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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 23, 2010

A Fumbling Therapist

<imgFor those of us engaged in clinical practice as a psychotherapist, counselor, clinical chaplain or CPE training supervisor, I trust can identify with a quote from Irvin Yalom. -Perry Miller, Editor

How comforting it would be to feel, just once, that I know exactly what I’m doing in my psychotherapeutic work – for example, that I am dutifully traversing, in proper sequence, the precise stages of the therapeutic process

But of course, it is all illusion. If they are helpful to patients at all, ideological schools with their complex metaphysical edifices succeed because they assuage the therapist’s, not the patient’s, anxiety (and thus permit the therapist to face the anxiety of the therapeutic process). The more the therapist is able to tolerate the anxiety of not knowing, the less need there is for the therapist to embrace orthodoxy. The creative members of an orthodoxy, any orthodoxy, ultimately outgrow their disciplines.

Though there is something reassuring about an omniscient therapist who is always in control of every situation, there can be something powerfully engaging about a fumbling therapist, a therapist willing to flounder with the patient until they, together, stumble upon an enabling discovery.

-Irvin Yalom, Love’s Exocutioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy

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Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 1:46 PM

From Geof Tio, Chair, Certification Committee--Certification FAQ


When a person’s gifts and his/her being are affirmed by a Chapter through a Chapter Certification Review, a person experiences a distinctive charge important to the his/her mission.

Like an arrow released into the space, my sense of purpose became more vivid when I received the blessings from my chapter through their certification review almost a decade ago. But this is not a simple track to tread. The journey to this new beginning as a person certified by the CPSP can be challenging. So, in the spirit of midwifing one another I offer the following:


1. How will I get certified through CPSP? Certification matters that are typically dealt with in other certifying bodies by a centralized governance are dealt primarily in the chapter. Your chapter is responsible in assessing your level of competencies, as well as in providing the support and accountability you need to achieve your professional goal/certification. In other words, your board certification process takes place in your chapter. Each chapter is unique and employs distinct approach in its certification process. However, consistent to CPSP philosophy and standards, a consultant representing the Governing Council must be present at the Chapter certification review.

2. What is the function of the Certification Committee? The Certification Committee expedites the credentialing process of each member seeking to be certified by CPSP.  The Certification Committee does not duplicate the certification review conducted by the chapter on its members. It simply revisits the process involved in each member’s certification review. It preserves the integrity of the chapter’s review process by helping the Chapter uphold the standards of CPSP. The Certification Committee is responsible for presenting the names of members seeking credentials to the Governing Council for ratification.

3. I am already approved for certification by my chapter. Why do I need to be ratified by the Governing Council? Reviewing and approving members for certification based on CPSP standards is a primary responsibility of a chapter. However, CPSP Governing Council supports as well as holds chapters accountable to be true to their duty in providing certification to their members. CPSP is a community that takes responsibility for the growth and recovery of each of her members. Each Chapter is accountable to the Governing Council and must assure that its decisions are congruent with CPSP philosophy and standards.

4. What major areas of the standards does the Certification Committee revisit in the certification review process of a newly certified member? The Certification Committee attempt to review the whole certification process of each candidate but mainly focuses on the following areas of certification standards: 1. level of theological education from an accredited school/seminary or its equivalency; 2. the required number and quality of CPE units completed or its equivalency; 3. ecclesiastical endorsement where appropriate; and 4. the presence/involvement of an approved outside consultant during the review process.

5. My form(s) were sent in for the fall meeting of the Governing Council. Where is my certificate? Those who are ratified during the fall meeting of the Governing Council will receive their certificates at next meeting of the CPSP Plenary. CPSP traditionally awards certificates to members during the CPSP celebration at the Annual Plenary.

6. When will I find out if I was approved for ratification? Ratification of our members is conducted during the Governing Council meetings (Fall and Spring of each year). A list of the newly credentialed members are included in the General Secretary’s report following each GC meeting. For your convenience we attach a list of the ratified members during the previous meeting of Governing Council.

7. I can't make it to the Plenary to get my certificate(s). What do I do? Your certificate can be either mailed to you or can be received by your convener in your behalf.

8. My certificate was lost/damaged, my name has changed or was misspelled. How do I order a replacement? You may order a replacement by sending your request to Krista. There is a minimum of $25 replacement cost for all certificates.

9. Can I complete and submit form(s) required for my certification to the Certification Committee? No. We do not allow self-advocacy in your certification process. We will only accept forms submitted by the Chapter convener. Completing and submitting of forms are the responsibility assigned to your chapter convener. Chapter conveners seeking certification should have their forms reviewed/submitted by the approved outside consultant(s).

10. Our chapter has submitted our candidates’ form(s) by email. Do we also need to send a hardcopy? Not necessarily. Submission of forms by electronic mail is fine as long as the form being sent is the one used during the review process and bears the convener’s signature.

11. I wasn't approved for ratification. Can I re-apply? Yes, you can. But you may have to wait for the following Governing Council meeting. The certification committee will inform your chapter convener of the result of your application. Your chapter will assist you in your process of re-ratification.

12. I'm job hunting or seeking a promotion at work. Can I get my certificate early? If your prospective employer requires you to submit a copy of your certificate in support to your credentials, you can send a letter of request to the executive committee explaining the urgency of your need.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:10 AM

March 15, 2010

CPE Training and Recovery of Soul by Rev. Dr. Belen Gonzalez y Perez


The approaching Plenary marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy is both monumental and extraordinary, especially as one considers the historical opposition marshaled against such a community developing at all by those whose vision of the world prefers the enclave, monolithic, and linear instead of a dynamic, challenging, and renewing community that values human and social capital beyond all else.

Twenty years of CPSP is something of genuine importance to reflect on. Where better to begin reflecting than to consider the impact that the CPSP community has had on my life, vocation, and ministry. My story begins in 1988 prior to the CPSP community’s founding. I had just begun my seminary education. I must admit that beginning a seminary education after having completed a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the State University of New York is similar to being asked to turn out the lights after so many years working in the clarity of sun light. A seminary education was not the liberating and life-grounding experience that working in the congregation had been for me for so many years before.

In 1994 however, I can remember applying and interviewing for my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in NYC. I had no idea what any of what was being spoken about in CPE was about. One thing I did pick up was that this was very different from seminary. In fact, it was the first time ever in all of my theological training and process for ordination that anyone had ever asked me the question that both stumped and stopped me in my tracks, “Belen, how did that patient visit make you feel?” I had never been asked how I felt by anyone. The question itself was not even a philosophical or theological question that I was accustomed to tackling. I proceeded to answer the question with the confidence born out of my command of speaking my mind, or so I thought. But again came the question: “Belen, it is not what you think, but what did you feel?” I can remember experiencing a sense of loss and being flustered, like falling in a deep swimming pool and not being able to find the bottom to support myself from drifting beyond my control. I can recall the sensation of reaching for straw because I did not have the vocabulary to describe my feelings.

That very day I learned in CPE that I had been trapped in a world that had not equipped me to be in touch with the very inner core of my emotional and feeling self. In fact, I had learned well how to bury and silence the various tones of my voice. It became clear to me what was meant in CPE when they spoke of “finding your voice.” It was the beginning of my journey that led to discovering my idiosyncratic self, as my supervisor Raymond Lawrence would frequently say.

Clinical Pastoral Education through the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy was a liberating experience for me. I can remember riding the trains in NYC as I returned home each day from the CPE training. I would want to talk to the people on the train just to practice how to illicit the fascinating stories of each living human document that I encountered on the way. Not only was I getting in touch with my voice, I was also experiencing the liberation of my soul to live in the here-and-now. It was for me a “recovery of soul.”

Much more happened in my life, vocation, and ministry as a result of my first unit of CPE in the mid-1990’s. It was also the year that I took risks in ministry that eventually led me to oppose the advice of my denominational officials who required that I follow their guidance and recommendations for ongoing ministry within the church. I refused, and as was to be expected, denominational staffers retaliated with attempts at defamation and ridicule. CPE opened my eyes to process oriented thinking. It also empowered me to own my own process. Clinical Pastoral Education through the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy was my “recovery of soul.”

I took ownership of my identity, professional development, vocation, and ministry. I did not know all that I was doing every step of way. But every step that I took was taken with ownership. I was not satisfied with my denominational representative’s guidance for my career and I decided to take the risk. It was something that I learned and gleaned from my CPE training. I learned how to listen not only to others’ narratives and stories. I also learned to listen to my own narrative and learned that I can write my own.

“Recovery of Soul” as envisioned in the Covenant of CPSP is not an abstract concept or theoretical construct. I can bet and win that bet by saying that “Recovery of Soul” is the living narrative of liberation experiences in the lives of the CPSP membership. The life and dynamic of our CPSP community is what most strikes the people that discover us.
I am grateful to the founding fathers and mothers in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Of these I must mention Raymond Lawrence and Dorothy Greet. I am sure that without their supervision I would not be the fulfilled person and professional that I have become.

So as we come together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our idiosyncratic community, I want to encourage you to reflect and tell your personal narratives of recovery of soul. I am sure that it is made of the stuff of which our anniversary is in fact meant to celebrate. Happy 20th anniversary to CPSP and I look forward to seeing you at the Plenary!

Click here to contact:
The Rev. Dr. Belen Gonzalez y Perez, CPSP Diplomate
Director of Pastoral Care and Education
The Long Island College Hospital
Brooklyn, New York

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:14 PM

“This has been a pleasant surprise . . . Your Excellency” – Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D.


As I entered the patient’s room, the bathroom door, just inside the entranceway, was wide open, and a man was sitting on the toilet. I said, apologetically, “Oh, I’m sorry.” His nonchalant response led me to pause long enough to introduce myself as Hospital Chaplain and to ask, “Are you Jason Hopewell?” “Yes,” he replied, and added, “I want to talk to you.” “I will come back,” I responded.

A white man in his thirties, the patient greeted me with, “Your Excellency,” then sat on his bed with his legs crossed, and I took a chair. I’ve been called a lot of things in my time but never “Your Excellency.” My initial aim was to obtain his religious preference, which was unknown. Saying he was Episcopalian, he immediately stated what he wanted to talk about: “I don’t like certain of my feelings. And I want to get close to God.” (His sudden, and possibly fleeting illness—he was discharged the next day—may have helped to motivate his desire for closeness with God.)

“What feelings don’t you like?,” I asked. He replied, “I’ve been jealous of this man who is handsome. He became ill, and I found myself feeling good about his condition. I then got to know him better, and he seemed like a good person. I don’t like myself for finding pleasure in his illness.

I said that his jealousy indicated he had feelings of insecurity about himself. That feeling good about himself would enable him to be more accepting of and compassionate toward other persons. I asked if that made sense to him. He said that it clearly did.

One’s god can be a divisive weapon in the mind of an insecure and jealous person. Or a transcending inspiration in the heart of a self-aware and loving person. Thus I focused on the relationship between him not liking his feelings of jealousy and his desire to get close to God: “I believe getting close to God involves getting close to yourself, i.e. understanding yourself. Your perception of God, like your feelings about other persons, can be colored by your own insecurities and any unresolved issues. Self-understanding, awareness and acceptance of your own humanness and working on personal issues—that’s what I mean by getting close to yourself, which, I believe is a gateway to closeness with God. This statement gave him pause, and led him to reply, “You are getting close to home here.” “Have you ever talked to a mental health professional before,” I asked. “Yes,” he answered. “You may want to consider it again.”

“What kind of work do you do?” I asked. The patient is a television news reporter, worked for a major network affiliate and has a job interview in a few days with a different affiliate. His training included working as a volunteer staff person for the Lt. Governor of a large eastern state. He enthusiastically described his work as a news reporter: “You’re at the scene and center of events that are on the top of the news and in everyone’s minds.” He then explained how composing reports from the scene of a story is far more grammatically challenging than the reports written for an anchor person at the television station. He pointed out the importance for viewer interest of reporting from the actual scene of a story. He expressed interest in the value I placed in having personally utilized television media to cover newsworthy church involvements.

Because of the enthusiasm he displayed in describing his work as a television reporter, I asked, “What makes you happy?” He replied, “Feeling loved and safe.” Do you feel loved?,” I asked. “Yes,” he replied with no hesitation. He is apparently close to his sister and brother-in-law whom he was visiting in the Boston area when he became ill, and to his parents who continue to support him financially. I stated the enthusiasm with which he described his work as a television news reporter, and asked if obtaining such a position again might help him to feel safe. “Yes,” he replied

When I introduced the end of my visit, he said, “Say something to me in 10 seconds or less.” I answered, “May your self-understanding lead you closer to your own humanness. May you enjoy much love and safety. And best wishes in that television interview next week.” He replied, “Thank you, Your Excellency. This has been a pleasant surprise.”

****Note: The patient’s name has been changed and locations generalized to protect his identity.
BillAlberts is a hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Alberts is a nationally known writer and an occasional contributor to Counterpunch. In addition, he is convener of the New England Chapter of CPSP. He can be reached at:

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 2:01 PM

CPSP PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Raymond Lawrence--"The Brave New World of Sexual Addiction"

In a March 4, 2009 article published in CountrerPunch.COM Raymond Lawrence challenges a popular held view of "sexual addiction".

Lawrence writes:

Applying such a metaphor to sexual pleasure creates a misleading and ominous innuendo. Sex is not an addictive substance. It’s a human interaction on which the survival of the species is dependent. It is also possibly the most pleasurable and sought after activity known to humankind, and arguably an experience no one should be deprived of. Most normal people consider more rather than less sexual pleasure to be a major objective in life.

In the article he argues that Christianity's "posture toward sexual pleasure has been abysmal. In that respect it should be noted that Christianity, of all the major world religions, is the only one to cast sexual pleasure in such a negative light."

To read the complete article, click here.

Raymond J. Lawrence is an Episcopal cleric, recently retired Director of Pastoral Care, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and author of numerous opinion pieces in newspapers in the U.S., and author of the recently published, Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom (Praeger). He can be reached at:

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:18 AM

March 7, 2010

2010 Spring National Clinical Training Seminar Announced

Francine Hernandez, NCTS Coordinator, announced that the National Clinical Training Seminar will be held May 3-4, 2010 at the Carmel Retreat located in Mahwah, New Jersey.

The focus of the NCTS is the presentation of clinical case material within the context of a dynamic small group experience. Participants are charged with the responsibility to bring clinical material for consultation relative to their ministry practice.

Mark the dates on your calendar and make your plans to attend the NCTS by completing the NCTS Registration Form posted below.

Download NCTS Registration Form

Perry Miller, Editor

If you have questions about the NCTS, contact Francine Hernandez, NCTS Coordinator

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:31 PM

March 2, 2010



Editor's Note: James Gebhart, Chair of the 2010 CPSP Plenary, provided the information below about the various activities and events that will be available during the CPSP Plenary held April 11-13, 2010. An exciting city hosting an exciting CPSP Celebration. Don't miss out on this historic event. Register NOW!! -Perry Miller, Editor.

Registrants and/or members of their families may want to choose from
a number of events occurring in downtown Columbus during the 2010 Plenary.
All events are from two to six blocks away from the Columbus Renaissance, site of
the Plenary. They include the following:

April 9. NHL Hockey. Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings. 7 P.M. Nationwide Arena. The Arena District is ALIVE on hockey night. Tickets at Columbus Blue Jackets.

April 9-11. Contemporary American Theatre Company. World premiere of “Pierce to the Soul”, about the life of Elijah Pierce, son of a Mississippi slave, who settled in Columbus in the 1900’s to become a preacher, a barbershop owner, and later a celebrated American folk artist. Times: April 9 and 10, 8 P.M.; April 11, 2 P.M. Tickets at Vernon Riffe Center for Government and the Arts.

April 10-11. Columbus Symphony. The Firebird by Stravinsky; Prayer Bells and Alleluia by Augusta Road Thomas; Gloria by Poulenc. At the famous Ohio Theatre, a National Historic Landmark, a Spanish Baroque Palace of 1926 now completely restored. Times: April 10, 8 P.M.; April 11 3 P.M. Tickets at Columbus Symphony,

April 10-11. Promusica. Beethoven Sympony #3, The Eroica. Hayden Concerto in C for Flugelhorn. Trumpet virtuoso Sergei Nakarakov joins Promusica for an evening of unmatched energy. Palace Theatre, restored 1920’s theatre. Tickets at Columbus Promusica.

April 13. Dance Brazil. For over 30 years this dance troupe has thrilled audiences with its dazzling artistry, inspired by the cultural tapestry of Brazil. The performance is a unique fusion of Afro-Brazilian movement, traditional dance/martial arts form which evolved as a means of fighting enslavement. At the historic Ohio Theatre. Tickets at Ohio Theatre.

April 13. The Harlem Globe Trotters. In Columbus during their national tour. Nationwide Arena, 7 P.M. Tickets at Nationwide Arena.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:47 PM