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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, 2013

VIDEO: Carl Rogers and Paul Tillich

George Hull is to be thanked for providing the Pastoral Report with this fascinating conversation between Carl Rogers and Paul Tillich recorded in 1960.

Training Supervisors are encouraged to share this video with their clinical residents/interns who have heard and read about these two giants from their respected fields but who have never seen them in action.

-Perry Miller, Editor

Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:52 PM

April 23, 2013

CERTITUDE by Lyman Lyman Ferrell, PhD

<imgThe well of civil discourse has been poisoned in recent years, and so I was pleased to see the two articles on same-sex marriage, taking opposite points of view without rancor.
I have enjoyed civil debate over the years until the last decade or so. I don’t like name calling among friends, and I know that some arguments are not correct or rational. I have also experienced the humble pie of being proven wrong when I was so sure of myself.

One of the earliest judgments that I made was that Adlai Stephenson would be a better president than Dwight Eisenhower. To my dismay Ike won, and seemed to enjoy playing golf with Arnold Palmer. But Ike appointed Earl Warren to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court which led to the acceleration of the civil rights movement. And Ike made the most prophetic statement of the last century when he cautioned us about the devastating power of the growing military-industrial complex.

I was certain that “Landside” Lyndon was on track with “guns and butter” in fighting the Viet Nam war and beginning the “war on poverty.” Over 27000 young men lost their lives while Lyndon was president, and the “war on poverty” is far from over. Richard Nixon presided over the other 27000 deaths of our youth. In retrospect, I’ll paraphrase George Wallace, “I don’t see much difference between 27000 and 27000.”

I’ve had other lapses in clarity and correctness of thought. I thought Ronald Reagan was a “bonzo”. But listen to him say, “Mr Gorbachev, take down this wall.” And I thought “born again christian” James Earl Carter would make a fine president until 18% inflation took a generation of young adults out of the housing market. And I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you.

Perhaps the medium that has served me best in my search for truth is music. “I was raised on grits and Jesus,” sings Si Kahn in his song to protest the war in El Salvador. “A war against poor farmers is not a war I want to fight.” Can’t argue with that. And maybe Les Mis gets to the nub of human relationships: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Now, I can’t hardly hear that sung, and turn right around and keep two people of age who love each other from getting married just because they have the same physical attributes.

Lyman Ferrell, PhD
CPSP Diplomate in Psychotherapy
Member of the Chapel Hill, NC Chapter

Editors Note: Other Rreactions to CPSP's Public Declaration on Marriage include the following:

The Public Personae of Marriage is Shifting By the Rev. Dr. Larry A. Grimm

Response to Public Declaration on Marriage Equality by David Alexander

William Carr Responds to David Alexander's Comments on CPSP's Public Declaration Commitment to Marriage Equality

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:38 AM

April 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, George Buck By George Hull


George Buck turned 80th this past March and I made the following comments at his birthday gathering-

In Celebration of George Buck

George Buck is a clinical pastoral education supervisor and a very good one at that. Anyone who has had George as a CPE supervisor will tell you he is very good at listening and very skilled at seeing what is in front of him. George is an expert in the dynamics of human behavior. George not only listens to people, he observes them. He often comments that “all behavior has meaning.”

You know we all love to watch people. People watching can be an intriguing pastime at places like an airport, a restaurant or a pub. Some people watch others hiding behind a newspaper or from behind their sunglasses.

There is a way of watching others that is very discerning; and this is especially important in the work that George does. Many pastoral trainees entering clinical training have a way of looking at themselves that is terribly blemished, damaged and toxic. Of such trainees one might say, - they have an inferiority complex but it’s not a very good one. Sadly, the average pastoral trainee often plays to the gallery of their low self-esteem.

George Buck has a way of watching his trainees (beholding them) that enables them to begin to recover the lost humanity in their own being so that they may learn to behold themselves more kindly and with less judgment.

Do you remember Muhammad Ali the heavy weight boxing champion who said “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” Well he also said that he was not just the “greatest boxer in the world” he said he was “doubly great” because he could not only knock out his opponents, but he could also “pick the round” he would knock them out in.

George Buck is like that with his comments to trainees. He is doubly great, because he has perfect timing with his one line observations such as-“I think I love you more than you love yourself!” or “there you go again shoulding all over yourself.”

George, tonight as you celebrate your 80th birthday, we celebrate you!

In conclusion, I offer you an observation on aging and temptation from Sir Winston Churchill who observed “Don’t worry about avoiding temptation… as you grow older, it will avoid you.”

Happy birthday, George.

George Hull

Editor's Note: Those wishing to Wish George Buck a Happy Birthday can do so

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:22 AM

April 15, 2013

Chaplain on Demand! by Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD


April 16, 2013

Chaplain on Demand!
What Non-Pastoral Care Colleagues
Want & Believe They Need

Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

When is the last time you, the chaplain,
asked your non-chaplain colleagues
when they most wanted –
or believed they needed –
a chaplain on their unit?

Recently a clinical pastoral chaplain friend and I stumbled into a situation where asking what I like to call “the right stupid question” provoked some startling answers. We asked the nurse/ managers in a number of intensive care areas at one medical center the following question:

“If you had $500,000 to spend on pastoral care and counseling services –
and you did not have to answer to anyone about your decision –
when would you like to have your ‘own personal chaplain’ on the premises?”

First let me provide some minor details about the medical center. This tertiary care facility – built around a clustering of 8 intensive care programs – functions as the regional referral and teaching center for a 6-campus system. The 70,000 emergency room visits, 20,000 admissions, and 69,000 pastoral care contacts per year keep 440 out of 560 beds full and 8 certified chaplains plus chaplain trainees busy.

More formal research by trainees of the medical center’s pastoral care department, two years earlier, produced objective information that more chaplaincy coverage was needed on weekend afternoons as well as on Mondays and especially on Tuesdays. What distinguishes the informal inquiry reported in this short essay is that staff members of NON-pastoral-care departments were asked to produce – on the spot – subjective information about their wants and perceived needs.

At the first intensive care area where staff members were queried, specifically and individually, about their professional perceptions of chaplaincy coverage needs, one informant wanted more chaplains available from 7 pm to 3 am, while another wanted more chaplains available from 2 pm to 2 am. Both informants began their comments by noting that no one before had ever asked their opinion. The spontaneously specific nature of their requests startled us – but this phenomenon repeated itself as we wandered around to other units.

At the second intensive care area visited, an informant noted that expanding the availability of pastoral care staff around 2 am would help considerably. At the third intensive care area visited, one informant wanted more chaplains available between 7 pm and 7 am – perhaps including for group work nearby – when family members are staying for hours and hours in the waiting room, while another informant wanted more chaplains available between 3 pm and 3 am – perhaps including a “midnight lunch with the chaplain” – again as a means of helping to “take care” of those family members who are essentially living in the waiting room. Other intensive care areas had requests more specific – for example, around the times when their patients tended to be removed from life-support.

Glancing over this ad hoc unscientific sample, the hours from 7 pm to 3 am stand out as the period when non-pastoral care clinical staff most wanted to have their “own personal chaplain” available. All intensive care areas were able to use the regular chaplaincy staff available in the medical center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When given the chance to fantasize about having total control over chaplaincy services in their intensive care area, however, the nurse/ managers in this busy medical center wanted and perceived they needed extra chaplaincy services in the hours around midnight.

So, when was the last time you, the chaplain, asked your non-chaplain colleagues when they most wanted – or believed they needed – a chaplain around? It would be easy to ignore this essay as relating only to large medical center situations – but the fact is that this question probably applies to all settings where clinical pastoral chaplains work.

As the saying goes,
“You can't always
get what you want,
but if you try sometimes, well,
you just might find you
get what you need”

Who is the pastoral care department to serve? The chaplains and the chaplain trainees? Or the patients, their families, and the non-pastoral care staff?

The song lyric at the very end of this article is from “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” lyrics by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of “The Rolling Stones”. Recording released December 1969.
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.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:41 PM

April 10, 2013

Report to Plenary 2013 By Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary


Welcome to the 23rd Plenary of CPSP, and welcome to Las Vegas.

When I was a preadolescent boy growing up in Virginia we played marbles, and sometimes we were tempted to play for pennies. However, we were warned that the police would arrest us if they discovered such illicit behavior. And the threat was not an idle one. Coming to Las Vegas for me is like a time warp. It appears the whole world is gambling itself away. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but I fear for our children and grandchildren. On the other hand, I was out on Fremont street last night, watching with admiration two twenty-somethings dance their erotic dance for the crowd. They must have noticed I was transfixed. Several minutes later they came up from behind me, pushed me into the center and danced around me in an exuberant spirit, and I joined in, with the crowd's approbation. Unfortunately I did not see anyone from the Plenary around. So my moment of glory was wasted on strangers. However, the experience did give me another take on Vegas. I suppose that even in the crassest culture there are moments of grace.

We all owe George and his administrative team a word of thanks. I do know that the planning of this year's meeting has been a nightmare. By all rights we should send George and his team to the south sea islands for two weeks of R&R. But of course we won't. On the other hand, there have been moments when I would have sent George to the south sea islands on a one-way ticket.

Now a brief word about Chapter names:

I was talking with Nancy True over lunch, and she told me that she was in the process of forming a new Chapter, and that they planned on naming it the Living Water Chapter. I told her that Living Water is a nice name with good bonafides, but that it was illegal and would not be accepted, for reasons I will explain. Nancy was very gracious in accepting my rebuttal. We have been plagued from the beginning with the problem of Chapter names. The first Chapters were: Chapel Hill, Atlanta, Stoney Mountain, New York, and Washington. As we grew, more innovative names began to appear. Faith, Hope and Charity Chapter. Sunrise of Hope Chapter, Indian Nations Chapter, and so forth. Some of us began to feel queasy, fearing that the CPSP Directory might begin sounding like a bunch of weirdos. Then it happened. From Colorado we received a new Chapter application for a Chapter Eleven. The Executive Committee convened and ruled that Chapters shall be named by a particular point on the map, and nothing else. So that is the law. We will enforce it. If you are in a Chapter named Alabama, Florida and Georgia, we will ask you to decide on a new name, a name that is a point on the map. We are not going to have a Directory that makes us look like a collection of clowns. I know of course, that there are some who will search to the end of the earth to make any rule look foolish. I also know that there is a point on the map in Pennsylvania, a town named Intercourse. But I assure that we will not accept the name Intercourse for a Chapter name, even if it is a point on the map.

A few words about decisions from the Executive Committee:

We are continuing to work on our relationship with ACPE. As you know both organizations signed a landmark Mediation Agreement in the presence of a retired Federal judge in Philadelphia, November, 2010. In that agreement we vowed to treat each other with mutual respect and collegiality. In December, 2011, the ACPE publicly assaulted our training program at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and created considerable turmoil. In response, we requested a return to the negotiating table with ACPE. Eleven months later we received a reply from the ACPE. It stated that they would return to negotiations on two conditions: that CPSP disavow the Mediation Agreement and that CPSP promise not to seek a remedy in the courts. No one can properly give up their right to seek a remedy in the courts, and we considered the Mediation Agree, solemnly signed by the highest officers of both organizations, to be binding. Therefore, we declined their offer. The attorneys for both sides are now in discussions in an effort to resolve this impasse. We do not know what the results will be.

Over the past three years we have invested some $60,000 in legal fees with regard to our relations with ACPE. We are therefore asking for a Legal Defense Fund assessment of $100 per person in order to make us ready for possible significant legal expenses in the near term. This special assessment is due November 1, 2013.

The Executive Committee also established a Certification fee of $250 for all candidates, to be paid to the treasurer. The reason for this new fee is that the certification process is currently unjust. Our population is concentrated in the east. Travel expenses for consultants are usually minimal in the east. In the western part of the country, where Chapters are usually separated by some distance, the travel expense for a certification consultant can be quite high. Heretofore, Chapters have assumed the burden of travel costs for a consultant. This has meant considerably more expense for the west Chapters than for those in the east. This new fee will support travel costs for all Certification consultants. The object here is to level the playing field geographically. We believe the fees will level the playing field. This is a matter of justice in our community.

The Executive Committee is placing a new requirement on Training Supervisors, namely that each Training Supervisor (TS), and that TS's trainees involve themselves in a peer group consortium of TSs and their trainees. Our basic philosophy from the beginning has been that peer consultation is our life's blood. We need to be better at consulting one another. We do not think it is healthy for a training program to work entirely in isolation from other training programs. This new requirement will mitigate against the problems that such isolation tends to create.

After last year's Plenary in Pittsburg two things became clear to many of us what should have been obvious earlier, that the Governing Council as constructed was not working as the broadly representative body it was intended to be. For one thing, a majority of Chapters simply did not get around to sending representatives. The second fact that should have been obvious to us long ago is that CPSP consists of two rather distinct interest groups: clinicians on the one hand, and clinical supervisors and psychotherapists on the other, generalists and specialists. Thus the ExCom decided to disband the dysfunctional GC and establish two Task Forces, one of clinicians and the other of specialists, with the assignment to propose an organizational way forward that would represent the entire community. The two Task Forces are continuing to do their work. We will monitor their process and eventually receive their recommendations.

The once a year national Plenary is probably a thing of the past, although the Executive Committee is not of one mind about this. We welcome your input. For the past three years we have exceeded our optimal number of registrants, which is 150. We cannot do the kinds of things we need to do with more than 150 persons sitting in a room. My vision is from now on to limit Plenary registration to 150. I suggest we offer two Plenaries a year, one in the east and one in the west, with no restrictions on who may attend either, but with each Plenary limited to 150 registrants. If we continue to grow, we may expand to three or more Plenaries. I hope we will hear suggestions about how to address this matter.

Anton Boisen, the founder of the clinical pastoral movement a century ago, was an unremarkable Congregational and Presbyterian minister with a history of psychological disturbance and several psychotic episodes. After almost two years in psychiatric lock-up in 1921 he came to the realization that religion and religious experience were inextricably bound up with the workings of the unconscious. When a friend came to visit him during his incarceration - you'd have to call it that - and brought him a copy of Freud's Introductory Lectures, (imagine doing such a thing today!) he devoured it, and later reported that Freud was exactly correct, and that he had been trying to tell his doctors the same thing to no avail. For Boisen religion and the strange workings of the unconscious are inseparably linked. Of course his physicians dismissed him, as they already dismissed Freud. They preferred to provide advice and drugs instead of a suspicious, patient, and probing listening ear and the intent to understand the communications of the unconscious. Barely two years out of psychiatric lock-up, Boisen became - remarkably - chaplain of Worchester State Psychiatric Hospital, and organized a training group for seminarians to prepare them to work clinically with troubled persons. That work consisted not of praying over patients, nor of mouthing spiritual fantasies, but of listening in hopes of understanding the meaning hidden in madness. Remarkably these trainees did not self-identify as chaplains at all. They worked as orderlies during the day, emptying bed pans and talking with patients. In the evenings they wrote up their cases and participated in clinical seminars. That was the summer of 1925. We are the children of that summer, and of Anton Boisen, spoiled children at that.

Immediately after World War II the psychiatrist Wilfred Bion devised a new way of working with groups in which he attended to the unconscious as it played itself out in group process. He eventually settled in the Tavistock section of London and developed theories of group behavior that became known as Tavistock Group Relations theory. A.K. Rice subsequently brought Bion's approach to the U.S. After Rice died the A. K. Rice Institute was created to promote Tavistock work in this country. I participated in several A. K. Rice extended group relations conferences in the 70s, and later joined the New York Chapter of A. K. Rice, but was only marginally involved in the life of the organization itself. Every Plenary since the beginning of CPSP in 1990 has featured a Tavistock seminar as a closing event in which I functioned as consultant.

The late Joan Hemenway, President of ACPE in the 90s, published a book in 1996 entitled Inside the Circle. It was the results of her on-site examination of how various clinical supervisors conducted what was typically but not always labeled "interpersonal relations seminars," as distinct from case seminars. She did research by sitting in on a number of seminars in clinical pastoral training programs in the northeast. Her conclusions were startling: that most clinical pastoral supervisors - otherwise fairly competent - were at sea as they attempted to work with groups. She concluded that the Tavistock group approach was the only competent approach for clinical training groups. Group therapy approaches, interpersonal relations, or individual supervision in a group context she rightly considered to be out of order for clinical pastoral training. Hemenway attempted to bring Tavistock approach into ACPE in the 90s and failed, probably for reasons unrelated to group work, but more related to other issues within the ACPE community.

Several of us had discussed the matter of getting CPSP more deeply involved in Tavistock theory and practice, but somehow never made the move. At the NCTS in Malibu last September, David Roth, who seems to know most everyone, approached me with the suggestion that I meet Jack Lampl, the President of A.K. Rice who lived nearby. Embarrassed that I had never met him, I eagerly accepted David's offer, and the rest is history. Jack Lampl immediately agreed to come here and work with us in this Plenary, and to attempt to enlist his colleague Charla Hayden to join him. Now they are both here and ready to work.

CPSP needs to draw more effectively on the resources of A K Rice. Hemenway was correct. You cannot run a clinical training group effectively without a basic understanding of Tavistockian group theory and practice.

So I am delighted and honored to introduce to you, and to turn over the morning's program to the President of A.K. Rice Institute, Jack Lampl, and his associate, Charla Hayden.
Raymond J. Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 7:01 AM

April 8, 2013

The Public Personae of Marriage is Shifting By the Rev. Dr. Larry A. Grimm

<imgI am proud to be part of CPSP as it takes the stand to redefine marriage.  Whom are we kidding?  Marriage has been used for other purposes than the love between a man and a woman for centuries. And the church has participated in those purposes all along, bringing marriage in many diverse social personae into the church and infusing it with theological significance.  

Most doctrines of the church like the realm of God, incarnation, resurrection have origins in cultures.  We absorbed them as a way of giving voice in particular times and places to universal experiences initiated by God and shared by all.  

In my mind one of those that we have taken into the Christian Church is Marriage. Love became a part of marriage personae in the 1400's in Europe.  Troubadours romanticized love between a man and a woman and elevated it above family relations, political bonds and economical dominion as the most important basis for marriage.  Individuals eventually became permitted to choose spouses instead of complying with marriage arranged by parents and relatives. Sexual attractions outside of marriage were permitted and sanctioned if properly choreographed to enable spouses to keep marriage bonds for other reasons than attraction and love. Procreation did not require love.  Even birthing children served other purposes like keeping clan purity or dominion in place, or providing new candidates for baptism. Children were often not raised by parents or were raised as social security for the parents.    Romeo and Juliet represented this shift in the social personae of marriage from utilitarian reasons to a relationship of love.

It seems to me this might be what we are witnessing. Due to genetics, some wonderful individuals are projecting their anima/animus onto individuals of the same gender. They cannot tell you why any more than other gender projection can be explained. They simply do, and that becomes their sexual attraction. The American Social Personae and convention, given theological rationale by the Church and other religions demands this projection be sanctioned as marriage only between a man and a woman. Now for the first time in history those who are same gender oriented and their allies who seek a more just and compassionate personae, are demanding same gender projection into marriage be sanctioned.

Shifts in our social personae occur continuously.  Social expectations change. Morality
changes. Judge Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court is married to a Caucasian woman.  His parents and certainly his grandparents could not have done that legally in most States even under a Constitution that assures Equal Protection under the Law. We thank God for that social personae shift because we believe it is a divine right, inalienable and human, for individual people to choose those bonds.  Now it is time for the next cultural shift in America regarding marriage.

When I officiate at a wedding I do so in a dual capacity.  I am a servant of the church and a ward of the State of Colorado.  I am permitted by Colorado to officiate by virtue of my Ordination as a Teaching Elder and Minister by the Presbyterian Church (USA).  The definition of marriage by Colorado is independent of religious doctrine regarding marriage.  The latest movement is that the State Assembly instituted Civil Unions for same gender couples starting May 1.  As a servant of the church I cannot marry them. As a servant of the State I can officiate at their Civil Union.  The next step of sanctioning marriage and eliminating DOMA would give same gender attracted couples the chance to be congruent between their inner life and the social sanction. Sounds healthy to me.

Thanks CPSP for this Declarations and stand.

Rev. Dr. Larry A. Grimm, Certified Chaplain
CPSP University Park Chapter, Denver, Co.
Specializing in End of Life Care

Editors Note: Other Rreactions to CPSP's Public Declaration on Marriage include the following:

Response to Public Declaration on Marriage Equality by David Alexander

William Carr Responds to David Alexander's Comments on CPSP's Public Declaration Commitment to Marriage Equality

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:24 AM

April 2, 2013

Shedding Light on the Unknown – Without Presuming to Exhaust Its Meaning By Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD


Shedding Light on the Unknown –
Without Presuming to Exhaust Its Meaning

– Comments Honoring
the Rev. Dr. Donald Eric Capps –

delivered in Las Vegas, NV,
on 19 March 2013, at the Plenary of the
College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy

Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

Can each of us be
engaged and attentive enough to
see and hear and understand
truths beyond the supposedly obvious?

– on the 90th anniversary of The Joint Committee on Religion & Medicine’s beginning (1923) of
focusing resources from the New York Academy of Medicine & the Federal Council of
Churches on “the religious healing problem”.
– on the 90th anniversary of [Helen] Flanders Dunbar’s beginning (1923) of the philosophical
studies of “insight symbolism”
that later would shape her holistic studies of supposed medical disorders that contained unappreciated layers of meaning.
– on the 90th anniversary of Anton Theophilus Boisen’s beginning (1923) of the “dynamic
psychology” studies of souls in the midst of their communities
– research that paralleled his earlier (1908) “religious sociology” studies of individual worshipers in the midst of their contexts, as well as his still earlier (1903) “social ecology” studies of individual trees in the midst of their forests.
– on the 80th anniversary of Dunbar’s de facto merging of Anton Boisen’s professional chaplaincy
movement with her own “mind and body” psychosomatic movement – the one program being focused on education & the other being focused on medical research – but with both focused on healing & wholeness.

on the 70th anniversary of Dunbar’s Psychosomatic Diagnosis (1943), that focused on appreciating
the tenuous equilibriums stirring around & within the body, mind, world & world-view – of both the person providing care & the person receiving care.
– on the 65th anniversary of Boisen’s "The Minister as Counselor” (1948) an excellent summary
about the need (1) to avoid “treatment without diagnosis” & (2) to appreciate “the symbols by means of which … [a person] seeks to reveal his [or her] difficulties to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear”.

It might be hard to imagine either Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) or Anton Boisen (1876-1965) writing a joke book – yet Sigmund Freud wrote a treatise on jokes – as did our newest recipient of the “Helen Flanders Dunbar Award for Significant Contributions to Clinical Pastoral Training”. All four – Dunbar, Boisen, Freud, and our newest awardee – were intrigued by the layers and layers of meaning lying within and around symptoms and complaints – the layers and layers of meaning frequently under-appreciated either by those who are suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable – or by those who are trying to work with these souls in distress – or by both. A main lesson from the writings of our newest awardee is that although you might think you have exhausted the meanings, you probably have not. Look more closely. Listen more closely.

Frequently those who have studied jokes also have studied parables – as both types of storytelling tend toward at least double entendre and both aim to make an impact on the reader or listener – those who theoretically have “eyes to see” or “ears to hear”. Good parables are somewhat like good jokes in that they lead readers or listeners down a darkening, narrowing path, so to speak, then, unexpectedly, into an expansive world of light. Both good parables and good jokes are designed to produce a sudden “Ah hah!” – an enlightenment a jolt in thinking. A difference is that a good parable perhaps more easily than a good joke encourages a multitude of interpretations – according to the degree to which the teller or writer really is trying to engage – trying to provoke attention – and the degree to which the listener or reader really is engaged – is paying attention.

Just as a parabola – the path when, for example, a ball is thrown a long distance– is a path that is curved rather than straight, so, too, a parable takes a path that is “curved” – or indirect – not one that is “straight” – or
direct – when connecting one person to another. Both words – “parabola” and “parable” – indeed are derived from the Greek for “throwing alongside”. This indirectnessunexpectednessis the whole point. A “direct” line is what it is – straight to the target – without much room for interpretation. A somewhat “indirect” line has room for several interpretations, and a notably “indirect” line has room for many interpretations.

Dunbar elucidated this indirectness and potential expansiveness of interpretations long ago in her classic analysis of how symbols work – which she clearly believed provided guidance regarding how symptoms work. Dunbar gave the example of a “rock” – which I will quote:
A geologist … will note on the map the conventional sign [for a rock],
thus using an arbitrary[-extrinsic] association …
[a metaphor or analog–
this stands – directly – for that –]
as a shorthand representation of the datum.

The artist on the other hand may sketch the rock, or write a poem
describing it in terms of other sense experience
[that is, as a metonymy or simile – a part representing the whole –
this is – somewhat indirectly – sort of like that –],
which then becomes a descriptive[-intrinsic comparison] … of the rock.

Finally, the philosopher … may look through the object to … deeper meanings [–
this is – notably indirectly – reminiscent and prescient of many thats],
such as the stability of eternal law, and so use the rock itself as [a symbol proper,
that is, as] an [interpretive, semblance or] insight symbol.

Dunbar went on to suggest some additional possible deeper meanings in a specifically Christian context:
It [, the rock, as an “insight symbol,”] may stand for Christ,
as in the familiar hymn Rock of Ages;
or it may exemplify that which each soul should be to its fellows,
as Christ himself used the symbol with reference to Peter;
or finally, the rock may mean the foundation of the heavenly kingdom.

In other words, an insight symbol invites layers and layers of interpretation, and once something is viewed as an insight symbol one is prompted to pursue layers and layers of understanding.

Thus, apparently to quote Freud, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”. Sometimes, however, it is somewhat or notably much, much more. As Jesus explained,
This is why I speak to them in parables:
because seeing they do not see
and hearing they do not hear … .
[He or she who has eyes,
let him or her see.]
He [or she] who has ears,
let him [or her] hear.

That is, Jesus hoped to be quite clear to those who made the effort to engage, to pay attention, and to understand – but not necessarily otherwise. Boisen echoed this when he suggested that those who are suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable behave much the same way. He asked us to appreciate
the symbols by means of which [a person]
seeks to reveal his [or her] difficulties to
those who have eyes to see and ears to hear

That is, those in need hope to be quite clear to those who make the effort to engage, to pay attention, and to understand – but not necessarily otherwise.

Taking a fresh, in-depth look at the Biblical descriptions of Jesus’ healing ministry, our newest awardee noted that
… Jesus’ cures … could be read as parables,
as expressing symbolic as well as literal truth.

The patients’ neighbors and Jesus’ disciples saw and heard one thing, while Jesus, very engaged and very attentive, saw and heard something else – a lot else – and acted accordingly. Extending this to our current and daily work, the question concerns the extent to which those presenting with symptoms and complaints might be speaking in parables – might be knowingly – or unknowingly – telling us something more profound than is conveyed by the literal words.

The lesson here is that Dunbar, Boisen, Jesus, our newest awardee – and certainly many others – have asked us to appreciate both the expansive nature of certain stories and the complexity of what we call healing. Dunbar certainly had a talent for recognizing what lay beneath, beside, and beyond the supposedly “obvious”. For example, patients with fractures were being used as controls for study patients who had conditions considered more likely to have psychological aspects. “Obviously” – so went the argument – “patients’ minds couldn’t cause bones to break”. Getting to know these patients more deeply than the average surgeon, Dunbar soon recognized that those with fractures were as “crazy” as anyone else – and thus was born her concept of “the accident prone personality”. “Obviously” – so went the argument – “babies can’t read nearby adults’ minds”. Getting to know these babies more deeply than the average pediatrician, she soon recognized that this just wasn’t the case – and thus were born Dunbar’s three books on children’s and adolescents’ minds and bodies. Can each of us be engaged and attentive enough to see and hear and understand truths beyond the supposedly obvious?

Let me give but one simple – perhaps too simple – personal example. Many years ago a colleague described me as “someone who has a knack for subscribing to magazines that go out of business.” If I presented to one of you with that as a self-description – “I’m someone who has a knack for subscribing to magazines that go out of business” – what might you make of it? There is literal truth in it, of course: that the report, as an extrinsic association, stands exactly for what has happened.
There is an implied truth in it, also – that the example, as an intrinsic comparison, represents an array of problems. There are deeper, broader truths in it, too – that the expansive image, as fertile insight symbol, suggests a variety of views, including a negative one: that I make questionable judgments, as well as a positive one: that I’m “marching to my own drummer – that I hold fast to my own judgment, regardless of how others decide. That I “subscribe to magazines” probably fits comfortably with conventional myth about how quite conservative I am. That these are failing magazines probably jolts many a bit – especially since the story, as self-defining parable, shows how radical I might be. If you focused literally on me and my magazines you would be missing the point – missing the notably indirect message being conveyed – the story considered most important – consciously or unconsciously – by me.

Our newest awardee’s early career included serious pondering about these so-called “parabolic events” – these parable-like episodes in peoples’ lives that seem archetypal – that seem like they might encompass layers and layers of meaning. Recognizing parabolic events is a kind of unique diagnostic exercise. Similarly, both Dunbar and Boisen championed really seeing those who were suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable as unique individuals and really listening to their stories. Like our newest awardee’s, theirs was a creative curiosity. Both Dunbar and Boisen actually SAW the obvious that others could not see, and they actually HEARD the obvious that others could not hear. They also had a way of allowing others to display their real selves and to convey their real views. Much of the Dunbaresque/ Boisenesque diagnostic approach begins in “being with” – until one finally sees and hears and understands what specifically is bothersome in a specific person’s mind, body, world, or world-view.

Our awardee has suggested that Jesus employed a similar approach – “being with” so that He could, with greater depth, see and hear and understand – and heal. Jesus did not focus on the complaint or symptom as what Dunbar would call an arbitrary-extrinsic association or as what she would call a descriptive-intrinsic comparison. Rather, in His healing ministry, more usefully Jesus focused on the symptom or complaint as an interpretive-semblance insight symbol – as expansive and complex, with layers and layers of meaning. As Dunbar noted in regard to her work,
Therapeutic results [often] were noted as a consequence of the mere process of examination.
Apparently it was much the same, our newest awardee has suggested, in Jesus’ healing ministry – that therapy followed from an engaged, attentive diagnostic approach and that it might well in your ministry, too.

So, on this, the 30th anniversary of his “The Parabolic Event in Religious Autobiography” (1983), which foreshadowed both his Jesus the Village Psychiatrist (2008) and his Laughter Ever After … (2008), grasping that healing can be effected by appreciating the complex worlds of meaning in supposedly “obvious” complaints & symptoms, please join me in congratulating the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy’s 12th recipient of “The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training”: The Rev. Dr. Donald Eric Capps.


The title is a paraphrasing of a sentence in Donald E. Capps. “The Parabolic Event in Religious Autobiography.” The Princeton Seminary Bulletin. 1983;4(1):26-38, p.27.

This award is being bestowed on the 50th anniversary of our honoree’s graduation from divinity school & on the 30th anniversary of his 5-year stint as editor for the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Some additional relevant anniversaries are:
– on the 105th anniversary of Religion and Medicine (1908), by professional chaplaincy’s
conceptual forebear, Elwood Worcester (1862-1940), an elder colleague of both Dunbar
& Boisen.
– on the 85th anniversary of Boisen’s “The Sense of Isolation in Mental Disorder: Its Religious
Significance.” (1928) [Am J Sociol. 33:555-567] & his "The Psychiatric Approach to the Study of Religion” (1928) [Relig Ed. 23(3):201-207].
– on the 80th anniversary of Dunbar’s “The Faith and the New Psychology” (1933), in Frank Gavin,
ed. Liberal Catholicism and the Modern World. Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing, 1933; reprinted: Living Church. 1934;13:333-336; available on-line at , that called for further “development of the age-old techniques of religion in the light of the new understanding”.
– on the 55th anniversary of Seward Hiltner’s Preface to Pastoral Theology … (1958), affirming that
a clinical pastoral task “begins with theological questions and concludes with theological answers” [p.24] regardless of the intervening “practical” steps.
– on the 50th anniversary of Hiltner’s Constructive Aspects of Anxiety (1963), a small volume co-
edited with Karl Menninger, emphasizing, as did Boisen, the possible value of crises.
– on the 30th anniversary of Caroll A. Wise’s Pastoral Psychotherapy: Theory and Practice (1983).

The following are the bibliographic details of the cited items:
In the opening list of anniversaries: Boisen. "The Minister as Counselor.” J Pastoral Care. 1948;2(1):1-10, pp.4,9.
In the 4th paragraph: Dunbar, Symbolism in Medieval Thought and Its Consummation in the Divine Comedy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929; equals her PhD dissertation, NY: Columbia University, 1929; reprinted, NY: Russell and Russell, 1961; reprinted again, Atlanta: SOLINET, 1994; pp.4, 8-9,11, 14, 19-20. Dunbar, "The Sun Symbol in Medieval Thought," Master's Thesis, NY: Columbia University (1924), p.65; the italicized and bracketed items are here added so that the passage may serve as a summary statement of Dunbar's comments on symbolism.
In the 5th paragraph: Jesus, as cited in The Bible, “Matthew,” 13:13,43.
In the 6th paragraph: Capps, Jesus the Village Psychiatrist. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008; pp.54-55. See also, Capps, The Poet's Gift: Toward the Renewal of Pastoral Care. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993; p.1: “acts of pastoral care … are very similar to Jesus’ parables: these acts usually involve brief, time-compressed encounters and often occur in the context of a life crisis … ”; p.2 re parables: “they challenge our usual and routine ways of perceiving and construing our life experiences, enticing us into viewing them from a different angle or slant.”
In the 10th paragraph: Dunbar, Psychosomatic Diagnosis. NY: Paul B. Hoeber/ Harper & Brothers, 1943, p.689.
In the 11th paragraph: Capps, Laughter Ever After … Ministry of Good Humor. Atlanta: Chalice Press, 2008.

Additional Note #1: While it now is easy enough to find general information on Dunbar’s life and work, as my writings on these topics have been available for some forty years, comments about Dunbar’s parents – that is, about her family context – currently can be found almost exclusively at the CPSP Pastoral Report. See,
“ ‘Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord!’ ”!%20Take%20Courage!%20-%20plenary%20comments%20%2011-apr-%202010%20-%20final%20-%20PR%20version-.pdf
[has passage & footnote re Edith Vaughn Flanders Dunbar (1871-1963)]
“Clinical Pastoral Psychology of Religion: A ‘Peculiar and Dynamic Play between the Mundane and the Sublime’.”
[has passage & footnote re Francis William Dunbar (1868-1939)]

Additional Note #2: Toward better drawing the parallel between parables and jokes – a parallel clearly suggested by the newest Dunbar awardee – let me repeat a joke with which many years ago I felt an immediate connection.
A little boy stood on the front porch of his home crying and energetically ringing the door bell. Finally his mother answered the door and the little boy exclaimed somewhat confusingly, “The Dog! The Dog!” Toward clarifying the problem, the mother asked, “Did the dog bite you?” “No,” explained the little boy, “but he tasted me!”
The joke works because it joltingly provides a new view about the meaning of a dog’s licking of someone with its tongue – which generally is interpreted as a friendly gesture. When very young I was somewhat socially anxious, and the joke captured my issue precisely: that anyone who got close enough to be nice also was close enough for another motive – to be not so nice.

Additional Note # 3: For the record, please let it be clarified that Professor Capps is not receiving the same honor twice. The centennial celebration he graced in 2002 at Columbia Presbyterian Center of the New York Presbyterian Hospital was “The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-59) Memorial Lecture,” published as, “John Nash: Three Phases in the Career of a Beautiful Mind.” J Relig & Health. Dec 2005;44(4):363-376.

Additional Note #4: CPSP’s “Helen Flanders Dunbar Award for Significant Contributions to Clinical Pastoral Training” is bestowed only upon the living and only upon non-members of CPSP. Past recipients of the award include 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 E Thornton (7th; 2008), Rodney J. Hunter (8th; 2009), John E. Harris (9th; 2010), Orlo C. Strunk, Jr (10th; 2011), and Kenneth H. Pohly (11th; 2012).

Additional Note #5: Any boldings occurring with quoted passages are by this author.

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.

Editors Note: The limits of the Pastoral Report's publishing platform do not afford the ability to fully duplicate the page layout of Dr. Powell's scholarly paper. The reader is encouraged to down the document.

DOWNLOAD: "Shedding Light on the Unknown – Without Presuming to Exhaust Its Meaning

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.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:55 AM

Research Study


A friend of CPSP, Todd DuBose, M.Div., Ph.D., Researcher
Associate Professor, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology provided the Pastoral Report an announcement regarding an interesting research study on suffering.

Dr. DuBose states: "The purpose of the study is to explore the relationship between the kind of suffering experienced in unwanted and unchangeable life situations, often known as “fated situations,” and the practices of care offered in response to them". The study includes, "... impossible, incurable, inevitable, irreparable, unbearable, unpredictable, uncertain, uncontrollable, irreversible, unalterable, unknowing, uncertain, unrelenting, or irreversible..." suffering.

Those interested in participating can download the detail description below as well as contact Todd DuBose at 312-329-6694 and

Download Research Project

Todd DuBose

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:45 AM