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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.

« October 2013 | Main | December 2013 »

November 27, 2013

Grand Junction, Colorado Chapter, Wishing all CPSP Members Happy Thanksgiving!!


Mary Ireland

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:49 PM

November 26, 2013

Fall 2013 NCTS Reflection by Claire Jones


NCTS is a unique group.  We meet twice a year.  It's an opportunity to get together with a diverse representation of chaplains of all denominations and types of work places.  It's also a chance to get away from it all and  to spend quality time at a quality place.  Old friends meet up and catch up.  


New chaplains find a place where they can learn from their peers and find mentors who share their years of expertise, skills and knowledge. We always have a one of a kind professional development opportunities in a relaxed environment surrounded by the wonders of nature.  

This past November 12 and 13 we met at a new facility, the San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ which is right on the Atlantic Ocean.  It was large and had spacious views of the water to inspire us.  We got to see the work they have had to do since being hit by hurricane Sandy. There were 60 people present and about a third were first time attendees. 

Everyone had an opportunity to bring a case that they presented to their small group. With ten groups, feedback abounds and thumbnail reports give us all a chance to catch the jest and then seek out the presenter if it peaks our interest to learn more in a one on one conversation.  

This time around the presentations were on the topic of mental health and were presented by long standing member, Dr. Dwight Sweezy, who just retired after 33 years at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital.  He presented in a style that gave insight to the population of people that we serve everyday in some way or another and could identify with in our experiences.  He told us quips and quotes.

There was a 90 minute Tavistock that got things rocking and rolling the first night followed by a social with refreshments and a chance to let your hair down and hang out with your chapter members and new and old friends.

We couldn't have such a great event without a committee that works like a well oiled machine and is led by Dr. Francine Hernandez.  Thanks to all who took part to make it another success.

Time flies and we leave relaxed, refreshed and ready to take our new found information and skills back to our work with contacts to call on at anytime.  Looking forward to the next one in early May at Loyola Retreat House in Morristown, NJ.  You won't want to miss it. 
Claire Jones, ABCCC
Hospice Chaplain
Robert Wood Johnson/Visiting Nurse Association

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 3:12 PM

November 19, 2013



The gathering of the CPSP Community for its 24th Annual Plenary will occur March 30 through April 2, at the Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A block of rooms has been re-served at a special rate of $119, single or double, per night. Reserve your room online today by clicking on this link: Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel, or call 800-325-3535 or go to the Sheraton Oceanfront website.

Please download the 2014 CPSP Plenary Brochure listed below for detail information.

Make your reservations now!!


Please contact Krista Argiropolls if you have questions>

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:46 PM

Finding Our Way As Midwives By Matthew Rhodes


Finding Our Way As Midwives

It seems to me that people who feel unsafe retreat to extremes. When uncertainty surrounds us, it is preferable to run to one end or the other, to have a wall against which you can put your back, to have a group whose identity and number can be a support. I don’t think I need to name the number of arenas in public life where this occurs—we are all too painfully aware of it. But what has surprised me is how pervasive such dynamics and divisions can be in chaplaincy.

Dividing Line: Presence or Surgery

While such a description of a very common divide in chaplaincy will no doubt be overly-reductionistic, the divide seems to go something like this—many chaplains view their work as primarily about presence, heart, and empathy. Then, some seem to think that supervisors care only about “surgery”, the head, and maintain a critical (or safe) distance.

More than being a struggle between two groups within our organization, it might be best understood as a struggle within each one of us. And yet it is easier to suspend the struggle and run to one camp or the other.

“I’m presense. I won’t fail. I’ve made sure of it by not taking risks. I don’t make interventions and lead the patient somewhere new because if I do, they might reject me.”

Or, “I’m a surgeon. I take risks, but the risk is really owned by the other person. I don’t get close enough to feel the pain of it myself. That’s why I keep the mask on.”

With presence alone and no intervention, we don’t risk failure. With surgery alone and no presence, we protect ourselves from feeling the failure. I want to propose that if we can offer anything prophetic as chaplains, it is a willingness to fail. And on these terms, both of these extremes fail.

Co-People or Chaplain-Patient

Given this split vision, what has struck me most is the insistence among some chaplains that we really aren’t chaplains; rather we are “co-people”. “There really is no chaplain or patient—instead, we are just present together.” If I grasp the intended beauty of this statement, they seem to be asserting that no one is better than anyone else and that our work should not be paternalistic. If so, I can respond with a resounding “Amen!”

However, this line about being “co-people” falls short of reality when viewed from a patient’s perspective—they see you as their chaplain. I dare say that this vision of “co-people” thus falls short of being “patient-centered” because it is not how the patient sees it. It is more about our idealized anthropology than about the patient.

Honesty, Power, and Owning Our Role

As everyone reading this is likely in the choir, I imagine we all know the danger of a young priest who begins wearing the collar before he understands how much power is attributed to this symbol. He or she is too fresh to realize that such accouterments actually require gentler movements because whatever is said is likely multiplied in the hearing because it comes from a collar.

Similarly, when we walk into a room and disclose our role as that person’s chaplain, we are no longer “co-people” in their experience. From the moment we introduce ourselves, we have become their chaplain. In their hearing, we are differentiated; that is inevitable, and it is even good! We certainly don’t want to think of ourselves as better than our patients or as an uncaring professional, but that is never what being a chaplain meant. Being a chaplain is to be a differentiated professional who does care.

The role even means something whether we feel our pastoral authority or not. Even if we don’t exercise the “power” overtly that comes with the role, that reality does not prevent our authority from being felt in the patient. We know this when our people apologize for using 4-letter words in our presence, assuming they have offended someone whose mere presence demands an apology.

Put another way, as we all know from our clinical training, the supervisee-trainee relationship is asymmetrical. So is the chaplain-patient relationship. In fact, it is the very particularity of our role with the patient that allows so much of our encounter to occur on sacred ground.

It is good that when we go into the room, we don’t do so as a physician. We are not these to stand (and not sit), to cross our arms, to listen to the heartbeat and then cut the patient off as they share their experience of the illness. (Of course, all physicians are not like this, but you get the point.) However, I also don’t think we are there just to be “co-people” either; many of our people are looking to be led somewhere, and we are the ones they look to.

Transcendence: The Role of the Midwife

There must be some middle way between these extremes—between presence and professionalism, between heart and head, between empathy and critical distance. We are both professionals and we are people who care deeply in our souls. We aren’t there to do the work for the patient, but we also aren’t there to do no work. So what are we?

I suggest that our answer lies closer to home than we imagine—it is in our covenant. In our common work together, we commit to midwife one another in our respective spiritual journeys.

A midwife doesn’t sit in the corner inactive, but she also doesn’t administer an epidural, shielding the mother from the pain that is her own. The midwife doesn’t deliver the baby on her own while making the laborer become more passive. She listens to the breath of the laboring mother, becoming attuned to her contractions, and connected to her spirit.

The midwife puts a hand on the mother’s back, supports her in her pushing, in her pain, and through this transformational journey, helps the mother to discover that her pain has given way to a new life that is precious and sacred beyond measure. Ultimately, she leads the mother and invites her to trust the bidding of her own body. I could offer a translation of what this embodied process means for those of us who work with the soul, but you no doubt already know.

The midwife seems to me to be the way between and beyond these polarized options. It seems to be what we all have in common. It seems to be how we do our work when we do it well. I know I set this article up as if I have something new to say—sorry to disappoint because the reality is that I don’t. It is the tradition that can serve us; perhaps by moving back to it, we will move forward.

We won’t always get the right balance, but it is balance that we are after. When we walk out the door as a midwife, the patient won’t be in withdrawal, lacking their co-person, nor is the patient untransformed just thinking how great the professional was that just walked out the door. Instead, she thinks—or better, she feels—“What a gift this new life is. Look at what I’ve done.”

After this work of presence and precision, attunement and intervention, the midwife does what is most essential—she disappears…

Rev. Matthew Rhodes is the Director of Religious Ministries with the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. He is currently enrolled in the Doctorate of Psychology Program in Clinical Pastoral Supervision with the Institute for Psychodynamic Pastoral Supervision. You can reach him at

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:53 AM

November 18, 2013

The Case for the Couch By Bill Scar

Now "hear" this... The issue is not about getting too comfortable. The issue is so impressive upon our consciousness that we must ease into it and take a bit of a circuitous route.

Cyber technology and social media have conspired with some practical constraints to stimulate numerous changes in the practice of psychotherapy. Many people expect, or are prepared for, different dynamics from professional helpers than the usual 50 minute hour in an office that is rather emotionally plastic, even if the seating is wool and leather. There are movements to involve active computer interaction and diagnosis, as well as remote treatment, such as using Skype, etc. Insurance companies and clinical ethicists are striving to provide guidelines that are economically self serving and avoid undue liability. And of course, this is all in the name of providing the best care to patients and clients. Oh, Sigmund...

I have always delighted in the fact that he was born Sigismund Schlomo Freud. Just the sound of that name is stirring and evocative, and even joyful... As my own hearing has deteriorated a bit over the past several years, sounds are increasingly treasured. Over the years I wondered, as we often do, which sense I would rather be without, my sight or my hearing, and I usually concluded I would prefer to lose my hearing; I could not contemplate the question if the matter was considered a condition from birth. I then remember my first CPE supervisor, a man who had lost his sight as an adult and was a marvel to watch as he ministered throughout the large hospital where he was in charge of pastoral care.

Sigismund Schlomo...The sight of the words means little, but the sound of them is marvelous. And is it not also the case when people want to be "heard"? No one yells at their partner that the problem is that the dumbbunny didn't "see" him or, you are a jerk because you didn't "hear" me!

Neurologists and neurophysiologists have remarkable opinions about the operations of the brain. Is the occipital cortex more complex than the auditory cortex? The occipital cortex seems to be better understood, but the auditory cortex may be far more complex in many ways. I would suggest in simple terms that the ears "see" far more than the eyes "hear". I believe that to be true.

In the therapeutic interaction, some have tried to include other senses such as touch, which has been heralded by many women as important. Documented abuse has addressed both men and women as perpetrators, and in any case, physical touch has been essentially proscribed from the professional psychotherapeutic interaction. Touch is out... Taste is out... Smell is ambiguous... So, we are left with sight and hearing.

In 1998 I began providing psychotherapy to persons who were not physically in my office. I had very specific conditions for this activity, which have eventually been incorporated into the standards of practice that are present today for pastoral counselors, marriage and family therapists, and a variety of clinical fields where such encounters are considered.

What became especially interesting was the experience of phone therapy vs. the emerging experience of therapy facilitated by developing technologies for video-conferencing and the evolution of widely available tools such as Skype. I began to observe an apparent contradiction. The supposed transparency and intimacy and engagement provided by the union of simultaneous audible and visual communication was not effective. It was illusory at best. The cases that used this advancing technology were less effective and intimate and engaging than the cases that relied on phone contact alone. The cases that employed only phone contact were more intensive, more transformative, and the patients sought to continue more in their exploration of their issues.

Could it be that, despite my need to raise the volume a bit, the cases that relied entirely on our non-visual interaction were more effective and productive and intimate and therapeutically significant? What about the importance of trying to "read" the non-verbal indices that are part of the visual portion of the vaunted audio-visual encounters?

When I presented this material in my collegial supervision and consultation, it became apparent that I had been putting more emphasis on MY ability to perceive what was presented through the screen and speakers in front of me, instead of experiencing the patient's revelation of personal and transferential information. I seems I had lost my therapeutic perspective; something about the media had seduced me or misdirected my attention.

There are several cartoons in my office that depict caricatures of clinical practice, including one where Schlomo is sitting behind a fainting couch. The caption is irrelevant but the image is a priceless reminder of the power of evoking the free expression and transference of the patient. No visual contact was required or desired. The transactions were oral and audible and unfettered by the body language of the patient or the visage of the therapist. Yes, "unfettered"...

I currently have patients in several parts of the United States and in Germany and Italy. In every case I utilize only the audible expression of content and interaction. In these clinical engagements I am as close to the "couch" as is possible in today's world. In my current office visits with local patients, I am beginning to encourage less and less face to face interaction. More content is being elicited in this shift, which I find amazing despite my journey as a clinician for over 35 years. I am ready, for many reasons, to make the "case for the couch".

I could go on for many paragraphs with more evidence, but all I would be doing is promoting truths there were evident over a century ago. Yes, it is not the patient who resists, it is the therapist, and therapist resistance is furthered by the ego of the clinician who needs to believe he or she is a real person in the process that heals the patient. We are functionaries, albeit ones that must be as well prepared and crafted as is possible. In the Christian tradition, we are at best the fit vessels of spiritual forces greater and more vital than we can ever imagine. We are most effective when we are an extension of the ego of the patient in crisis as he or she becomes the patient in process and the patient in victory. Schlomo the Jew did it in the context of his own belief or non-belief, and we can certainly strive to do as well.

William Scar
Diplomate, CPSP
Diplomate, AAPC
Approved Supervisor, AAMFT
Program Director, Good Samaritan Counseling Center/SCIC

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:12 AM

November 12, 2013

Relief For The Philippines By Barbara A. McGuire


UPDATE: Hundreds of survivors were moved to Manila, where the local churches are now overwhelmed. They quietly lament “we have lost everything”. There was a report of a woman whose family members survived Haiyan, the worst typhoon on record; but then later died from starvation. The little island they lived on was completely devastated and no help arrived in time to bring them food or water.

Our CPSP colleagues have been training chaplains in Baguio to be ready to go to Manila to provide support. The needs are endless.

Many generous donations have been coming in and we thank those who have already donated but we need additional support. Please consider sending a donation today. Any amount you can afford will make a BIG difference.

The New Amsterdam Chapter, New York with the Philippines team is committed to bringing help and healing to our typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors.

Relief For The Philippines

The stories coming out of the Philippines are unimaginable. Rushing water and wind tearing children away from their parents' arms.
Haiyan was one of the most intense typhoons on record. This storm left catastrophic and unimaginable destruction behind.

Emergency Support

The New Amsterdam Chapter is organizing a relief effort along side our CPSP Philippines colleagues. The CPSP Philippines will distribute funds collected along with non-perishable items to the places where they are most needed.

The New Amsterdam CPSP Chapter requests your assistance by donating canned goods, clothing, toiletry items (shampoo, medical supplies, etc.), along with cleaning supplies, learning materials for children, or monetary donations.

Please bring or mail clothing, and non perishable items to:

Barbara A. McGuire
3207 William Street
Wantagh, NY 11793

Question call: Barbara at:

All checks need to be made out to:
CPSP (Philippines Relief Fund)

Mail checks to:

Barbara McGuire
C/O CPSP - Philippines Relief Fund
3207 William Street
Wantagh, NY 11793

All donations are greatly appreciated and will go directly to the people via our CPSP Philippines colleagues.

Thank you!

The New Amsterdam Chapter:
Barbara A. McGuire, Cesar Espineda, John Jeffery, Geof Tio, Susan McDougall, Sergio Manna

Barbara A. McGuire

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:49 AM

ELEMENTS OF CLINICAL PASTORAL ASSESSMENT: The Role of the Clinical Chaplain By George Hankins Hull

<imgClinical Chaplaincy is relational, neutral and non-judgmental. It is a patient centered approach in keeping with the person centered model as advocated by Carl Rogers, integrating the arts and sciences relative to psychodynamic theory in pastoral practice.

Around any illness is a collection of stories. The chaplain endeavors to be present to the patient as a fellow human being, as the patient’s stories unfold; bearing witness to the patient’s dilemma- not judging the patient for what they say or how they choose to express themselves. This narrative approach places the chaplain in the unique role as the interpreter of metaphors, assisting the patient in making the connections to their story.

At times these stories are confessional in nature, as a patient, through narrative seeks to reconcile themselves with the life that they have lived. At other times, the stories they relate represent more a review of their life inextricably interwoven with finishing the business of living.

Consequently, clinical chaplaincy is a patient centered narrative approach. Integral to that, is the patient’s family. Working with the stories that patients and families share, the clinical chaplain can begin to assess how the family approaches illness, and in particular, this hospitalization.

The Clinical Chaplain also assesses how the patient utilizes their religious experience or their philosophy of life as a means of support as they seek to come to terms with their diagnosis and its attendant ambiguities of living each day.

Extensive clinical training and a proactive integration of the social sciences, especially in the fields of counseling and psychotherapy is essential to the work of the Clinical Chaplain.

George Hankins Hull, Dip.Th, Th.M.
Director of pastoral care and clinical pastoral education at UAMS Medical Center. He is a Diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy and a board-certified clinical chaplain.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:25 AM