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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.

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March 27, 2006

The CPSP Community Gathers at Virginia Beach for the 2006 CPSP Plenary


George Hull, 2006 CPSP Plenary Coordinator, speaks of his excitement about the gathering of the CPSP community that will occur March 29-April 1 at Virginia Beach. It appears this will be record breaking in in terms of the number of attendees for this year's Plenary. He has provided the PR a downloadable copy of the Plenary Schedule which is posted below as a PDF document.

This year's presenters are: Rev. A. Patrick Press who will present "Reflections on 50 Years of Supervision and Counseling", Wayne Cowan, "A Historical Reflection on Christianity and Counseling" and The Rev. Will Campbell, "Campbell Stories" and Raymond Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary who will deliver his annual address, "The State of the Community".

Download 2006 CPSP Plenary Schedule file

The PR reminds the community that this is a working conference. Most of the conference is dedicated to small group process. All participants are expected to bring either a paper, clinical case or a personal/professional predicament for reflection and consultation.

Virginia Beach Websites:

Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel

Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau

Virginia Beach Weather


-Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:21 PM

Raymond Lawrence Quoted in Washington Post

Appearing in the March 24, 2006 publication of the Washington Post is an article that discusses the research into the phenomena of prayer. As you read the article, you will soon see the following quote from Raymond Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary:

"I don't see how you could quantify prayer -- either the results of it or the substance of it," said the Rev. Raymond J. Lawrence of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "God is beyond the reach of science. It's absurd to think you could use it to examine God's play."

It is a very interesting and informative article. It's good to see our General Secretary once again quoted in one of the world's major newspapers. Recently he was quoted in the New York Times. To read the Washington Post article , click here and then use the search window to locate the article. -Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:30 PM

CPSP National Clinical Training Seminar held May 4-5, 2006


The Rev. Dr. John Edgerton, Director of the Department of Spiritual Care at WakeMed located in Raleigh, NC, will be the workshop leader at the CPSP National Clinical Training Seminar held May 4-5, 2006 at the Sacred Hearts' Retreat Center in Newton, New Jersey.

Rev. Edgerton will present workshops on the following themes: Part I: “Working with the Narrative (Life Story) in Pastoral Care and Supervision” and Part II: “Recovering the Prophetic in Pastoral Ministries”.

All members of our community are encouraged to attend the NCTS. The only expectation is that participants come prepared to present clinical cases and/or their own personal/professional journey for reflection and consultation. For more information, contact Francine Angel, NCTS Coordinator. -Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:19 PM

March 26, 2006

Spirituality: Wellspring and Wastebasket by William E. Alberts and Amy E. Alberts


Spirituality reveals not only the infiniteness of divinity but the infinite varieties of humanity. Type “spirituality” in an Internet search service and over 6 ½ million references appear. Follow that with “Christian spirituality,” and you could spend another eternity studying almost 2 ½ million sources. Spirituality may tell us far more about humanity than about divinity. In fact, this brief examination of spirituality is not about tracing the “mysterious ways” in which “God moves. . . His wonders to perform,” as the hymn declares, but about identifying the many and various ways in which the human spirit moves to perform its wonders. Nor do we presume to cover the manifold meanings of spirituality. Still, our study of the human spirit is believed to contain hints of the nature of any divinity.

Our focus is on two human “wonders” of spirituality. Spirituality may be a way to affirm, nourish, renew and empower the human mind, body and spirit. A wellspring of comfort and strength, enabling coping and wellness, and reflection and direction and connectedness with other human beings. A wellspring that overflows into love of one’s neighbor as oneself.

On the other hand, spirituality can be a wastebasket into which an individual or group may dump cause-and-effect understanding of the behavioral and societal and natural-event determinants of health and illness. A wastebasket that may accommodate ignorance and an excessive self-centered need for authority and absolutes that promise a “cure-all,” alleviate feelings of powerlessness, and legitimize anti-democratic beliefs and tendencies and behavior. First, spirituality as a wellspring of self-empowerment and connectedness with other human beings.

Foremost, spirituality is personal. It may be defined by, but not confined to, creed or ritual. It may be explained but not contained, described but not proscribed. It may be entertained but not solely institutionalized. For example, in a discussion about religion, a hospital patient was asked if he were “Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or of another religion,” and he replied, “None of the above. I’m spiritual.” Like many persons, his spirituality did not fit traditional classifications. He voiced a private faith in a personal god which apparently helps him deal with his medical and other realities. He evidently is one of the 6 ½ million representations of spirituality on the Internet search service.

The assumed empowering personal nature of spirituality is seen in the prayer of a woman who has been blind and suffering from a chronic illness for 40 years: “God, I’m sick and thank you anyhow [italics added]. You have helped me through it for 40 years, and given me a loving husband and two wonderful children. I praise You not just for the good times but for the bad times too, which You have led me through.” She was not thanking her god for curing her blindness but for seeing her through it—though she may well have prayed often for a miracle earlier on.

In the face of illness, injury and death, many hospital patients and their families and friends find comfort and empowerment in the prayerful words, “Thank you, Jesus”—not for what has befallen them but for whom they believe is beholding them in love.

“Thank you anyhow” may exemplify studies showing that people with spiritual resources especially appear to possess resiliency in coping with illness and injury, and still enjoy a quality of life in the midst of stress, discomfort and limitations. Spirituality seems to foster a positive, accepting, empowering attitude, enabling people to proactively realize that they help to determine the possibilities of their limitations and the limitations of their possibilities. The connection between spirituality and attitude is perceptively expressed in The Bible: “Remember my affliction and bitterness, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind [italics added], and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:19-23)

Not that attitude is dependent on spirituality for will power and quality of life. One may call to mind inner emotional resources, loving human relationships, and positive experiences and therefore have hope and thrive in the face of adversity. Affirmation, inspiration, love, reinforcement come from a human spirit as well as from a “Holy Spirit.”. Spirituality is believed to be a source of inner strength not the source.

While spirituality is personal and usually perceived as heaven sent, it also moves in horizontal ways. Spirituality has a “human touch.” The wondrous horizontal “ways” of spirituality are seen in a woman who underwent two additional unexpected surgeries, and, when finally ready, and eager, to be discharged developed a complication which continued to hospitalize and depress her. “I had had it,” she said. “I just stopped trying, stopped fighting to get better, gave in and just left it all in God’s hands. I had given up. But later, when I heard my roommate start to hum ‘Love lifted me,’ my body surged upward; and then she began to sing the words. . .”

Spirituality may involve more of a human touch than is readily understood and appreciated. It may be impossible to know where an individual’s emotional and physical make-up end and spirituality begins. For example, an attractive older female pastoral care volunteer visited a very sick-appearing, listless, prone male hospital patient. As she stood next to his bed and engaged him in conversation, his body began to stir. Their exchanges grew more spontaneous, personal, familiar, and even light-hearted joshing, leading him to literally rise up in his bed, his body animated, his full smile reflecting an uplifted spirit. Her presence and their exchange seem to have not only made his day but his hospital stay. Her prayer appeared to be anti-climactic. He had already caught the spirit. Was it agape or eros? Or both?

Spirituality can be empowering. Individual religious experience can alleviate guilt, give peace of mind, certainty and inner strength. It can turn an individual around, lead one to be “born again,” to become sober, clean, responsible, focused, creative. A patient suddenly stopped abusing his body with alcohol and cigarettes when he discovered that someone else loved it and him—and revealed it was a temple of spirituality. That someone was Jesus, whom he accepted as his savior, which acceptance not only helped to save him from years of self-abuse but also inspired him to write songs and sing them for others in churches and on radio broadcasts.

In the face of imprisonment, “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” a Black man newly converted to the Muslim faith. Even in confinement, self-empowerment is obtained in solidarity with people of like-minded realities and beliefs, affirming and liberating the spirit in the face of an oppressive environment and society. The spiritual power of solidarity even in solitary confinement.

While many studies claim to show that spirituality promotes health, Dr. Richard P. Sloan and associates provide their own cautionary research. “Even in the best studies,” they write, “the evidence of association between religion, spirituality and health is weak and inconsistent.” They also cite ethical issues implied by belief in a god who seems to favor the faithful, one issue of which is, “Are the more devout adherents ‘better’ people, more deserving of health than others?” They assume that such a belief suggests “illness is due to [patients’] own moral failure,” and produces an “additional burden of guilt.” (“Religion, spirituality, and medicine,” by R. P. Sloan, E. Bagiella and T. Powell,
The Lancet, Feb. 20, 1999, Pages 664-667, Vol. 353, Issue 9153) It is as if their god plays favorites, which seems contrary to Jesus’ teaching that “your Father who is in heaven . . . makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and the unjust . . . and is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.” (Matthew 5: 46; Luke 6: 35, 36)

Not that Dr. Sloan and his colleagues disregard the power of prayer. They write, “No one can object to respectful support for patients who draw upon religious faith in times of illness.” But they conclude that “it is premature to promote faith and religion as adjunctive medical treatments.” They say that until related “ethical issues are resolved, suggestions that religious activity will promote health, that illness is the result of insufficient faith, are unwarranted.” (Ibid.)

Dr. Sloan also states that “attempts to make religious activities adjunctive medical treatments . . . come dangerously close to efforts to validate religion by its effects on health.” He says, “Religion does not need science to justify its existence or appeal.” (“Should Physicians Prescribe Religious Activities,” The New England Journal of Medicine, June 22, 2000, Vol. 342: 1913-1916, No. 25)

Mayo Clinic internal medicine specialist and researcher Paul S. Mueller, while more positive than Dr. Sloan and associates about the relationship between religion and health, grounds spirituality this way: “Although the relationship between religious involvement and spirituality and health outcomes seems valid, it is difficult to establish causality. . . . The benefits of religious and spiritual involvement are likely conveyed through complex psychosocial, behavioral and biological processes that are incompletely understood.” (

The intrinsically personal and individual nature of spirituality reveals the difficulty involved in trying to determine common denominators. The “spirit” moves one group of worshippers to stand, sway, clap their uplifted hands and say “Hallelujah!” “Amen!” “Thank you, Jesus!”—to the beat of gospel music and preaching. Another congregation may sit quietly, attuned to orderly measures of an anthem and sermon that accommodate and inform their meditative mood. A third group may find their spirits quickened and renewed in chanting, ritual and sacrament. While a fourth may find their spirituality uplifted and community reinforced and empowered in bowing together and facing Northeast toward Ka’bah, the holy shrine in Mecca, and kneeling and praying in unison as equals. And a fifth may find the light of spirituality in silence. Each group might not “get” the other’s access to and expression of spirituality. Yet the legitimacy of each would seem to be obvious. But too often it is not.

Spirituality can be a wastebasket into which an individual or group may dump, deny and even deify insecurities, lack of knowledge and the need for certainty reflected in self-centered, submissive or dominating tendencies. A person who has spent years abusing his or her lungs, liver and/or heart may pray for miraculous healing when confronted with reaping what she or he has sown. Here spirituality may be resorted to in an attempt to hurdle the reality of cause and effect—a very human, but usually futile and despairing tendency. However, it may not just be about choices and self-abuse but also about the health- or illness-disposed genetic makeup one inherits. And lest one fails to appreciate another’s reality: illness naturally makes one physically, emotionally and spiritually centered on oneself.

Certain biblically-guided Christians believe that their “God is able” to perform the miraculous
healing of a dying or physically paralyzed loved one (or another) in the face of cause-and-effect scientific medical reality. They believe what is needed, as Jesus said, is enough faith: “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21: 22) When death ensues, or the physical impairment remains, those who “pray without ceasing” may blame themselves, believing their faith was not strong enough to elicit their god’s favor. Such Bible-inspired belief is understandably propelled by love and hope and fear—and denial. But in the end there may be a spiritual Catch-22 of guilt—with a letdown of faith caused by a seemingly narcissistic, reality-denying diety who professes to favor those who favor him. It would appear that spirituality should help one to deal with reality not short cut or deny it.

While people inevitably reap the cause-and-effect they sow, certain people reap what others have sown for them. There remains in America an historic, institutionalized White-controlled hierarchy of access to political and economic power. This hierarchy has enabled White persons to sow far more educational and economic opportunities than people of color—and thus reap far greater health and health care. At the heart of America’s “lingering racial divide” is a job gap that creates a health gap. Black persons continue to reap an unhealthy, discriminatory, White-favored political and economic order sown for those at the bottom of the hierarchy. Those who suffer from lack of adequate paying jobs, insufficient diet, polluted air, an indifferent and often hostile environment, and a tokenistic power structure are more likely to reap hypertension, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney failure, asthma, stroke, cancer, heart disease, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, implosive physical violence, and lower life expectancy. (“Patients With H.I.V. Seen as Separated By a Racial Divide,” The New York Times, August 7, 2004; “Disparities found in health care for blacks,” The Boston Globe, August 5, 2004; “Report finds minorities get poorer healthcare,” by Ron Blakey, March 20, 2002,; “Mental Health Problems Among Minorities,” by Richard A. Sherer,

In a report, the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations in Seattle concluded, “Unconscious racism is so entrenched in the US medical system that the only way to eliminate disparities is to change the rules . . .” Will Pittz, lead author of the report, said, “The healthcare system as a whole provides vastly unequal access and treatment based on race, language, and ethnicity. . . . Racism within the health system is literally making people of color sick.”

The Boston Globe news story on the report also cited former US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, who “found that more than 80,000 black Americans die every year because of continuing disparities in healthcare.” The news story, called “Racism blamed for health disparities,” also cited another study: “Last September, the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Health Workforce found that while Black, Hispanics, and Native Americans make up more than 25 percent of the US population, they represent only 9 percent of the nation’s nurses, 6 percent of doctors, and 5 percent of dentists.” (July 20, 2005)

The health care disparity was used by President Bush, to sell his plan to privatize Social Security, in a meeting with 24 selective African American religious and community leaders. Bush reportedly “told black leaders yesterday that his plan to add private accounts to Social Security would benefit blacks because they tend to have shorter lives than some other Americans and end up paying more than they get out.” (The Boston Globe, Jan. 26, 2005) Why Black people do not live as long as “some other Americans” [italics added] evidently was not discussed.

A recent New York Times editorial called diabetes an “epidemic,… a disease defined by economic disparity,” with “blacks and Hispanics… disproportionately stricken.” Entitled “Declare War on Diabetes,” the editorial warned, “Ignore it, and it can lead to heart disease, strokes, amputations and shortened lives.” (Feb 5, 2006)

Economically speaking, one group’s wellspring may be another group’s wastebasket. Spiritually speaking, one person’s blessing may be another person’s curse. A healthy expression of spirituality would seem to include addressing what in society is unhealthy.

Matters of the spirit can also be recreated in the image of an individual’s or group’s need for certainty, security, rightness, power over others and domination. Spirituality can be a vehicle to authenticate and dictate “correct” theological belief rather than just, ethical behavior. Here spirituality is a means by which to obtain the right experience and belief, not do the right thing—as if that which is perceived as spiritual can be contained, controlled, claimed, patented. Here also spirituality is often about a personal, other-worldly destination, more than about an interpersonal journey with others—unless they are, or become, like-minded.

To claim absoluteness in matters of the spirit is to reveal ignorance of the spirit that matters to other kinds of people. To claim one’s religion has, or religious experience is, the key to the “spiritual kingdom” is to unknowingly confess one’s own spiritual serfdom. Such confinement of spirit may be acted out in an interfaith or community observance or national event at which a Christian minister or priest gives an invocation or benediction “in the name of Your only Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Classic examples are the closing words of Baptist evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham’s Invocation at President George W. Bush’s January 2001 Inauguration: “. . . We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen;” and the conclusion of United Methodist minister Kirbyson Caldwell’s Benediction at the same Inaugural: “We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus, the Christ. Let all who agree say amen.”

A Christian minister or priest who is unaware of or disregards, for example, the Jews or Muslims in an audience before him (or her) is far more likely to be oblivious to the Muslims or Jews being oppressed around him—or beyond him by his government in his name. “Christocentrism,” like egocentrism and ethnocentrism, is threatened by, oblivious to and wars against diversity. Only “in Jesus name” can become like a box one cannot think or relate outside of. Such spirituality may not only accommodate imperialistic political policies but foster them.

Charles Marsh, religion professor at the University of Virginia, writes about “Wayward Christian Soldiers,” his own brother and sister American evangelicals, whose pre-Iraq invasion “war sermons” had a common theme: “Our president is a real brother in Christ, and because he has discerned that God’s will is for our nation to be at war with Iraq, we shall gloriously comply.” Marsh quotes a Christian missionary who expressed a sentiment shared by certain evangelicals: “American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Marsh says that “both Franklin Graham, the evangelist son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, . . . a former advisor to President Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims.”

Marsh states that “an astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president’s decision in April 2003 [to invade Iraq],” and “recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war.” He writes that their support was not based on “Christian moral doctrine” of pursuing peace and loving enemies, but on “our Faustian bargain for access and power,” which “has undermined the credibility of our evangelistic witness in the world.”

Marsh’s concluding sentence reveals the apparent imperialistic bent of many evangelical Christians: “The Hebrew prophets might call us to repentance, but repentance is a tough demand for a people utterly convinced of their righteousness.” (“Wayward Christian Soldiers,” The Boston Globe, Jan. 20, 2006) Fascism parading as faith “Marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus Going on before!”

With spirituality, the danger to one’s neighbor comes when one moves from simply doing “good works” to a theological group identity that feels superior and then to domination over those seen as “inferior.” Where does spirituality end and personality, culture, and patriotic national identity begin?

Where does faith end and cause-and-effect begin? Certain religious leaders and their followers need to protect their god—and themselves—from knowledge. The more mysterious their god’s ways, the more they can actually control his movement—with an infallible compass, the Bible. They need to believe that their god’s ways are “unsearchable.” Therein lies these religious leaders’ authority and power over people—and their people’s need to remain dependent and powerless. Such religious leaders can turn to their divinely revealed Bible to interpret their god’s ways and will. Thus a prominent Southern Baptist author reportedly told pastors at a workshop, “The tsunamis that hit South Asia were God’s punishment of a [Muslim] area where Christians have experienced particularly intense persecution.” (“Blackaby says tsunamis God’s judgement; missions experts question theology,” by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press-News, 1/27/2005)

Thus “some religious conservatives (Rev. Pat Robertson, Hal Lindsey, and Charles Colson) have speculated that . . . Hurricane Katrina was sent by God as an omen or as a punishment for America’s alleged sins,” especially “legalized abortion.” (“Religious conservatives claim Katrina was God . . . ,” Media Matters for America, Sept. 13, 2005)

Thus “an organization of Christian fundamentalists claims the destruction brought on by Hurricane Katrina is God’s judgement against New Orleans for holiday festivals like the annual gay Southern Decadence party. ‘Although the loss of life is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city,’ said Repent America director Michael Marcavage on the organization’s website.” (“Religious groups link Hurricane to gay event,” Christopher Network)

Thus such divine judgement appears to be shared by Rev. Franklin Graham who said, “There’s been a black spiritual cloud [italics added] over New Orleans for years.” Appearing at Liberty University, a Christian college, “Graham spoke about how some believed God was using the hurricane to spark a religious revival there,” because “New Orleans is a city known for Satan worship, orgies and widespread drinking and drug use.” (“Some US Christians say Katrina was God’s handiwork,” by Paul Simao, Reuters Alert Net, Oct. 16, 2005) What would a white spiritual cloud represent? Goodness? Showers of blessings? The revelation of Rev. Franklin Graham’s own unconscious feelings of racial superiority? To what degree are spirituality and one’s god colored by one’s own racial conditioning and identity?

Thus Rev. Jerry Falwell interpreted the 9/11/2001 attacks as “God’s judgement on America.” “I really believe,” Falwell said, “that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actually trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’” Rev. Pat Robertson reportedly said “Amen!” to Falwell’s prophetic judgement-- which “revelation” Falwell later retracted. (“Falwell apologizes to gays, feminists, lesbians,”, Sept. 14, 2001)

Civilized society punishes people severely for committing a fraction of the wanton and destructive behavior certain Christian fundamentalist and other religious leaders attribute to their god. It would seem that such leaders are projecting onto their god their own unconscious hatred and aggression. Such a destructive god should be restricted to history, or banished to the heavens, or confined to a book, or studied in a laboratory to understand his terroristic nature -- and not allowed to return and “move in mysterious ways” upon the earth and among human beings until his worshippers enjoy the therapeutic touch of a Golden Retriever, or unexpectedly discover the humanizing love of a gay or lesbian son or daughter, or experience unconditional love themselves from another human being.

The attempt to protect one’s god from empirical knowledge (the need to dumb-down one’s god) is seen in the change in the training of ministers in pastoral care and counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The seminary has dropped “secular psychology” from its curriculum and “is taking its Christian counseling department in a new direction, one built upon the sufficiency of Scripture and designed to train pastors to deal biblically with the needs of hurting people.” This “wholesale change in emphasis [is] built upon the view that Scripture is sufficient to answer comprehensively the deepest needs of the human heart” [italics added]. The very psychological knowledge and supervised clinical training, through which ministers gain self-understanding and are thus better able to love themselves and hence, their neighbor, are dumped into a wastebasket. Replaced by “true ‘pastoral care’ as defined by the Scriptures.” (“Southern Seminary Launches new vision for biblical counseling,” by Jeff Robinson, (BP) news, Feb. 15, 2005)

A concerned pastoral psychotherapist, Rev. Dr. Perry Miller, writes that he and other psychotherapists and clinical supervisors of ministers-in-training “have had to pick up the pieces of people’s lives, who have been counseled or supervised by such a limited model.” Miller stresses the importance of clergy gaining insight into themselves and other persons through integrating knowledge of the social sciences under the guidance of a clinically trained supervisor. (“A Threat to Clinical Pastoral Training,” by Perry Miller, Pastoral, The Newsletter of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, Feb. 23, 2005). The spiritual health of worshippers depends in part on the emotional health of their religious leaders.

Religious leaders and their followers who need to protect their god from cause-and-effect, from knowledge are projecting on to their god their own need to protect themselves from self-knowledge. They tend to be anti-introspective persons, not wanting to look at and understand their own feelings and motivations. Paul the Apostle said, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) One might add, faith and works without self-knowledge can be deadly.

Jesus seemed to ground spirituality in self-knowledge and human relationships. When asked which was the greatest commandment in the law,” he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . [And] the second is like it: “You shall love you neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:25-30) It is assumed that love of one’s neighbor depends on love of oneself: one’s ability to experience one’s own humanness and to embrace one’s own worth and rights.

Self-knowledge is believed to be a fundamental qualification of any clergy person—and of anyone committed to democratic values. One has to know where he or she is coming from in order to know where other persons are at. Self-knowledge helps one to avoid getting in one’s own way in living and working with and serving people. The more one is in touch with and accepting of oneself, the better prepared one is to experience and accept other persons as themselves – better able to experience rather than interpret their reality.

Each person seems to have his/her own unique “spiritual fingerprints”—as does each group have its own individual ways of performing its spiritual wonders. The spiritual lives of individuals seem to be as varied as their emotional make-up, physical identities, and cultural orientations and conditioning. The influence of personality, culture and spirituality on each other is believed to determine the various ways in which the human spirit moves to perform its wonders.

If the individual and personal nature of spirituality reveals (inadvertently) anything about divinity, it appears to be the diversity of divinity--and thus the divinity of diversity. Spirituality seems to disclose that any divinity is evidently comfortable with, affirms and embraces humanity’s diversity and connectedness, individuality and commonality, uniqueness and oneness. An apparently spiritually inspired Paul the Apostle declared, “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:26).

Whether the source of one’s spirituality is the “Holy Spirit” or a human spirit, spirituality would appear to include what one does with what one feels and believes. It would seem that one’s spiritual experiences and beliefs would lead to identification and connectedness with all living beings. The bottom line of spirituality, therefore, would seem to be behavior and not simply belief, action and not just awe, outreach and not merely uplift, introspection and not only inspiration, justice as well as joy. The morality of spirituality.


Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain, and a Diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on religion, racism, war and politics. He can be reached at

Amy E. Alberts, M.A. is a Ph.D. student at Tufts University in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development. She is co-editor, with Dr. Jacqueline Lerner, of Current Directions in Developmental Psychology, a Pearson Prentice Hall book of readings from the American Psychological Society (2004). She can be reached at

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:26 PM

March 11, 2006


Forward. When I informed the 2005 Asian Congress on the Care of the Soul that, for medical reasons, I would be unable to address the congress as planned, the leaders then asked if I would write a monograph on the essential factors in the evolution of a psychotherapist with reference to my own personal and professional development

My one hesitancy was referencing my own story. I have long been aware that the use of the personal pronoun in scholarship is too frequently the function of narcissistic forces. So I simply reminded the people at Hong Kong that although my story was likely much different than the stories of my other colleagues, still our evolution should follow a similar path.

President-Elect, College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy

The 8th Asia-Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling has requested that I address the essential factors in the evolution of a pastoral psychotherapist with reference to my own personal and professional development. I am pleased to respond in this essay. My response will be devoid of any conceptual psychology or theology since I am here focusing only on the contextual framework from which conceptual systems evolve.

I am especially interested in the theme of this Congress, “Spiritual Formation of the Human Heart: Tested Models of Caring and Counseling.” For my definition of psychotherapy is far more than guidance or instructive analysis or problem solving although, to be sure, there are times when these responses are necessary. The literal meaning of “psycho-therapy” is soul work which is the care of the human heart in all the seasons of life. And by pastoral psychotherapy I refer specifically to the perspective which theology or pastoral identity brings to the care of the soul.

I make this response knowing that mine is a distinctly Western and specifically American perspective, shaped by existential philosophy and Christian theology. However, I am very interested in the possibility that the model I describe is universal, i.e., that it is descriptive of all who undertake the life commitment to the mastery of psychotherapy whether from the East or West, Christian or non-Christian, one philosophical system or another.

And so I submit that there are five categories which are helpful in the identification and delineation of the essential factors which describe the pastoral psychotherapist. While the sequence might vary according to the life history of certain individuals, in general one might think of these as five stages of development, epigenetic in character, with each building on or enhancing the previous stage.

I. The Cultivation and Blessing of Natural Gifts. Only a few are equipped for the life and work of a pastoral psychotherapist. Just as certain persons are said to born as a “natural” teacher or physician, scientist or artist, so it is that there are specific natural endowments which must be cultivated for the person who would work with the human soul. By natural endowments I mean those features which are characteristic of the young personality, and by cultivation I mean the shaping of such features in the childhood, adolescent and early adult environment.

These shaping influences can be the natural values of the home, school and community into which the person found his/her beginnings. These environments were characterized by absolute respect for others, nurture and compassion, and heightened sensitivity. Or, on the other hand, the influences could be the result of early difficulties and even trauma, where vigilance and highly focused awareness was essential to survival.

While the list of such gifts might differ among psychotherapists, I would assume all to agree on some basic features including:

1. A primary interest focus on matters of the meaning of the life experience itself, and the constant shadow of mortality. From an early age this person has pondered the expressions of love and hate, joy and suffering, attachment and alienation, certainty and confusion, empowerment and impotence, safety and danger.

2. A finely developed eye to read what is really going on in contrast to what might appear to be happening. This is a discerning eye which does not just look but seeks to see, which not only records events but attempts to see beneath the surface. And from the eye comes the developing ear, called the “third ear”, to discern what is beneath the words and the “sighs too deep for words.” This person is able to “read” the expression and behavior of others and to interpret the subtle nuances of words, feelings, gestures and postures.

3. A diminished sense of judgment. From an early age this person is not prone to judge others because it is apparent that all the data is not in, that there is much more going on than anyone yet fully understands.

4. A natural sense of patience, born from an early recognition that important things cannot be rushed, that full seasons are required to work through an experience, that the length and timing of such seasons differs from one person to another.

5. The nurturing gifts of kindness, care, friendship, and an easy sense of humor, all of which serve to elicit trust from others.

6. A central core of strength and courage which enable this person to be confrontive when necessary, and to bear the stresses and pain of the demands and suffering of another.

7. A pervasive respect for others, born of the early realization that we are all related, that all persons have infinite value, even in their most hateful times.

What is then needed is a crucible, a period of years when the person has the challenge and opportunity to refine these gifts and emerge into adulthood with a semblance of autonomy so as to be a leader, a guide, a healer. This crucible can take many forms. There is, first, the wisdom born of adversity: “the schools of hard knocks” such as the violent home or the impoverished streets; significant loss and trauma; personal illness and subsequent healing. Or there is the wisdom born of character: the enriched home or school with transcendent values; the good fortune of trusted friendships; scouting and athletics, church and aesthetic experience. Or, rarely, an early and exceptional mentor.

In my own experience I recognize the kindness and patience, the non-judgmental love and the constant encouragement given to me in my family. There was also a constant stress: that I was born to replace a boy who died, and there was upon me the “special” expectation that I would be a source of life and joy, that I would not be heartbreak for my parents. There was the unusual gift of constant friends in my neighborhood, and their recognition of me as their leader, the one who would organize the games and choose up the teams. There was athletics which challenged me to compete and always improve. And there was my church, constantly instructing me, inspiring me, daring me to believe that I might be one whom God called to serve others, to be a light in the darkness.

Ultimately this crucible was a blessing to me and a humbling experience. I was the only person in my neighborhood to go to college, and I had few funds to support me. But I earned an athletic scholarship, dived into studies of philosophy, and was honored by my fellow students when elected student body president But I never forgot my beginnings, my respect for family and friends as they struggled to work through their difficulties. And more and more I felt that I was called apart to be a servant to them and to others; which required that I learn much, much more than I knew.

II. The Spiritual Journey Into The Wilderness. There are many common Western archetypes in which the healer, the guru, the spiritual leader has as an initial requirement the difficult and sometimes dangerous journey into the wilderness. A retreat into the woods, to the mountains, to the desert, to the times of contemplation and testing and discipline. Only when this person has personally been required to go through the eye of the storm and then to face truth devoid of denial, only then can he/she begin to understand the paradigms of death and rebirth; of deconstruction and reconstruction; of illness and healing.

In the Western World the archetypes of this spiritual journey are commonly understood: Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha; Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son; Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream. And Joseph Campbell has memorialized the Journey of the Hero, although he worked in archetypes he deemed to be universal, across all cultures.

The one who would be a pastoral psychotherapist is presuming to enter into the psychic and spiritual struggles of others in a most intimate way, and it is essential that such a person be familiar with not only the landscape of the struggles others are having, but to know how to help interpret the landscape, to encourage others not to lose heart. And, always, this is a person finally seen by others as an agent of God.

This knowledge of the journey is achieved in many ways. Some of them are dramatic: a descent into the hells of failure and misfortune, and the subsequent recovery; or the demanding requirements of monastic discipline; or accepting challenges beyond the reach of most others; or by living among modern lepers and learning from them. For others it is a less dramatic but equally demanding analysis of their own psyche, learning to face their own unconscious with all of its perils. For still others it is the survival of the perils of success, of not yielding to the temptation to be seduced by the false god of popularity.

The timing of this journey varies among the pilgrims. For most it comes early, before vocational plans are finalized, or at least as part of the preparation for the future. Others, including many clergy, are well on their way into a ministry of church leadership when the call to be a pastoral psychotherapist comes to them. For them it is, in many ways, a comprehensive theological deconstruction and reconstruction.

The elements of my journey were varied. College had been a time to test courage and leadership, and these would soon be needed. A tragic accident to a member of my first parish left me standing helpless in a hospital, convinced that for all my education I was less than adequate as a pastor. And this subsequently caused me to enter into Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). With that my world began to change radically as many of my theological assumptions were challenged as were my study of human motivation: my own and others. I took as many units of CPE as I could and, concurrent with this period of intense reflection, I entered my own psychotherapy. I needed to thoroughly investigate the landscape of my psyche, to know my own story, and in so doing began to reaffirm my relationship to God as designated servant to others. In this way was my personal autonomy and authority strengthened but, always, the humble recognition that in all my work I was on an errand of grace.

III. Academic Excellence. The person who would seek to be the caretaker of souls, who would presume to meet pilgrims on their journeys or to engage persons in the midst of crises which threaten their souls, such a person must first be knowledgeable of the world we all live in. Preparation for the task of being a pastoral psychotherapist must include long and patient years of academic study in all the fields that are needed to interpret the human experience.

There is no brief curriculum for this and thus it is a laborious and expensive undertaking. The pastoral psychotherapist must be a student of many disciplines: history, anthropology, art, philosophy, theology, science, psychology, economics, language, and political institutions. A comprehensive liberal arts background, which is increasingly rare in the Western world, is ideal. And it will not be enough to simply become “acquainted” with these separate fields; they must be integrated in a commitment to academic excellence. For persons come to a pastoral psychotherapist from a horizon of differing backgrounds and personal experiences. And they will require understanding.

Following a liberal arts degree, the Western standard is to next require a graduate degree in theology. The very meaning of “pastoral” psychotherapist is imbedded in a sense of doing the work of the Divine One, an extension of the great creative force and the redemptive power that we call God. And this, of course, requires a deconstruction of the religious systems of childhood, a re-examination of most all basic assumptions, and the requisite that theological pronouncements must stand up to the scrutiny of science and must provide valuable commentary on the interpretation of history, art, and human cultures.

The formal academic preparation for some pastoral psychotherapists ends at this juncture. Following training and credentialing they continue their work from such establishments as churches, hospitals, clinics, agencies or schools. There is, however, an increasing expectation for the pastoral psychotherapist to add graduate studies in psychology or even post-graduate studies. This results from the expanding complexity of the psychological sciences, of neurology, and of understanding social systems. At this juncture the pastoral psychotherapist joins other psychotherapists in continuing education. Furthermore some churches in American require certification before one can be publicly identified as a pastoral psychotherapist, or most states require licensure before independent practice is permitted. These certifications and licensures have, as pre-requisites, graduate and post-graduate degrees.

My own academic preparation was along the lines described above. In college I majored in philosophy and literature with only minimal attention to psychology or religion. I prized the liberal arts experience and had rich experiences with athletics, music, drama and debate. I then attended theological school where I was challenged by the new science of critical analysis of the Bible, theological and political controversy, and, always, existential philosophy. These were quiet and intense years, concluding with my M. Div degree and my ordination as an Elder in The United Methodist Church.

My interest in academics continued and I matriculated as a doctoral student at Columbia University. I wanted to work toward my Ph.D. in philosophy while interfacing with some of the world’s leading theologians who were across the street at Union Theological Seminary. This work would prove tedious. I found myself engaged in the analysis of medieval scholars while my attention was going to the world around me: the civil rights movement in America which commanded my participation, and my growing impatience and confusion regarding the developments of the war in Viet Nam. I dropped out of studies to give leadership to my own parish which was undertaking a new building program and to be free for these social causes.

This led me to CPE and my own psychotherapy which I have discussed above. Academic studies in CPE, while not in a formal academy, were necessary in my preparation for certification as a CPE Supervisor and pastoral counselor. It was after another decade that I returned to post-graduate academic studies. In Columbus where I was working at a large mental health center as an administrator and CPE Supervisor, I was accepted for post-graduate work at The Ohio State University. I was, perhaps, still uncertain as to what I did not know that other psychotherapists and psychologists, with doctoral degrees, presumably knew. There followed five very intense and exhausting years. Whereas I did not learn much about psychotherapy, since there were few psychotherapists at the university, I filled in the “gaps” in areas of science which had been previously omitted: psycho-neurology, learning theory, psychometric testing, and the history of the psychological sciences. I received the Ph.D. degree with full academic eligibility so as to sit for my state licensure examination as a Psychologist.

IV. Training. Ask any “master psychotherapist” what is the sine qua non to become a master of psychotherapy and they will all respond the same: training by another master psychotherapist. This follows the model of all world apprenticeships. Psychotherapy cannot be learned in an academic setting alone nor can it be mastered from another supervisor whose only credentials are academic. Even licensure itself, in America, is academic-based and not competency-based.

Who is the “master psychotherapist” under whom an apprentice should labor? Certainly one whose academic background has been broad and varied, and not one who has had a single undergraduate focus in psychology and graduate studies in a narrow field. Certainly one who is known for his/her natural gifts as a psychotherapist, whose reputation as a caring, engaging, respectful, disciplined and experienced soul-worker has been established over the years. Certainly one who has undergone a personal psychotherapeutic investigation of his/her own life, who understands that the journey into the wilderness is a necessary pre-requisite for the work. A master is one who teaches, not to replicate himself/herself, but to elicit from the apprentice that which is unique and powerful and natural to the apprentice; and always with absolute integrity.

It is not easy to find masters of this caliber. There are only a few in any large community. I found my first one quite by chance, my first CPE Supervisor whose gifts were to engage other persons passionately and with the most discriminating perception. He taught me to listen with the ‘third ear”, to see the more hidden messages, and to respond, whenever possible, with the “golden thread” of interpretation to the client. The second taught me the patience that is required to analyze transferences and to always review myself for possible projections. The third taught me to always remain humbled in my respect for my client. And the fourth taught me that there are no techniques in psychotherapy, only the art of entering into the world of another person and doing so with integrity and conceptual competence. None of these masters sought to remake me in their own image. All recognized what natural gifts I brought to the process, how my knowledge of my own story and my own self could be utilized in working with others.

V. Community and Accountability. The work of the pastoral psychotherapist is lonely and sometimes very difficult. The work is always confidential and cannot be discussed casually with others such as family members. The work is stressful and not designed to bind up the wounds of the healer. The work is often misunderstood or unappreciated by the community at large or the religious community which wants to give answers and solutions rather than understanding.

This is a major problem. It can even be stated that the pastoral psychotherapist who works in isolation is destined to lose focus, to be less and less effective, and even to fail or bring harm to others. It is therefore necessary for the pastoral psychotherapist to have some kind of community composed of persons who understand the work, and a community which provides personal support in return for absolute accountability.

Such communities are rare. Professional groups are often so competitive that they divide rather than unite. Clergy themselves are well known for their mistrust of their own colleagues. The complex politics of professions breed mistrust. Seldom will any professional openly admit to peers his/her personal problems or failings, blindness or confusion, shortcomings or mistakes. Nor would he/she likely find support in a brave and creative initiative which ventured far from the norms.

I could not have continued in my personal and professional development without community and accountability. I secured this in three different communities, each of which required of me candor, courage, integrity and total accountability. I was fortunate to find this in my earliest CPE peer group, and in the confidence of my supervisor. As I progressed in my development I came to trust most of my colleagues in The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) whose own development was, in so many ways, similar to my own. This trust deepened over the years and I was happy to repay it by accepting responsibilities for national leadership in ACPE. I then discovered a similar setting of trust, for a shorter time, in the American Academy of Psychotherapists, a gathering of psychotherapists from all disciplines but who require personal psychotherapy and a record of personal and professional maturity for membership. More recently I have found my “home” in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy which requires, for membership, participation in a “Chapter.” My Chapter composed of nine other CPE Supervisors, pastoral psychotherapists, and chaplains, meets monthly. We attend to the personal and professional status of each member, seeking always to challenge and require understanding, and responding always with support and appreciation.

I am pleased to offer these observations to the conference. I wish that I could have been with you. If so I would have asked for your thoughts on this matter, specifically to learn if your understanding of what might constitute the making of a pastoral psychotherapist might differ from my categories or if, as I submit, these are truly universal and cross-cultural categories.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 3:29 PM

Pre-Conference Meeting for Chapter Conveners

Chapter Conveners-

There will be a special gathering of all CPSP Chapter Conveners at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29, 2006, at the Oceanfront Hotel, Virginia Beach, Virginia. As a Convener, you have a very significant role in the life of the CPSP Chapter and the organization as a whole. So, please plan to attend this very important meeting where some vital issues will be addressed. It will also be a time to meet fellow conveners and to share with each other the joys and challenges of being a Chapter Convener. If you absolutely are unable to attend, please delegate a surrogate from your Chapter to represent you so that you and your Chapter will not be deprived of the significance of the event that has direct bearing on the life of your Chapter.

Please email back to me, ASAP, whether you or your surrogate will be attending this meeting. I look forward to personally greeting you.

-Richard Liew, CPSP President

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 3:16 PM

March 9, 2006



The Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel is officially sold out. However, they tell us that they will respond to requests for rooms on an individual basis. Call 757-425-9000 or 800-521-5635. Sheraton will also refer those it cannot accommodate to adjacent hotels. There are also budget hotels with
very low rates within walking distance.

Download 2006 CPSP Plenary Brochure

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 4:36 PM