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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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April 29, 2011

“Clinical Pastoral Psychology of Religion: A ‘Peculiar and Dynamic Play between the Mundane and the Sublime’.” by Robert Powell, M.D., Ph. D.


"Clinical Pastoral Psychology of Religion:
A ‘Peculiar and Dynamic Play between the Mundane and the Sublime’.” 1

– Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. Orlo Christopher Strunk, Jr –
delivered in Virginia Beach, VA, on 30 March 2011 at the Plenary of
the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy

– on the 135th anniversary of Anton Theophilus Boisen’s birth –

[out of respect for the first generation of our elders, let us note that we are gathering]
– on the 110th anniversary of William James’ popularization for the English-speaking world of
the established French phrase “documents humaines ” [“human documents”] (1901) 2;
– on the 80th anniversary of H[elen] Flanders Dunbar’s assuming supervision of
the Joint Committee on Religion and Medicine’s “Study Project in Religious Healing.” (1931);
– on the 80th anniversary of Boisen’s Hymns of Hope and Courage … . (1931);
– on the 75th anniversary of Boisen’s The Exploration of the Inner World … . (1936);
– on the 75th anniversary of Dunbar’s “Problems of Convalescence and Chronic Illness … .” (1936)
[Dunbar & Boisen both believed clergy were uniquely situated to serve
those not yet ill & those not yet well];
– on the 70th anniversary of Boisen’s “Theology in the Light of Psychiatric Experience.” (1941);
– on the 65th anniversary of Dunbar’s Emotions and Bodily Changes … , 3rd edition. (1946);
– on the 65th anniversary of Boisen’s Problems of Religion and Life … . (1946).

[giving a nod to the second generation of our elders, let us also note that we are gathering]
– on the 60th anniversary of Carroll A. Wise’s Pastoral Counseling: Its Theory and Practice. (1951);
– on the 50th anniversary of Seward Hiltner’s The Context of Pastoral Counseling. (1961);
– on the 40th anniversary of Orlo C. Strunk’s
“Relationships of Psychology of Religion & Clinical Pastoral Education.” (1971);
– on the 35th anniversary of Paul Pruyser’s The Minister as Diagnostician … . (1976).

Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959), as I have phrased it [2010], was the one who translated the “thought-provoking ponderings” of Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965) “about an intimate relationship between religion and medicine into a movement – a now world-wide movement – that has forever changed the definition of ‘chaplaincy’ and of what constitutes ‘pastoral care,’ ‘pastoral counseling,’ and ‘pastoral psychotherapy’.” 3 About 5 years after first meeting and working with Boisen, Dunbar asked how it was that “the various forms of worship -- liturgy and hymnody, the exercise of private devotions and the contemplation of religious symbols and architecture" seemed to have “therapeutic value” – essentially, how it was that religion seemed clinically to work. 4

While Dunbar is remembered primarily for her pioneering work in psychosomatic medicine, and Boisen is remembered primarily for his invention of the clinical pastoral field, we may need to be reminded that both of their paths began with a focus on the psychology of religion. Similarly, today’s honoree explored and still explores broadly but first made a mark in the psychology of religion. Several central, nagging questions remain. “Where does rigorous research on the clinical pastoral psychology of religion fit into our world today? Surely there are active creations and re-creations – discoveries and recoveries – of faith and faiths currently occurring world-wide – but what does all this mean? Do chaplains have sufficient scientific background and scientific curiosity to ask useful, focused questions? – or to provide thoughtful guidance toward answers? Dunbar repeatedly called for “the development of the … techniques of religion in the light of … new understanding.” 5 That is, she asked for a clinical pastoral practice informed by new, basic research on how religion works.

Last year we considered how the preadolescent or adolescent Dunbar might have been shaped somewhat by her mother’s translation of a French novel in which the heroine demonstrated “extreme individuality,” “extreme originality,” and “freshness” – as well as being “very unlike the rest of the world”. 6 Focusing on those who have made “significant contributions” to the clinical pastoral movement, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, now entering its third decade, has accumulated quite a list of honorees who share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s maternally inherited gift of “persistent creativity”. 7

This year let us consider, at least in passing, how the young Dunbar might have been shaped somewhat by her father’s insistence on standing up for what he thought was right when his employer was less able so to do. The body of law built around “Dunbar v AT&T” (1906) and “Dunbar v AT&T” (1909), as I understand it, ultimately limited corporations’ predatory control over other corporations and reaffirmed the right of one man or woman to file suit on behalf of more powerful others. 8 Francis William Dunbar (1868-1939), an electrical engineer and patent attorney, ended up saving his employer’s company, just because standing up seemed the honorable thing to do. A 1909 article described “Frank” as “courageously” “persistent”. 9 Helen would have just turned 7 years old at that time, but surely she must have “caught the drift” of her father’s six years of involvement with the courts. Frank Dunbar won for his employer in the state supreme court, but all was lost when the adversary “waited out the clock,” rendering the victories moot. When Helen was age 12 her father, at age 46, abandoned “the rat race” wherein one can win but lose, moving his family to a not necessarily modest “cottage” in Manchester, Vermont. Today’s honoree abandoned the full-time “rat race” at a more modest age 60, but, specifically in regard to upholding the right to explore unpopular ideas, might be said to share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s paternally inherited gift of quiet “courageous persistence”.

Focusing on those who have made “significant contributions” to the clinical pastoral movement, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, now a known leader in the field, might want to consider seeking out more honorees who share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s paternally inherited gift of “courageous persistence”. At least two previous plenary speakers [Susan McDougal and Henry Heffernan] could be said to have insisted on standing up for what each thought was right, but this year’s Dunbar honoree may be the first chosen primarily for demonstrated “courageous persistence”. 10

On a previous occasion I spoke about the correlation of longevity – for individuals and organizations – with, in Dunbar’s words, a “continued ability to create and invent” – that is, with “persistent creativity”. On another past occasion I spoke about the important, mature capacity for holding strong convictions without becoming self-righteous. One could well argue for an analogous correlation of longevity – for individuals and organizations – with such judicious standing up for one’s values – that is, with “courageous persistence”. 11

Sixty years ago, in 1951, after three years in the Army Air Corps and three years in the newspaper business, today’s honoree decided to enter the ministry, thus beginning a journey from West Virginia Wesleyan College (BA, 1953), to Boston University School of Theology (STB, 1955), and then to Boston University Graduate School (PhD/ psychology, 1957). 12 Fifty years ago, in 1961, today’s honoree was described as “One of the rising young leaders in pastoral psychology” – a person of “versatile talents”. 13 Across the decades our honoree served two years as part-time executive secretary (1955-57) of The Institute of Pastoral Care, devoted years and years as a professor of psychology, and crafted 15 books as well as almost 90 articles, firming up the phenomenologic/ perceptual approach to the psychology of religion, among other things, while married and raising two children. 14 Twenty-five years ago, in 1986, today’s honoree left academia to lay back a bit, continuing on as a psychotherapy supervisor and managing editor of a major journal. About ten years ago our honoree, a lifelong poet, began allowing more time for creative writing, eventually publishing about one novel per year. 15 Though ordained within the Methodist church, the Wider Quaker Fellowship has fit well today’s honoree’s studied and accepted preference for solitude. 16

To say that our honoree has been open to new ideas – and new ways of knowing – about a great number of things – would be an understatement. A “comprehensive and authentic understanding of religious experience and behavior requires a broad and inclusive kind of perspective.” 17 Specifically, today’s honoree has discussed, with courageous persistence, open-mindedness versus closed-mindedness within the fields of religion and psychology, as well as concern about an uncritical/ unexamined acceptance of the Zeitgeist and various “isms”. 18 Complexity, in this view, should be embraced, not avoided or rejected. “After all, there is no such thing as a unified psychology; and certainly to think of religion generically strains credibility. What we have, of course, are psychologies of religions.” 19 Thus the newest Dunbar honoree, with courageous persistence, promoted and defended the formulation of new views, even if these were not popular. An episode ten years ago especially stands out, but there were others: an early book [1982], for example, was dedicated to “those adversaries who unwittingly reminded” today’s honoree of a core value – privacy. 20

Several years ago our honoree went on record [2009] hoping “that clinical ministry … will not abandon the original notion … that the critical acceptance of authentic science and authentic religion could form the basis for an intellectually sound and compassionate expression of care.” – that “those who practice clinical ministry ought to be well educated in both psychosocial studies and religious/ theological studies” as “a life-long commitment”. 21 Our honoree has maintained a courageous persistence in embracing the complex, the controversial, the unknown – suggesting that “our theology must become our psychology” – comprehending each individual’s “unique,” “peculiar,” “variable,” characteristics in a “flexible” manner. 22

On the 35th anniversary of his book praising quiet introspection, The Secret Self, please congratulate the tenth recipient of The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training, a man who tried to ground clinical pastoral practice in considerations of how religion works, The Rev. Dr. Orlo Christopher Strunk, Jr. 23

Dr. Strunk’s body is 86 years old, while the rest of him is not. I will be delivering the Dunbar Award and your good wishes to him tomorrow in Calabash, North Carolina.

Please let me make just a few more comments. For forty years Dr. Strunk has served as the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling’s Book Review Editor, over and above serving much of that time as its managing editor. For five years I have served as CPSP’s chronicler of the Dunbar Award. 24 Both tasks appear a bit daunting at first glance – which is probably why we were assigned these jobs. Dr. Strunk has had the opportunity to experience more of the chaplaincy literature than he would have otherwise. I have had the opportunity to experience at least 5 chaplains’ work in more depth than I would have otherwise. Thank you for trusting me with this task.


1 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. “The Role of Visioning in the Pastoral Counseling Movement”. Pastoral Psychol. 1982; 311):7-18, p.7.

2 In his 2005 presentation before CPSP, Robert C. Dykstra, MDiv, PhD, drew attention to James’ use of the phrase, generally identified with Boisen’s work, in The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902 (New York: Longmans, Green & co, 1902). In fact, the phrase appears in the fourth paragraph of James’ “Lecture I – Religion and Neurology” – so even those audience member who barely listened to the lecture or those readers who barely cracked the published volume would have encountered “documents humaines” very quickly. The original French phrase was “documents sur la nature humaine” [“documents on human nature”], used as a “battle cry” of the “Realists” versus the “Romanticists” in French literature. “Les documents humaines' was the title of a chapter in Emile Zola's study, Le Roman expérimental (1880), and served as the title of a book by Jean-Louis Debut de laforest, Documents Humaines (1888). Beginning in 1893 an American illustrated monthly magazine, McClure’s, ran a series of character sketches of famous people that it called "Human Documents," attributing the phrase to [Alphonse] Daudet while admitting that an exact citation could not be supplied.
[] These sketches were pulled together into a book titled, of course, Human Documents, in 1895. One year later James began drafting the Gifford Lectures. In other words, while someone who, like Boisen, taught French literature might have been more likely to have encountered the phrase, “documents humaines” / “human documents” it was already definitely in the American domain by 1893. Significantly, Boisen added the prefatory word “living” – as in “living human documents” – because the original concept included non-living artifacts.

3 Powell, Robert Charles. “Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord: Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. John Edwin Harris.” delivered in Columbus, OH, on 11 April 2010 at the Plenary of the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy;

4 Powell, Robert Charles. ““Emotionally, Soulfully, Spiritually ‘Free to Think and Act’: The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902–59) Memorial Lecture on Psychosomatic Medicine and Pastoral Care.” J Relig Health. 40(1):97-114, PAGE X, quoting originally from: "Trinity Dean [Percy Kammerer] Seen as Faith Clinic Head: Academy of Medicine, Federal Church Council Unite in New York Project: Pittsburgh Divine Talked as Leader: Scientific Religious Center to Result from Study of Mind-Body Kinship," The Pittsburgh Press, clipping attached to telegram dated 3 March 1930, in Box 34, Federal Council Archives; as best can be ascertained, this and related items now are held as following: Religion and Medicine Committee, March 1923-March 1939, n.d. Folder 28, Part L. Research and Education Department, Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America Records, 1894-1952, Record Group 18, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA

5 Dunbar, H. Flanders. “The Faith and the New Psychology.” Living Church. 13: 333-336, 1934; reprinted [preprinted] in Liberal Catholicism and the Modern World. Frank Gavin, editor. Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing Company, 1933; available on-line at .

6 Powell, 2010, op cit, quoting from Schultz, Jeanne. Colette. translated from the French by Edith V[aughn]. Flanders [1871-1963]. New York/ Boston: T.Y. Crowell, 1898, pp. 201, 220, 223. [print-on-demand paperback exact reproduction of this specific translation: Colette. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar/ BiblioLife, 2008.] [Jeanne Schultz is also listed under the pseudonym “Saint Hilaire Philippe”.] [uniform title per the US Library of Congress: Saint Joseph, or, The Nine Days’ Devotions of Colette].

7 G. Allison Stokes (2nd; 2003), Myron C. Madden (3rd; 2004), Robert C. Dykstra (4th; 2005), A. Patrick L. Prest (5th; 2006), Henry G. Heffernan (6th; 2007), Edward Everett Thornton (7th; 2008), Rodney J. Hunter (8th; 2009), John Edwin Harris (9th; 2010).

8 Dunbar v American Telephone and Telegraph (1906) and Dunbar v American Telephone and Telegraph (1909) are referred to frequently in legal proceedings – but that does not mean that such proceedings neatly summarize the meaning of these precedents; see, Cook, William Wilson. A Treatise on the Law of Corporations Having a Capital Stock, Volume 1, 7th edition. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1913), p.934; full text available on the web; this citation is provided merely because the author briefly notes both court cases on the same page.

9 McMeal, Henry B. Telephony. 1909; 17:526 “The Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company, as a result of the persistent fight so courageously carried on by Mr. Francis W. Dunbar and his associates, is now finally and legally restored to the position of a prominent independent manufacturer of telephone equipment and supplies.” See also page 242, re that the case began in June 1903.

Francis William Dunbar (1868-1939) was an exact contemporary of Richard Clarke Cabot (1868-1939), who worked closely with Flanders Dunbar and Anton Boisen in the earliest years of clinical pastoral education. There is no known biography of Frank Dunbar. He was employed initially by AT&T but later, more importantly, by the Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company [initially at the corner of Congress Street & Green Street, then 8 blocks away at 1066 West Adams Street, Chicago]. In 1905 Frank Dunbar is known to have lived at 5210 Jefferson Avenue, Chicago, with his wife, Edith Vaughn Flanders Dunbar (1871-1963), as well as their two children, Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) and Francis Flanders Dunbar (1906-19??). Francis William Dunbar achieved recognition quite early. An article dated 1901 listed fourteen of the top names in the history of telephony, and Dunbar’s name is seventh on the list. [Miller, Kempster B.“Telephony.” The Electrical world &Engineer. 05 Jan.1901;37(1):33; full text available on the web.

10 Susan McDougal, a central figure in the so-called “Whitewater controversy,” spoke on “Why I Refused to Testify and What I Learned in Jail,” at the CPSP Plenary in March 2004; she quite specifically stood up for the right to remain silent when she believed she would be charged with perjury when her sworn testimony would not match what she considered to be falsehoods told by two previous sworn witnesses. Chaplain Henry G. Heffernan, chosen to receive the Dunbar Award in 2007, had to miss the presentation because at the last moment he was called to testify regarding discrimination against chaplains of certain faith traditions; he quite specifically stood up for the right of a Roman Catholic chaplain to administer sacraments outside the constraints of a secular forty-hour work week.

11 Powell, Robert Charles. “The ‘Continued Ability to Create and Invent’: Going for One Hundred Years of Clinical Pastoral Transformation.” delivered at the CPSP Plenary in March 2002; on the internet at .
Powell, Robert Charles. ““Religion IN Crisis / Religion AND Crisis: ‘Having Strong Feelings without Being Self-Righteous’. delivered at the CPSP Plenary in 30 March 2006; some passages quoted on the internet at .

12 “Orlo Strunk, Jr.[:] Major Biographical Events and Information.” in Rector, Lallene J. and Santaniello, Weaver, editors. Psychological Perspectives and the Religious Quest [:] Essays in Honor of Orlo Strunk, Jr. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1999). pp.181-184. [note the similarity in title to, Cattell, Raymond B. Psychology and the Religious Quest: An Account of the Psychology of Religion and a Defense of Individualism. London: Thomas Nelson, 1938]

13 [Johnson, Paul E.] “The Man of the Month: Orlo Strunk, Jr.” Pastoral Psychology. 1961;12(6):6,66.

14 re pheonomenological/ perceptual, see Strunk’s dissertation, A Redefinition of the Psychology of Religion: With Special Reference to Certain Psychological Theories of Gordon W. Alllport; Boston: Boston University, 1957, which, obviously concerned the work of Allport (1897-1967), including his Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Holt, 1937) and The Individual and His Religion: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Macmillan, 1950). Strunk later published a study with a title similar to the latter, Religion: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962). Allport raised the notion that a person’s religious views might mature with age – a notion further explored in Strunk’s Mature Religion: A Psychological Study. (Nashville: Abingdon Press,1965) and again, with revised views, in Strunk’s “Mature Reflections on Mature Religion.” J Pastoral Theol. 1997; 7(1):149-154]. See also, Allport’s (1944). The Roots of Religion: A Dialogue between a Psychologist and His Student. (Boston: Church of the Advent, 1944), and his Waiting for the Lord. New York: Macmillan, 1978).

15 Dr. Strunk’s novels are published under the name “O. C. Strunk”.
Strunk, O. C. Three-Two Count. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2005).
Strunk, O. C. An Ever-Fixed Mark. (Frederick, MD; PublishAmerica, 2007).
Strunk, O. C. Satan's Angels. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2009).
Strunk, O. C. The Geriatric Murders. (PublishAmerica, 2010).
Strunk, O. C. The Forerun Winter. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2010).
Strunk, O. C. The Intelligentsia Connection. (March 2011, “under consideration” for publication).

16 Henderson, Robert S. “With the Head but also the Heart: An Enterview [sic] with Orlo Strunk.” Sacred Spaces: The e-Journal of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (2009), vol.1, pp132-144; p.138; ]

17 Reuder Mary E. “A History of Division 36 (Psychology of Religion).” in Dewsbury, D.A., editor, Unification through Division: Histories of the Divisions of the American Psychological Association. 4:91-108. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999). ; Strunk, personal communication, November 21, 1997.

18 Henderson, 2009, op cit, p.135.

19 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. The Choice Called Atheism. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1968), p.136.

20 Dr. Strunk accepted for publication in the Spring 2001 issue of the Journal of Pastoral Care an article which generated a significant amount of controversy – which some believed was sufficient reason for the well-written article not to be published, or at least not to be published without being paired with an article conveying an opposing point of view.

Strunk, Orlo C. Privacy: Experience, Understanding, Expression. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1982).

Interestingly enough, each of his dedications appear to concern those whose existence taught him something: Religion: A Psychological Interpretation [1962] to his wife “A Mary With Just Enough Martha Traits” [an apparent reference to Luke 10:40-42 – which appears to have been common sermon material for pastors across the ages – contrasting Martha’s focus on work needing to be done and Mary’s on relationships needing to be experienced. Mature Religion: A Psychological Study [1965] to his mother – “A strange woman whose sadness always has made me sober in the midst of foolishness and foolish in the midst of sobriety” [an apparent reference to 1 Peter 5:8 and Proverbs 24:9; compare Barnes' Notes on the Bible – re Romans 12:3: “Those who over-estimate themselves are proud, haughty, foolish in their deportment. Those who think of themselves as they ought, are modest, sober, prudent.” The Secret Self [1976] to “The Fathers and Brothers of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross (Passionists)”. The Choice Called Atheism [1968] to his two children – “… Only two of the millions of children on this earth who make the search for a more understanding world an absolute necessity.”

21 Henderson, 2009, op cit, p.143.

22 Strunk, 1968, op cit, pp.140, 142, 143.

23 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. The Secret Self. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976).

24 I have had the honor of introducing Henry G. Heffernan, Edward E. Thornton, Rodney J. Hunter, John E. Harris, and now Orlo C. Strunk, Jr. I guess you could say that I partially “introduced” myself in 2002.


EDITOR's NOTE: The application used to publish the Pastoral Report lacks the ability to properly format Dr. Powell's scholarly article with endnotes. The reader is encouraged to download the PDF file listed below that contain the informative endnotes that add depth and richness to the article.


Clinical Pastoral Psychology of Religion:
A ‘Peculiar and Dynamic Play between the Mundane and the Sublime’

Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD is the leading historian of the clinical pastoral movement. Many of his published writings are posted on the Pastoral Report. Readers can use the PR's search engine found on the left side-bar to locate his articles. As a practicing psychiatrist, his writings reflect his daily investment in his clinical practice of providing psychotherapy and care to his patients. Contact Dr. Powell by clicking here. Perry Miller, Editor
Editor's Note:

Use Google Translate in order to read the article or view the Pastoral Report in your native language: Enter the Pastoral Report's URL ( into Google Translate, choose your language and click. The PR is now viewed in your chosen language.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:15 AM

Helen Flanders Dunbar Award Acceptance Speech by Orlo Christopher Strunk, Jr., Ph.D., D.D.

Acceptance Speech
Orlo Christopher Strunk, Jr., Ph.D., D.D.
Helen Flanders Dunbar Award
College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy
March 27-30, 201

What a surprise it was – and what a delight it was! – to learn on May 28, 2010, that the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy had decided to honor me with the Helen Flanders Dunbar Award. Although I do not believe that my participation in the Pastoral Care & Counseling Movement rose to the level of deserving the honor, I have found in my old age that there are preciously few jollies associated with growing old, and I therefore cherish such moments with more than a little enthusiasm.

In fact, nearly one year ago, when I begrudging “celebrated” by 85th birthday, I realized – in a fit of honesty – that I have not clearly settled on which side of Eric Erickson’s “Integrity vs. Despair” I belong. All of which is to say that I do not particularly like being old, and, indeed, if it were not for the infrequent but welcomed recognitions of my life’s work, I do believe I would find old age to be an utterly unacceptable state of being.

So you can see that being rewarded for one’s professional work not only softens the harsh realities of the ageing processes, it adds a cubit to the integrity side of Erickson’s description. And thus receiving this award for CPSP carries not only a professional dimension but a personal one as well.

The downside of that for those of you listening to this acceptance speech is that what I have to say is probably not entirely escaping the cynical thread that winds its way through the Despair side of the Ericksonian equation.

When, therefore, Chaplain George Hull included in his invitational e-mail the phrase that on this occasion I should “hold forthon your passion,” I found myself reflecting on the few passions that remain when one’s body refuses to “rise to the occasions,” occasions that at one time I assumed with blissful optimism. As my family physician quarterly reminds me: “You need to get your body to catch up with your mind.” I think he means that comment to be a compliment, but I would, in all honesty, gladly loan a pittance of my psyche to my soma, if I could.

I can say, however, still with honesty devoid of denial, that I do have a few passions remaining, two of which I would like to note on this occasion. One of them, I trust, will be of interest to members of this group. The second one, which I’ll save to last and make quite brief, may or may not touch the interest zones of this gathering.

The first has to do with what I think and feel is happening in the overall attempts to meet the extraordinary needs of people suffering from one or more of the mental disorders that we find catalogued in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Although I have been pretty much “out of the loop” since my tenure ended as Chair of the Editorial Committee and Managing Editor of The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling and my ministerial assignment as a pastoral psychotherapist at The Coastal Samaritan Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I still serve regularly as a Adjunct Professor in a Masters Degree professional counseling program at a Webster University site. In that capacity I regularly teach courses in Psychopathology, Psychodiagnostics, and Professional Orientation and Ethics. Periodically, I facilitate and supervise students in their required practicum experiences. About 90% of these candidates are African Americans, the first generation of their ethnic group to reach the graduate level in education, and most of them are women. As a result, for the past decade my close-up professional experiences have been limited, and much of my impression – and thus my first passion – revolves around this rather slender sample. And from what I observe, and from what I hear from the conversations I have with these candidates, most of whom are already involved in some form of mental health services, things in the mental health trenches are not going that well.

I hear this, and I now say this, from a perspective honed after nearly half a century participating in the pastoral psychology, pastoral care and counseling, and Clinical Pastoral Education movements, and as a long-time professor and supervisor in a Ph.D. program in pastoral psychotherapy. In a way, associating with at least two generations of caregivers within these contexts has been a learning experience requiring a series of changes, and like most such dynamic projects there have been highs and lows in negotiating these intellectual and practical modes.

In my graduate school days (a phrase incidentally I struggle to keep out of my 21st century didactic vocabulary), I was immersed in psychodynamic and existential approaches linked to a person-centered ethos having its roots in a personalistic philosophy. My current students, should I slip into the lingo of any one of these meaning systems, stare blankly at me, their eyes seemingly saying, “What the hell is this old white guy talking about?” When, however, I blurt the initials “CBT” (cognitive-behavioral-therapy), they brighten up and know I am now talking about real psychotherapy. I receive equally puzzling stares should I refer to having seen a client for six months or a year or more, or, heaven forbid, twice a week for twelve months!
Recently in conversation with a colleague of mine, a man still very much involved in the current practice areas and a director of a mental health center, he explained in quite clear reasoning, that psychotherapy is no longer a viable option in his shop – it is a matter of assessment, possibly a pharmacological hit, or a referral out to one or more of the various programs in the wider community.

To make a very long account a mite shorter and surely an oversimplification, I, banged up and bleeding, find myself holding desperately to a notion of what psychotherapy ought to be. Said better, I suggest, is what one member of your group put it in your newsletter: “We are in danger of losing our soul.” (I might add that should I in a lecture or a discussion regarding referrals drop the phrase “pastoral psychotherapist,” I get those same blank stares previously noted.)

As I write this lament, I fully realize that I may be over generalizing and guilty of building my remarks on an extremely slim sample – and I hope that’s so. In fact, my “passion” is that I still hold to the notion that trying to challenge this drift, or dash, into a “managed care” environment is a sort of a personal mission, not foreign to my identity as a minister. But there are days when this quasi-mission passion is threatened by the fear that I might, at any moment, be cannibalized, if not by the natives then by the pharmacological establishment.

So to end this verbal tantrum, I am especially delighted that it is the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy that is giving me this award, a group I believe is trying to hold to the best in some of our original understandings of the nature of the healing arts and of supervisory processes.

My second passion I would like to share with you I have come to believe is perhaps partly a defense against the onslaughts implicit in the first one. It is the daily ritual of creative writing that I have developed in the past decade.

Actually, writing – that is, writing and publishing beyond the publish-or-perish requirement of the Academy – goes far back in my life. My first published poem was accepted when, as a teenager in Army basic training, I naively sent a poem titled “Carolina Moon” to The Southern Literary Messenger, a rather prestigious literary magazine that at one time was edited by Edgar Allen Poe. In a sense, that poem illustrates this second passion of mine that clings to the notion that one can, and should, write about any and all deeply felt issues, no matter how large or how insignificant those issues may be to others. Here’s that teenager’s take on such an “insignificant” experience.

I’ve heard songs, read books, watched movies
Of the Carolina moon;
I, poor soldier, have at last
Seen it, oversoon.

I’ve heard of lost lovers rejoined
Because of the Carolina moon;
I, poor soldier, have seen it,
But not on a honeymoon.

I’ve sung the sweet, impressive song
Called “Carolina Moon.”
Now each morning at reveille
I see it all too soon.

As I blink my eyes at the romantic moon
That makes the lovers swoon,
I know it’s time to hit the floor –
Damn that Carolina moon!

No, I will agree, not great poetry, but it does capture a splash of a lonely soldier’s experience, far from home for the first time.

Since my early retirement from my university, I’ve managed in this vein to write and publish five novels, each one based on a splash of reality in my personal life – experiences like the agonies and possible consequences of complicated bereavement, the angst of being the recipient of those who abuse their power, and the awesome aspects of authentic friendships.

It’s true, none of my stories and the characters I have created to make plain and entertaining these themes, will ever be best sellers – but they have provided a sort of prophylactic against some of the assaults noted in passion one.

Thus it is that passion two is not unrelated to passion one – at least not in the mind of this 85-year-old whose professional élan may be, as youth are apt to put it, “past it,” but who nevertheless can still feel deep appreciation when his work is recognized by colleagues, friends, and strangers.

Again, thank you members of the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy for this recognition. And may you have the courage, will, and opportunity to continue to demonstrate the crucial values of those forms of clinical supervision and psychotherapy that have proven effective in confronting those powers -- whether conscious or unconscious -- that have targeted the diminishment of the human soul.

Editor's Note:

Use Google Translate in order to read the article or view the Pastoral Report in your native language: Enter the Pastoral Report's URL ( into Google Translate, choose your language and click. The PR is now viewed in your chosen language.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:11 AM

April 19, 2011

Reflections on the 2011 Fall NCTS By Denise Parker Lawrence

<imgI had the pleasure to attend the National Clinical Training Seminar (NTCS) held by the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) at the beautiful waterside and picturesque Stella Maris Retreat Center in Elberon, NJ on February 28- March 1, 2011.

Truly a highlight of the conference, for me, was an extremely informative and enlightening presentation provided by the Rev. Dr. Steven Voytovich entitled, Exploring Multiple Cultural and Relational Dimensions Undergirding Clinical Pastoral Training Programs Today. I particularly benefited from the information he provided related to the consanguineous foundational pillars of Richard Cabot’s differential diagnosis; Anton Boisen’s research methodology and the discussion of Paul Pruyser’s emphasis on professional education for Ministry.

Indeed, as we know, the pillars of an effective Clinical Pastoral Education program is built upon the training of its participants in their ministerial formation and pastoral competency coupled with the process of self and peer reflection.


The small groups setting at NCTC was arranged by peers (Interns, Residents, SITS and Supervisors) with highly capable consultants who enabled me to benefit from the objective criticisms of comparable peers and the well trained eye of the consultants. I was the beneficiary of a group in which Raymond Lawrence, the General Secretary, himself, convened! I must say, as terrified as I was upon discovering who my consultant would be in addition to Cesar Espineda, I found the insights they shared invaluable.

I highly recommend NCTS to all, but to new trainees in particular, to avail themselves the opportunity to explore with and engage the insights of others in their personal journey towards increased competency and in keeping with the CPSP covenant, recovery of soul.
The The Rev. Denise Parker Lawrence is a Supervisor-in-Training at theEpiscopal Health Services in New York City.

Editor's Note:

Use Google Translate in order to read the article or view the Pastoral Report in your native language: Enter the Pastoral Report's URL ( into Google Translate, choose your language and click. The PR is now viewed in your chosen language.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:18 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: Google Translate and the Pastoral Report

We are very proud of the fact that CPSP is an international certifying and accrediting body in the clinical pastoral field. Although the CPSP Pastoral Report is published in English, the whole site can be translated and viewed in over fifty languages by using the magic of Google Translate.


1- Go to Google Translate (

2- Enter the Pastoral Report's URL ( into Google Translate

3- Choose your language and click.

4- The PR is now viewed in your chosen language.

The PR will publish at the end of each article a link to Google Translate with brief instructions for its use.
-Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:27 AM