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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, 2009


John DeVelder, provides another "Lost" CPSP Video Postcard from the 2008 CPSP Plenary held in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Gather with the CPSP Community for the 2009 CPSP Plenary at Virginia Beach, VA starting Sunday March 29, 2009 with the Pre-Conference Workshops.

If you wish to respond to John DeVelder's video click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 1:23 PM

March 26, 2009

CLINICAL TRAINING, PASTORAL COUNSELING & SOULFUL LISTENING: A Letter to Clinical Pastoral Education Trainees by Perry Miller

Perry Miller, D. Min
Spring 2009 Urban Ministry CPE
Didactic Seminar


Dear Trainees --

I’m pleased you enrolled in this Urban Ministry program of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training at WakeMed. Even in these early days together you are mindful that you are involved in a very intensive process of supportive and challenging peer and supervisor engagements. By now you are aware that the focus in the CPE program is on personal exploration into the self as related to your clinical practice and professional formation. This process can be gratifying, unsettling and even disturbing.

You are also serving as chaplain in a variety of clinical contexts in the Urban Ministry settings. You will engage people whose life experiences are not only complex, demanding, rewarding but ones that might break your heart and trouble your spirit.

The totality of this supervisory process and your clinical experiences are in the service of your professional formation process of becoming a clinically trained chaplain/pastor providing pastoral counseling to those who are broken in life, their relationships and spirit.

Pastoral Counseling Under Attack

I want you to be aware that pastoral counseling is under assault. Many seminaries and denominational officials make declarative statements, even rules that clergy are not to provide pastoral counseling. Instead, when clergy are approached by people troubled in their lives and broken relationships, the pastor is to only provide “spiritual care and spiritual counseling”. Thus, the pastor is to apply theological and biblical insights, solutions and directions as correctives while also employing prayer and other religious resources. In this case, the pastor listens long enough to best discern what spiritual resources and guidance will address the problem.

Some seminaries and denominations justify their anti-pastoral counseling stance on the basis that pastors are not trained to do “real” counseling. Yet they do not provide nor require education and training to equip clergy to engage in one of their primary pastoral responsibilities---pastoral counseling. It is regrettable that one can graduate from some of the top seminaries in the nation without taking pastoral care and counseling courses. This represents an age old struggle in theological education. Pastoral Care and Counseling Departments are usually suspect due to their focus on counseling that is also informed by the social sciences, not just theology and the Bible. This is an old war. I don’t think it will go away.

We in the clinical pastoral field must enter into dialogue and collaboration with seminaries and denominations. This way we can work together to provide pastoral care and counseling courses and clinical training experiences grounded in serious works of the social sciences that includes psychoanalytical/psychodynamic theory and family systems theory. In addition to the academic courses, there must be integrated into the curriculum the component of psychodynamic clinical supervision of the practice of ministry. There is no substitute for clinical supervision.

Spiritual Care as Commonly Characterized is Not Adequate to Address Current Levels of Human Suffering

The responsibility, and even the duty, for you and others to provide counseling as clinically trained chaplains/pastors is acute. Thousands of returning soldiers from America’s two recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Untreated, the potential of destroying their lives and the lives of their families is great. In addition to our returning soldiers there is the human tragedy and suffering inflicted upon millions by the current economic crisis who lose their jobs, homes, security and even their identity.

These above two factors alone demands that all clinical training organizations re-commit themselves to the clinical training of clergy as pastoral counselors who are clinically trained and astute in their pastoral engagements. It would be regrettable if CPE programs become seduced by the current “spiritual care” trend and “watered-down” their clinical training programs and supervisory process to mirror the drift towards "spiritual care" that is in the culture.

Equally regrettable would be a situation where institution chaplains, including the military chaplains, began to perceive their role and function as “Spiritual Care Providers”. This is too limiting a frame for the professional chaplain. Chaplains are pastoral counselors. Pastoral counseling is a big frame with a solid professional identify. Clinically trained clergy do not surrender their pastoral identity, responsibility and involvement to the limited world of spiritual care. The well trained clinical chaplain is professionally prepared to address a variety of matters of human frailty and suffering at deep and significant levels in their counseling practice as chaplain.

At best “spiritual care” is saddled with a murky definition and understanding of its practice. The absence of accepted professional education and training requirements and the question as to what, if any, professional qualifications are needed to conduct the practice of spiritual care is problematic. Spiritual care will not be sufficient to address the human need that is before us.

Clinical Pastoral Education Training: A Crucial Role and Opportunity

As clinical trainees in this CPE program you will be invited into the awe and terror of self-discovery and self-awareness. This includes examination of your family history as well as the dimensions of self that trouble your souls. This means that all expressions of your life and relationships might become resources to be understood and known within the supervisory process. I say this to you because I believe a trainee’s story---understood and embraced ---with its frailties and its wonder become the primary tool used by the clinically trained clergy and chaplain in the practice of their counseling ministry.

The Role of the Clinical Chaplain/Pastor

Clinically trained clergy and those who are being clinically trained, such as you, seek emotional engagement and connection within a relationship with those they serve. The clinical work is to draw out, expand and enable the other to express as fully as possible their human predicament, struggles, and heartbreaks with all of it complexities and human frailties found within all of us and our relationships.

In your role as Chaplain Intern you will be providing pastoral counseling. Pastoral counseling at its core is listening. It is about inviting the other to share their story. It is about listening in such a way that a person is touched by their own spirit as they also listen to themselves with deep emotion, self understanding, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and when needed, judgment. Such soulful listening is profoundly theological but even more important it is profoundly loving, human and healing.

I trust you know that many can find someone who will talk to them. There is an abundance of people available to provide life directions, impart concrete suggestions for a better relationship with God and even offer good advice on handling a life predicament. It is rare, however, to find someone who will listen to soul--our most precious and sometimes dark and disturbing dimensions of self. When such listening occurs, it becomes a gift beyond all measure--a gift that has the potential to become transformational. We, like those we serve as clinically trained clergy, know that once we have been listened to, our life and spirit might never be the same.


I hope in our time together during this CPE training program you will further develop your capacity for soulful listening to another. Equally, I hope you will also experience within the supervisory process and its relationships the profound effect, perhaps even miracle that might emerge by the experience of having been listened to at a depth beyond words. If so, we can call our time together clinical PASTORAL supervision and training. I trust if you are blessed by this gift, you will have also discovered the secret that will transform you into a “Listener”. As a Listener you will know that your ministry and calling is too important and too complex to to professionally identified with and functioning as a “Spiritual Care and Counseling” provider.

I wish you well in your journey to become clinically trained clergy.

Sincerely yours,

Perry Miller, D. Min
CPE Supervisor
Diplomate, CPSP

Contact Perry Miller by clicking here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:52 PM

Virginia Beach, VA Weather


Trying to figure out want to pack for the CPSP Plenary in Virginia Beach that starts this Sunday? Don't fret nor guess. Check the Weather Channel for Virginia Beach Weather as well as local attractions.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:29 PM

March 21, 2009

On Being Whole Not Holy

<imgWilliam Alberts, a CPSP Diplomate in Clinical Pastoral Supervision, has published another reflective, thoughtful and provocative article, On Being Whole Not Holy. The article can be found in CounterPunch published on March 18, 2009.

The opening paragraph of his article, On Being Whole Not Holy, is a grabber:

Religion is automatically seen as inherently good for people, yet it often stunts a person’s emotional, intellectual and multicultural growth. While there are important exceptions, it stresses believing over thinking, certainty over inquiry, conformity over diversity, entitlement over enlightenment. It emphasizes rightness of belief over one’s right to believe as one chooses. It is about being right not one’s right of being. It values uniqueness of faith not faith in everyone’s uniqueness. Its priority is evangelizing people not ending inequalities. It has difficulty handling one’s right to be different—and especially one’s right to be wrong. It is far more about being an integral part of the status quo than about empowering those who are without economic and political status. It is much more comfortable with the way things are than with striving to make things the way they should be for the common good.

I consider On Being Whole Not Holy a must reads for those in the clinical pastoral field. Clinical trainees as well as their training supervisors might benefit if they established a process to critique their own unique faith journey in light of Dr. Albert's assertion:

Therein is our common ground: our humanness. Religion—and politics—should be judged by the extent to which it teaches people to love themselves and to make room for and to value and love other persons for themselves.

I regret that the current climate within the clinical pastoral field seems more focused on "being holy" rather than "being whole". This we do not only at the expense of our own humanity but at the expense of the humanity of those we serve.

If taken to heart, Bill Albert's On Being Whole Not Holy, might help us find our way back to a higher calling.

-Perry Miller, Editor
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 a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 4:42 PM

A VIDEO POSTCARD: Francine Angel

Francine Angel, CPSP President, provides another "Lost" CPSP Video Postcard from the 2008 CPSP Plenary held in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Gather with the CPSP Community for the 2009 CPSP Plenary at Virginia Beach, VA starting Sunday March 29, 2009 with the Pre-Conference Workshops.

Members of the community might want to use the CPSP Chapter Life Forum to coordinate their sharing of transportation possibilities.

See you in Virginia Beach!!

Perry Miller, Editor
If you wish to respond to Francine Angel's video, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 4:19 PM

March 18, 2009


Postcards are occasionally lost by the US Post Office but might arrive in our mail box months or even years later. The same has occurred with the CPSP Pastoral Report’s Video Postcards from the 2008 CPSP Plenary held in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I hope these old postcards will remind you of the great community spirit and excitement that is generated during CPSP’s Plenary meetings. Even after all these years we are still having fun along with a deepen belief in the mission of CPSP and its ministry.

Plan on gathering with the CPSP Community for the 2009 CPSP Plenary that will be held at Virginia Beach, VA.

Perry Miller, Editor

Note from the Editor: For now CPSP videos, including this Video Post Card-David Plummer and those that will soon follow, will not be available to those whose institutions block video, especially video embedded from YouTube. Thus far the problem we've encountered seems isolated to some medical centers.

We are working on other solutions to embedded video. If there is a way to embed YouTube video that will not invite an institution to block the content, that information would be most welcome.

Perry Miller, Editor
If you wish to respond to David Plummer's video, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:17 AM

March 16, 2009

About Recent Posted CPSP Videos

The posted CPSP video, CPSP Reaches Beyond and those that will soon follow will not be available to those whose institutions block video, especially video embedded from YouTube. Thus far the problem we've encountered seems isolated to some medical centers.

While we are working on other solutions to embedded video, I welcome your suggestions. If there is a way to embed YouTube video that will not create a block, that information would be most welcome.

-Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 4:09 PM

March 15, 2009

VIDEO: CPSP Reaches Beyond

Editor's Note: Please pass this CPSP video along to colleagues and friends. If you have a blog, please embed the video on your blog.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 1:51 PM