to see for itself what issues are being acted out on an unconscious level within the group that might otherwise go unnoticed. The choices that group members make on where to sit, when to speak, what to say or how it is spoken all are valuable windows into the unconscious at work. Hidden agendas for power and authority, race and gender and similar issues are brought to the group's consciousness by the consultant who raises them up for the group to examine. Our group experience would raise some provocative issues for the community to reflect on as well.

NCTS was an opportunity for us to gather to reflect on our individual work, to meet new friends and get re-acquainted with peers from other centers. It was a bit of spring for all those who attended a chance to seek and celebrate our growth as pastoral caregivers among fellow pilgrims.
Bonnie McDougall Olson is a Supervisor in Training, New York Presbyterian Hospital: Columbia Medical Center

Posted by Perry Miller at March 15, 2005 4:13 PM

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