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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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July 21, 2011

2012 CPSP Plenary Announcement


The 2012 CPSP Plenary will meet March 25th-March 28th 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

We will be meeting in the Doubletree Hotel & Suites Pittsburgh City Center. The hotel is situated in a prime location, which is right in the middle of Pittsburgh’s vibrant downtown. Hotel and plenary registration details will be announced later.

Pittsburgh's assortment of entertainment options is endless. Most everything you will want to experience in Pittsburgh is either just footsteps from our front door or just a few minutes by car.

The Mellon Arena, Consol Energy Center, Heinz Field, and PNC Park are all in walking distance from the hotel.

The Pittsburgh Cultural District is only a few blocks away from the Doubletree Hotel & Suites Pittsburgh City Center. Here you can catch the latest in art galleries and performance venues.

Just across the river on the North side you will find contemporary modern art at the Andy Warhol Museum and The Mattress Factory Museum.

Enlighten you and your family at the National Aviary, Carnegie Science Center, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

Enjoy our three rivers at Point State Park, or travel them with The Gateway Clipper Fleet, Duck Tours or Kayak Pittsburgh.

Kennywood Amusement Park provides amazing fun and adventure for the whole family.
Minutes away in Oakland you will find the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Natural History Museum, and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

During the day the Strip District fills with the aroma of great food. Come see the open food markets, street vendors, and funky shops. Also in the strip is the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, and Society of Contemporary Craft.

In the evening the Strip District transforms in to the place to be for night life featuring large entertainment venues and chic nightclubs.

Ride the Duquesne or Monongahela Incline up to Mount Washington for the number 2 ranked, 10 Most Beautiful Places in America 2009 by the USA Today®.

Great Restaurants, shops, bars and clubs can be found on the Southside of Pittsburgh.
Get your shopping done in The Southside Works, Waterfront, and Station Square.

-2012 CPSP Plenary Organizing Committee:
George Hankins Hull, Chair
Barbara McGuire
Al Henager
Kelly Fogarty
Charlie Star

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 2:31 PM

July 18, 2011

Report from India: A Pastoral Care Department that Runs Its Own Hospital Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD


Spiritual care comes from the heart after the head has done its homework.

palliative care … should form part of the care of all who are ill, mentally or physically.

How many clinical chaplains of the Hindu faith are there in India? I know of three. How many are there anywhere else in the entire world? I know of five more. There may well be more, but the most probable answer to both questions still would be “very few”. Might the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy have something here to offer?

How likely is it that a spiritual pilgrim – from North America, no less – would envision (1986), then develop in western India a 100-bed hospital (1998) followed by a 25-bed free-standing hospice (2008)? Might CPSP have something here to learn?

<imgOn June 1st and 2nd 2011 the BhaktiVedanta Hospital, Thane, Maharashtra, hosted me for two 4-hour sessions. I had no special expectations for this spur-of-the-moment experience. I was both startled and fascinated by a hospital that appeared truly to live its motto of “Service with Devotion” – and to be shaped, top to bottom, by its chaplaincy program.

This visit to an area just north of Mumbai (Bombay), India, came about somewhat by accident. During the 1980s I had wandered India for a total of 15 weeks – ending up being one of the last to travel the Asian Overland Trail – so I had been eager for some time to return. Then this last March I was invited to attend an Arya Vysya wedding in late May in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India – so I jumped at the chance to get back on the road. Scheduled to fly in and out of Mumbai, I had chosen a well-regarded guest-house near the airport -- for convenience more than anything else. I repeat: the resulting visit to a nearby “pastoral care hospital” came about unexpectedly.

Around 2001 I had come across on the internet a taped lecture series (1996) on “The Cure of Souls in Vaisnava Communities” – an eight-session seminar that had been presented in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India – the home town of Krishna (c. 3100 BCE) – about 670 miles northeast of Mumbai. The seminar was based, curiously enough, on The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (1936), the classic study written by Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965), the founder of the movement for clinical pastoral chaplaincy. When I noticed on the internet that the seminar was being given again six months ago in Hilo, Hawaii – 14 years after the first time it was given – my interest revived. In mid-April I wrote to the Philadelphia-based author of the lectures, asking more about the seminar, the timings of its two presentations, the apparent Hindu interest in Boisen’s work, and a possibly correlated indication of Hindu interest in the clinical pastoral field.

One thing led to another. Upon hearing that I was headed to India to attend a wedding and upon noting my many writings about the clinical pastoral movement, the seminar author’s secretary worked with a colleague in Santa Barbara, California, to prepare dossiers on me as well as on CPSP and the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, forwarding these to the community where I would be staying. Six days before my arrival for a rest before the flight home – and while I was still traveling around South India – my simple reservation at a guest-house near the Mumbai airport got converted into an invitation for a comprehensive tour – totaling 8 hours over 2 days – of the clinical chaplaincy service at BhaktiVedanta Hospital, which served that area.

I quickly realized, as hinted above, that an intriguing, Hindu-organized pastoral care program – open to assisting patients, families, and staff of all faiths – literally ran the hospital. Where should I begin? At first I was just amazed at how a warm, personal, caring focus permeated all aspects of the hospital’s functioning. Later I realized that the clinical chaplaincy staff had merely – but notably – placed a somewhat common Eastern pattern of temple life – “Satsang/ Simran/ Seva” – “wisdom sharing/ inspiration sharing/ devotion sharing” – on top of a meticulously created health care community.

At the beginning of each of four daily work shifts, almost the entire hospital staff – about 45 people – meets quite publicly in the hospital lobby to hear a short sermon, to reflect on that and the day’s named challenges, then to participate together in a communal religious ritual. I experienced one of these sessions personally on the second day of my visit. The goal is that every staff member feel guided, inspired, and embraced, before embarking upon work with the patients. At the beginning of each meeting of the management team, one department head per week, in rotation, presents on a relevant clinical, spiritual, or management topic. That teaching is then discussed collegially before the management team addresses how together they are going to tackle the week’s specific issues. With facilitation by pastoral care staff, the senior physicians similarly meet together once a week, as do, separately, the junior physicians and the nurses. A staff member’s birthday merits an individual lunch with senior pastoral care and management personnel. Nineteen times per year hospital staff members and their families gather to enjoy a festive meal. Groups of staff members and their families take short and long spiritual pilgrimages together that have been organized by the hospital.

The goal is that staff members feel as taken care of by the hospital community as they are expected to take care of the patients and their families. Management tries hard to model “service with devotion” toward the broader staff, so that clinicians can provide “service with devotion” toward those suffering, and so that there might be ripple effects into the larger community. “Bhakti” implies “sharing active devotion”. “Vedanta” implies “sharing respect for all in their spiritual growth, as equal children of the divine”. The hospital tries to live up its name.

<imgThe specific pastoral care staff includes a director, an assistant director, a spiritual counselor, 5 assistants, and 2 trainees. The specific mental health staff includes four psychiatrists and two psychologists, with each of these two professional groups providing about 36 hours of service across the week. There appears to be easy referral back and forth between the pastoral care and mental health staffs. Medical and surgical specialty staff appear to be well-integrated into the community’s pastoral atmosphere.

Peace and quiet – consciously aimed toward maintaining an air of tranquility – are hospital norms. Despite necessary scurrying in the intensive care areas, low voices and an avoidance of alarms are encouraged. The overhead speakers provide rhythmic chants and songs at a very low, non-intrusive, almost subliminal level.

Pastoral care staff help patients and their families, in a hands-on way, to negotiate registration, admission, financial, discharge, and aftercare issues. On the inpatient wards – and to the extent possible in the outpatient clinics – pastoral care staff visit each patient a minimum of three times per day: once for the sharing of a small amount of blessed food, once for the reading from a holy scripture of the patient’s choice, and once for participation in a religious ritual. The hospital kitchen comes equipped with the needed altar and attendant staff. The hospital library stocks Hindu, Islamic, Christian, and other sacred texts. The chaplaincy office maintains a “mobile temple” or “shrine cart” that is taken to each bedside.

Pastoral care staff personally attend to the global needs of all patients going to and returning from surgery. Considerable emphasis is placed upon helping patients at the end of life – and their families – toward attaining some degree of spiritual closure, according to the relevant religious customs. The pastoral care office maintains supplies of the specific holy waters used by the individual faith groups. If regular pastoral care staff are unable best to meet a patient’s needs, volunteers from the local university community are called upon to assist. Apparently it is not unusual for pastoral care staff or volunteers to remain for hours and hours with a patient and/or family if that seems the best thing to do. A “Grief Room” and home visits provide extra amenities for the families of those dying or deceased. Group and individual teaching sessions on religious topics are made available to patients, families, and members of the local community – with special attention being paid to the needs of the pregnant, the adolescent, and the elderly.

Undoubtedly I have left out much about BhaktiVedanta Hospital. I am speaking about what I heard, saw, and personally experienced during two 4-hour sessions across two days. The pastoral care staff recognizes the need for more clinical chaplains and more assistants within the Hindu faith community – in India and elsewhere – for example, North America. They also recognize that their model – of literally running the facility – cannot be replicated entirely in most settings. They do believe, however, that their vision of a more encompassing pastoral approach can be realized to a greater extent than many would have thought. The clinical chaplains I met would fit easily into most North American health care settings. The question is whether North American – and other Indian – health care settings can ponder what it truly might be like to stay focused on body, mind, AND spirit. #


The opening quotations are from Henry T. Dom, Ph.D., as cited in
Dom H. “Vaisnava Hindu and Ayurvedic approaches to caring for the dying: An interview with Henry Dom.” by Romer AL, Heller KS. Innovations in End-of-Life Care, 1999 Nov;1(6); ;
“…he is helping to create a palliative care unit for the newly established Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, and is one of the founders of a planned hospice and residential home in Vrndavan, a small village in northeast India.

Regarding BhaktiVedanta Hospital also see

Regarding the hospital’s pastoral orientation as within the Bengali Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition of Hinduism see:

Regarding the magnitude of the potential need for chaplains within the North American Hindu faith community see ; The Huffington Post; 28 April 2011.
David Briggs: “Hindu Americans: The Surprising, Hidden Population Trends of Hinduism in the U.S.” “… In what it calls the first effort to conduct a Hindu census in the United States, the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Institute of American Religion discovered some 1,600 temples and centers with an estimated 600,000 practicing Hindus. That number could easily rise up to the estimated 1.2 million who self-identify as Hindus in national studies by adding in the mostly Indian Americans who limit their involvement to private spiritual practices or celebrations of semi-secularized holydays such as Diwali, said J. Gordon Melton, the institute executive director. Melton announced the results of the census at the recent annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture in Washington. … In its census, the Institute of American Religion found 258 traditional Hindu temples with an estimated 268,000 adherents. The study estimated there are also 400 temples and centers from Hindu sub-traditions that have an estimated 282,000 participants and some 940 centers with an estimated 55,000 members associated with smaller movements across the country. …”

The author and his hosts are aware that some degree of controversy still surrounds one of the original inspirational mentors of BhaktiVendanta Hospital. An investigation by the United States government cleared this person’s name twenty-one years ago, but in this age of internet files a controversy can take on a life of its own. This unique hospital seemingly run by a pastoral care department can only do as it has been doing: keep building a solid reputation of service and innovation independent of whatever did or did not occur twenty-five years ago and 7,874 miles away.
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 8:11 AM

July 6, 2011

CPSP Convener Website Now Online


The CPSP Convener website, CPSP CHAPTER CONVENER INFORMATION & COLLABORATION SPACE, has been completed and invitations have been sent to chapter conveners several days ago. The invitation is sent from "Squarespace Services" with the necessary information to join the website. If you over looked the invitation, search your email. If you can not locate it, please contact me via email that includes your name, email address and chapter name.

Perry Miller, Chapter Life Chair

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 10:17 PM

July 5, 2011

Embracing All We Are ---by Barbara A. McGuire


“Sadness is not the opposite of happiness. It is one of the myriad ways in which we respond from our whole self to what life brings. It is a path toward healing life’s hurts. Let the anguish in your heart be heard”. A. Quezada

When someone we love dies, the body reacts with shock. The circulation slows, breathing is shallow and we become disoriented. After the numbness wears off, our bones ache and our muscles are sore. We have no interest in food and although we might feel exhausted when we go to bed, we often can’t sleep; or we sleep too much. This is how the body grieves. Grief affects our body, mind and soul.

Nonetheless, expectations are put upon the grieving within our Western society that encourage people to deaden their pain, avoid it or worse pretend it is not there. We are socialized to believe that when a loved one dies we are suppose to ‘get on with our lives’, ‘get back to normal’ or ‘get over our grief.” These mistaken beliefs create an environment for the grieving that is unrealistic. Yet these myths perpetuate throughout our society because they become part of the cultural belief system about the grieving process; they are inaccurate and wrong.

People will compare grieving to living through a long winter; where life lies dormant in those long, dark, cold months; feeling it impossible that one day there will again be spring. Despite the fact that many people have gone through this winter; they continue to devalue the importance and value of expressing feelings that accompany grief. Grieving and supporting the grieving involves work.

Societies unrealistic expectations and inappropriate response to normal grief reactions can make the experience worse than it needs to be. When a loved one has died and the person grieving hears unhealthy suggestions, it creates more confusion. The griever would have fewer conflicts about expressing their grief if those around them would promote the expression of these feelings. Promotion of feelings would allow for more realistic expectations about the grief process and acceptance of the expression of these feelings would help in the healing; creating less conflict for the griever. Dr. Candace Pert, a neuroscientist and pharmacologist, confirms the necessity of all emotions when she says, “…all emotions are healthy, because emotions are what unite the mind and body. Anger, fear, and sadness, the so-called negative emotions, are as healthy as peace, courage, and joy.” It is time for all clinicians to become a support to grievers, not an obstacle.

Why do we avoid this pain? As a culture we have been taught to run from the ‘bad’ feelings, which hold just as much if not more value than the ‘good’ feelings. My client’s fight back their tears, hold their breath and ‘suck it up’. Our culture teaches us that expressing our feelings is a sign of weakness. Yet the opposite is true! Clinicians need to encourage their clients to cry, shriek, scream, and wail. Our hearts are broken and it is in that weeping where our healing will begin.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could openly express all the emotions we have been fortunate to receive? In conversation with psychotherapist and colleague, Perry Miller, I mentioned how, "As a culture we run from the 'bad' feelings which hold just as much, if not more, value than the 'good' feelings”. Perry replied, “I wish clinical chaplains and psychotherapists could embrace that truth rather than having to support and encourage at the expense of the substance of genuine expression of humanity and suffering from those whom they extend their care”.

I couldn’t agree more, this tension of opposites; your body tells you one thing and culture teaches something else. We want to cry but we hold back our tears. We feel one way but are taught to act in another.

Jung encourages us to, “Go into your grief for there your soul will grow”. As clinicians it is our role to assist clients in recognizing the soul work of grieving, just as nature’s work of renewal, cannot be rushed. Sometimes it is enough to bear witness. Or as T.S. Eliot eloquently said: “The faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting.”

As clinicians it is our job to invite our clients into something new. We can only do so if we ourselves believe it. So let us not shrink from the darkness but rather, gathering strength from nature’s example, wait patiently and faithfully for spring.
Barbara A. McGuire, LCSW works as a bereavement counselor for Hospice Care Network (HCN) in New York. She provided individual and group support to patient families at HCN. Barbara also provides these supports for members of the local community. Barbara is the registrar for CPSP.

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 11:24 PM