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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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June 30, 2015

The Current Crisis in Healthcare Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Part Two-- By Raymond J. Lawrence

The Current Crisis in Healthcare Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care

(An Extended Review of Spiritual Care in Practice: Case Studies in Healthcare Chaplaincy
George Fitchett & Steve Nolan, Editors)

Part Two

Raymond J. Lawrence

NOTE: See Part I
The Case

Erica is the mother of a two-year-old girl with cancer, admitted to the ER. There are several young children at home, a grown daughter, and a new husband who doesn't understand Erica's religious affections. She describes herself as a "redneck" with a faith in Jesus that was making it possible for her to cope. God has spoken to her directly and powerfully, and she relates stories about the voices. Erica is certain that God has a plan, but she is not sure why God would speak to her. She keeps all this from her husband, who couldn't understand.

Erica had requested a chaplain when admitted to the ER. She responded negatively to the first chaplain she met, a female who was 'dressed too fancy,' unlike the present chaplain who is dressed down, in blue jeans and turtleneck. The chaplain responds to Erica's sharing of her experience of God speaking to her by relating the story of God talking to Moses.

Later Erica rants over the many misleading translations of the Bible in current circulation, arguing that only the King James Version is authentic. She is vexed specifically that the new translations do not declare Mary a "virgin." In response the chaplain offers a mini-lecture on the problems of translating ancient manuscripts. It did not seem to occur to the chaplain that Erica may have some thoughts or feelings about virginity itself, or perhaps the circumstances of her own deflowering, and thus might have become fixed on this biblical text.

It appears that every chaplain visit is ended with a prayer, and sometimes at the chaplain's own request.

The chaplain reports an intuition along the way that Erica might have a substance abuse problem that she was not disclosing. This would seem to be a good guess. In response to this supposition, the chaplain decides to divulge her own past history of substance abuse. She took this action, she says, subsequent to a message from the social work department reporting that Erica had made a request there for referral to a "Christian counselor" for help with one of her older children. The chaplain discloses her knowledge of this request by advising Erica to find a competent counselor rather than a specifically Christian one. There is no inquiry and no speculation as to why Erica went to social workers for referral, and not to the the chaplain herself. One would think this would have been an insult and a negative reflection on the pastoral relationship itself, a devaluation of the chaplain's authority and/or wisdom. Yet, that is not explored.

Erica and the chaplain appear to have some difficulty finding places to talk in private. Or perhaps Erica's need to smoke is the motivation to exit the hospital. In any case, the two of them devise a plan to move outside to a nearby street corner, and to sit on the curb while they talk and Erica smokes. It is in that context that the chaplain shares her own substance abuse history and her 12-step program experience. This is a rather poignant picture, an institutional chaplain counseling on the street, sitting on the curb. If nothing else, this chaplain is resilient.

At one point Erica's husband arrived unexpectedly in the hospital room while the chaplain was present. Erica suddenly fired four shots with a toy gun that emits plastic globs, leaving him nonplused. Erica immediately proposed to go for a private conversation with the chaplain, leaving the husband with their daughter.

The chaplain reports that every visit with Erica began and ended with a hug, and it seems to have been a serious hug at least some of the time. One such incident is described as Erica holding her baby and sobbing, throwing herself into the chaplain's arms, while the chaplain embraced them both and stroked Erica's back as she prayed

In her summary, the chaplain assesses herself in relation to this patient as eager to get religion out of the way so that spiritual care could begin, and to move the conversation to a deeper level.

She feels she became Erica's "mentor and spiritual friend."

The chaplain also contends that she has been "a transitional object" for Erica, as described by the psychoanalytic authority, D.W. Winnicott. Very few readers will have any idea what a transitional object means, or whether it promotes understanding of the pastoral role here.

The Published Critique

The co-editor's (Nolan) assessment of the case is that Erica had "a keen Christian faith," that the chaplain "models good practice in multi-professional working," and that she models "an incarnational approach." The editor also notes that while self-disclosure can be a first step towards "violating the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship," the chaplain here "offers chaplains an example of good practice in this sensitive area."

The other two critical assessments are more substantive - and more accurate. The clinical chaplain critic (Bull) seems to be mostly undecided and feeling ambivalent about this case, but he does question the chaplain's identification of herself as a Winnicotian "transitional object." He also "felt ambiguous" about the religious focus that emerged in the case. Even more telling, he felt that the chaplain "may have had her own deconstructive agenda" in her claim that her goal was "to get religion out of the way" in favor of spirituality. He also "wonders," astutely, about the chaplain's compliance with Erica's request to leave her child and husband in the room (after shooting him!) while the two of them went off to talk.

The psychologist critic (Cotton) is somewhat more decisive and direct. He says the researcher in him wants to know what the definition of "spiritual care" is, and if the chaplain is off-loading religion in its favor. He certainly belled the cat on that one. I suggest he better not wait around for an answer.

Author's Critique

We have here a very complex and troublesome clinical case, followed by three critical responses. It should be said first that the chaplain deserves credit for courageously jumping in water over her head, publicly disclosing a number of poignant and serious issues, and making herself the object of public scrutiny. She certainly should get high marks for courage. Maybe we can all learn from her mistakes as well as her commitment.

I strongly second the psychologist critic (Cotton) who asks for a definition of spiritual care that is distinct from religious or pastoral care. As I have already suggested, I believe that will be hard to come by. No one should look for it anytime soon.

As to the other clinical responses, I concur with the chaplain critic (Bull), but with less ambivalence. Contrariwise, I take issue with the co-editor's (Nolan) assessment of Erica's "keen Christian faith," and that the chaplain is a model of an incarnational faith. For the latter point, I do not know what he is talking about. The chaplain is certainly in the flesh, probably too much so, if that is what is meant by an incarnational stance. As for Erica's faith, it seems to me a borderline or even psychotic construct. Persons today often refer to God speaking to them, typically meaning "metaphorically speaking." But Erica sounds as if she is not speaking in metaphors. She suggests that she may in fact be hearing voices, in which case she would seem to qualify as psychotic, or at least borderline.

Now there is nothing wrong with being psychotic, or borderline. Anton Boisen taught us that lesson well. But the question is how to work with a person in such straits. The best answer yet is that we should listen to them, and keep listening until we can make some sense out of their irrational thought processes. My problem with Erica's chaplain is that she does not seem to recognize that she may have an exceedingly troubled woman on her hands. And the chaplain does not do much listening. She lectures on the Bible, and engages in discussion of the meaning of the Trinity. She shares her own past history of substance abuse. She prays and prays ad nauseum. She hugs. But she does not really listen in depth. She does not seem to wonder what might underlie Erica's troubling personal disorganization.

For example, what might it mean that Erica shoots her husband with the toy gun in the presence of the chaplain, and then whisks the chaplain away from her husband for a private talk? Shouldn't it be useful for the chaplain and for Erica to meet and converse jointly with the husband? Is the chaplain no more than Erica's pawn in this family drama?

I am also concerned about the extraordinary amount of physical contact that takes place between the chaplain and Erica, an issue only lightly touched upon by one of the critics, the clinical chaplain (Bull). The boundary between the two seems much too permeable. Hugs at the beginning and end of each visit, along with intimate back-rubs during prayers while Erica sobs. A male chaplain acting in such a way would place himself in grave danger in the current environment of sexual hysteria. But political issue aside, most authorities in the field consider such physical intimacy to be inhibitory to a significant pastoral or counseling relationship. I doubt that the permeable physical boundaries between Erica and the chaplain are useful in furthering the therapeutic process.

I also wonder about the wisdom of the chaplain's self-disclosure of her own history of substance abuse. As with the issue of physical contact, this seems to be the consequence of boundaries that are too permeable.

However, in spite of all I have written, I am quite struck by the articulate if somewhat skewed closing words of the chaplain writing in her own self-defense for this case:

"So I believe that the most important part of the work I will ever do is inner work, plumbing my own fears and chaos so that I will not pull away from the fears and chaos of others."

Agreed. Well said. She is eminently correct, as far as she goes. And the chaplain in this case, indeed, did not pull away from Erica's chaos.

But it's like a reverse of the old parable of falling over backwards while trying to avoid falling on one's face. It could be said that the chaplain fell on her face, but did avoid falling over backwards.

The chaplain blessedly did not pull away from Erica's chaos, but she did get swallowed up in it, and thus lost her way and abandoned her role. The chaplain must revise her philosophy of pastoral care, and resolve neither to pull away nor to get swallowed up, but to remain close and intimate, while remaining distinct and separate, and watching with a third eye...and patiently listening until some sense of meaning in the craziness begins to emerge from the patient herself. It often takes a long time.

This case is an excellent teaching instrument from which we all can learn. I do hope the chaplain can endure the critique in the service of her own learning as well.

Raymond J. Lawrence
Editor's Note: NOTE: See Part I

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:47 AM

June 29, 2015

Professor Valerie Cooper Reflections on the Charleston Tragedy and the History of the Black Church


Dr. Valerie Cooper, Associate Professor of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School, in a recent interview on WUNC.ORG's NPR station provides a rich and thoughtful perspective on the Charleston, SC killings and the history of the black church.

Go To: WUNC's the State of Things with Frank Stasio, Host and listen to the interview.

Perry Miller, Editor


Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 4:08 PM

June 23, 2015

Candy and Pencils-- By Ron Evans


The purpose of my going to the Correctional Centre, aka jail, was to meet with two artists confined to the facility, individuals who I hoped might be able to do some sketching for a writing project I am working on.

Corrections? Or is it jail?

I am tempted to stick with the word jail in that it’s a much less cumbersome term and possibly the more descriptive of reality. Certainly there are forces in our government and society as a whole that are more interested in jailing a person, to hell with correcting anything. But I decided I would not give in to such an attitude and refer instead to this place of incarceration as “Corrections”. Better to pray for what has been lost than to forget it.

Right from the beginning I am reminded that I am entering a different world, one of restrictions, an environment I am not accustomed to. First, I was informed I had to “get clearance”, that is fill out a form, send it in and wait two days to hear if the powers that be deem I am a safe bet to visit the place. I was reminded of applying for visas when we went to the U.S. years back. Our son was then one year old, nevertheless we had to fill out a long questionnaire in which we assured the government he was not the owner of dangerous weapons and was not going to engage in criminal behavior. They let him in just as the authorities let me in yesterday, one old man looking for someone who can draw some sketches and who has paid all his traffic tickets. Can it be any other way? Probably not.

Upon arrival the mere look of the facility gives pause for thought. Call the place by whatever name you like, you can’t really disguise twenty-foot walls, adorned as they are with rolls of razor wire, concertina wire by name. Interesting word, concertina. Originally it referred to a hand held accordion, one of those happy little instruments that stretches and closes squeezing out a tune, light, gay sounds you can dance to. But here at “Corrections” the concertinas remain motionless and mute, their razor edges glinting in the sun.

I enter through a set of doors, heavy brutes comprised of half inch glass and steel that crunch close with a finality that sounds more like jail than corrections. Once inside I encounter, behind a screen, an attractive young officer, as neat and trim in her police black uniform as the tiles and glass that surround her. She instructs me to sign in which I do, fits me out with a tag and I am ready to go.

A second officer appears and introduces herself, the same person I have been emailing with over the previous week. B.. is tall, plain featured, no make-up, a woman pushing 50, a little wary as she measures me up. She watches as I lock away my wallet and keys then leads me through another set of heavy sliding doors that close behind us, locking us in to a 6’ by 10’ glass walled chamber. A moment later and doors open on the opposite side and we step out into a space all its own.

I have been in the hallways of other institutions. Schools, for instance, where there is a plant or two, a picture of the Queen on the wall together with posters proclaiming the value of tolerance and equality and getting an education, passageways that ring with the shouts of children and bear that distinctive smell that arises from the intermingling of chalk dust and the odor given off by fifty sets of sweaty little sneakers.

Hospital hallways are different. There is a distinctive smell as well, one of chemicals, body odors, and urine combined with a dash of air freshener to create an aroma like none other, one you will detect hours later in your clothes and hair. The space seems narrowed, confined, cluttered with carts and all manner of equipment together with staff - cleaning ladies, technicians, nurses on the move, and clumps of white coats in conversation -all vying for the same little bit of space. Wend your way through it all and you can find a patient.

The hallways at “Corrections” are different yet again, passageways 12 feet high, hard rectangular tunnels of painted cement, tiles and heavy glass. Wherever you go you are visible. No pictures, no posters, no clutter. No smell. There are people, to be sure, two distinct groupings, those in neat trimmed black, men and women, and all the others, men only, dressed in some variation on sneakers, jeans and T-shirts.

We arrive at our destination, a classroom as barren as the hallway, the sole nod in the direction of human habitation are two arborite covered tables and some chairs in disarray. Actually we are fortunate to have even this little bit of space. When I arrive the following week I am told that due to overcrowding this room too has been taken over by bunks, as has the chapel. We must meet in B..’s office, a ten by eight cubicle crowded with two desks, a chair or two and “stuff”, as much a storage area as an office.

Presently two young men arrive, one aboriginal, one not. The introductions go easily; they greet me with firm handshakes and smiles. I suppose I have been expecting a reticence on their part, an awkwardness in our meeting but this clearly has been my problem, not theirs. It remains with me to tell them why I have come, that I am looking for an artist to do some sketching. I am pleasantly surprised at the questions they have and the interest they show.

“Why did you choose us, why did you come here?”

It is the aboriginal man who speaks, a man of maybe 30, wispy mustache, and friendly demeanor. He is wearing a covering over his hair, made necessary because he is working in the kitchen from which he has time off to meet with me. Later he will say he is interested in writing, that he would like to try his hand at it.

“I came here,” I reply, “because I have seen art work done by people like yourselves, by individuals who have experienced difficulty. I think good art comes out of adversity and you know about that.”

The conversation rolls on. We talk about what I want in my sketches. Less is more. Stripped down images, not too much detail. Suggestive. I read them a little of what I have written and they respond easily. We talk about how I might pay for what I receive. One of them offers to let me take one of his sketches –a beautifully drawn violin and bow, detailed, perfectly proportioned -to see if it can be reduced in size on a copy machine.

We arrange to meet in a week’s time and review what they have drawn. If I can use their work we will proceed with the details of a contract and payment. B.. will arrange for our meeting. Although I suspect what the answer will be I ask her if I can bring some cookies or muffins for our meeting next week? Sorry, nothing of that sort allowed.

And a sinking feeling comes in the pit of my stomach. Later in the quiet of my home, at my leisure, where there is carpet on the floor, the doors close quietly and I can have a muffin with my tea, I take the time to reflect on my time spent in “Corrections”.

What an awful thing to lock a man up, take away his freedom and put him in a cell behind bars where the sights and sounds and smells of every day are swept up, denied, and in their absence imposed a terrible kind of neat and tidy order, a sterility that reduces everything to no, denying the very essentials that make us human. Of what value is this?

I know why Corrections locks people up, says no to cookies and muffins and most everything else that humans enjoy, but surely to God if you can build a place with concertina wire on the walls and every security feature in the book you can figure out a way to spot a bit of pot in a cookie or a razor blade in a muffin. Corrections? Jail?

In discussion alone with B.. she talked freely of the adverse conditions that prevail in the facility, the overcrowding, a lack of programming, the hierarchy among the prisoners, the harassment many of them endure, the abuse staff themselves absorb. And she confirms what I have thought, “Nothing”, she says, “gets corrected here.” Later one of my artists echoes her words when he says, “It’s jail all the way.”

Under these conditions what can become of my two artists. What will happen to them? I have no idea. I imagine good things for them but then there’s reality. Their chances of success are probably on a par with the outcome of my writing project. Conformation of my fears comes a week later when I return to find one of the men has been sentenced to 28 months in the penitentiary.

And yet… .

Even as I reflect on the dark side of “Corrections”, see the futility of what is being done, “that nothing gets corrected here”, I realize I am looking forward to going back to meet again with my artists and with B.. . Maybe I am looking for a fix, a happy ending for my sermon. Or maybe it’s something quite different, something humans do. We tell stories searching for an ending, an ending we can live with.

Whatever the case two moments, two scraps interrupt my narrative.

At the conclusion of one of our visist sI had begun making preparations to leave and the men to return to their work. We discuss what kind of art supplies they will need. Some sketch pencils and paper. I am prepared to go and buy what is needed but B.., who seems to have warmed to the project, says she has a few supplies and will make them available. We stop by her office where I think I detect pleasure as she hands out what she has. As for the artists they are pleased, take the supplies eagerly, examine them, all smiles. And I am hauled up short, touched to the point of tears: gratitude over three sheets of paper and a box of pencils. And then there’s the candy.

On a desk in the clutter of B..’s office sits a bowl of hardrock candy wrapped in cellophane, sour cubes, the kind that once in your mouth refuse to break but take a half hour to slowly reduce to slivers and then dissolve. B.. has bought them at Dollarama and leaves them here for all who stop by.

I help myself and even take three for my pocket. Then in occurs to me these bits of candy are breaking all the rules. God knows what could lie hidden in those colored chunks of sugar. More to the point, I am embarrassed. For most of the people who sit in this chair one piece of candy will be a week’s rations. More than that it will be a place to rest awhile and talk, time to enjoy the care of a mother who knows what a man requires. I put the three back and suck more thoughtfully on the sliver that remains.

Ron Evans is a CPSP Diplomate living in Saskatchewan, Canada is a a published author. He has frequently presented his poetry and prose at meetings of the CPSP Plenary as well as contributed articles for publication in the Pastoral Report.

The following are two of his recent book publications:

Coming Home: Saskatchewan Remembered

The Sourdough Bagel: Confessions of a Loner Who Likes Company

Below are several of his articles published on the PR:

Five Books At One End of a Shelf

A Word From the Lord

To contact Ron Evans, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:06 PM

June 20, 2015

Columbia, SC CPSP Chapter Responds to Charleston Tragedy-- By Hayden Howell


Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC

Editor's Note: Below is a Pastoral Letter to the Columbia, SC and the CPSP community from Hayden Howell, CPE Supervisor.

Dear Columbia Chapter, CPSP (other colleagues, and former members of the Chapter)

It is with heavy hearts we must address one another as well as offer our “presence” to those close to the ones who died in Charleston last night while praying at the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church. The African-American community is hurting and grieving this horrible loss. Our Columbia Chapter of CPSP joins heart and soul with our brothers and sisters in the common frailty of our humanity.

We are especially mindful of the impact this has made on those African-Americans who are (or who have been) members of our chapter. The following persons may especially be touched by this tragedy because of their heritage as African-Americans and/or their connection with the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Rosalyn Coleman, CPE Supervisor; former Chapter Convener; and, A Presiding Elder in the AME Church

James Abrams, CPE Supervisor and former Convener

Deberry Cook, Hospital Chaplain; Aspiring Clinical Certification

Jacquelyn Hurston, AME Pastor; Supervisor in Training; Specialist in Grief Counseling

Melvin Coleman, (Husband of Rosalyn; AME Pastor; Provided food; set-up space for Chapter meetings)

Charmaine Ragin, CPE Supervisor; Chaplain; and AME Pastor (moved to another CPSP Chapter)

Robert Freeman, (AME Pastor; Chaplain; Left us to become a CPE Supervisor for the ACPE, Inc.)

As that ole Democrat LBJ used to say: “Let us come together.” And then let us comfort our people.

On behalf of Gene Rollins, who called me to say we needed to say something and in the awareness of our connection to the wider community of CPSP, I am copying this to Raymond Lawrence, Perry Miller, John Robbins and Charles Kirby. The latter two are colleagues in the Asheville/Stoney Mtn Chapter.

Grace and Peace to all,

Hayden Howell
CPE Supervisor, (Retired Emeritus)

Hayden Howell, CPE Supervisor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:31 AM

June 19, 2015

Raymond Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary, Response to Charleston, SC Tragedy


The ghastly event at Mother Emanuel AME Church Thursday in Charleston, South Carolina, was an unspeakable act of violence seemingly motivated explicitly by racial hatred.

We must do all we can to counter these kinds of outrageous assaults, and to be united with those who are victimized by them.

This incident calls attention to the disturbing rise of both overt and covert hostility in this country, particularly directed against racial minorities and the poor.

We in CPSP must do all we can to be in solidarity with the abused, the assaulted, and the oppressed. This is our moral and our prophetic pastoral responsibility.

I call for all in CPSP as well as those beyond the boundaries of our community, to renew our commitment to work toward a just and loving community for all people, with special concern for racial minorities and the poor among us.

Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary
College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy

Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary
College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 1:04 PM

June 17, 2015

The Current Crisis in Healthcare Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care--By Raymond J. Lawrence


Almost a century ago Anton Boisen changed the face of pastoral work. He taught religious professionals to be healers. Listening to persons suffering mentally or physically was his central theme. To get their stories. To make connections where connections were apparent. To support self-awareness and self-discovery. "It's not what the minister says to the boy (sic) but what the boy says to the minister," he proclaimed. By the time he died his followers were legion. And they, as he, had learned much from the psychoanalytic movement. The role of the minister was transformed in Boisen's own lifetime. He was a religious giant of the twentieth century. Because of him many teachers, preachers, and evangelists morphed by the middle of the century into competent psychoanalytically informed counselors and therapists.

This year a little book containing nine clinical pastoral cases appeared under the title Spiritual Care in Practice: Case Studies in Healthcare Chaplaincy, edited by George Fitchett and Steve Nolan. If this book, and others like it, carry the day we will write fini on Boisen's clinical pastoral movement and all that it represented. Boisen and his inheritance will have been trumped by a new form of evangelism. And then it will be only a matter of what the minister says to the boy. Religious proselytizing and browbeating will have replaced pastoral care and counseling. It's not a pretty picture.

This reversal of the Boisen tradition is well documented in Chapter 1, containing the first of nine revelatory clinical cases presented in this book. It documents with specificity the new order of chaplaincy, or spiritual care, as it is unhappily being called of late.

The patient is a 12-year-old girl stricken with a daunting disease, cystic fibrosis. Her options are limited. Her life likely will be short and confined, under conditions of rather extreme isolation from peers and loved ones. Her family's home is a long distance away, and she is alone most of the day. She has had more than one hundred surgeries in her short life. The chaplain generously notes at least ten substantive visits with her over the course of a year, visits that included burdensome infection-control measures such as gowns, face masks, and gloves. In short, the patient presents a heart-rending case that is almost unbearable to read.

The chaplain in question, who claims to have been trained in the Boisen tradition, turns the Boisen model on its head. Instead of seeking to hear the voice of the young girl in a desperate plight, he moves to instruct her in the practices of Christian piety. He is hell-bent on persuading her to pray. He's as heavy-handed as an evangelist at a tent revival calling for a belief in Jesus.

To give him due credit, the chaplain who has known the patient over a five-year period, generously spends significant time sitting with the young patient playing board games and drawing. These activities might have led to some opening in the patient whereby she might have been empowered to share some of her painful experience, which to any observer would appear unspeakably grim. But the chaplain can't wait for the patient to start feeling free to talk. He wants her to pray and to talk to God, and without delay. In nine of the ten noted visits the chaplain lobbies for the girl to talk with God and to pray.

In the fifth of the recorded visits the chaplain believes he has hit pay dirt when the patient tells him she believes that God is helping her by telling the doctors what to do. It would seem that the girl is grasping for straws, hoping to get the Chaplain off her back. She now has some God-talk to give back to the eager chaplain.

Hoping for a 12-year-old to open up enough to talk candidly with an adult, even after a 5-year relationship, may be more than can be wished for, so the chaplain's failure to hear the authentic voice of the patient may have been predestined. However, the chaplain's perpetual beating of the drum for prayer and God surely voided any hope of the patient's sharing anything significant about her own grim experience. She undoubtedly feels harassed by a propagandist.

The nadir of the chaplain's inappropriateness came on a visit to the outpatient clinic where he found mother and daughter together for the first time. He asked the girl "how she and God were doing." Such a question to a preadolescent could be considered crazy-making, as well as inappropriately evangelistic. Human beings who are sane will never know how they are doing with God - if indeed there is a God.

In his many visits it would have been sufficient for the chaplain to have asked simply, "What's it like for you here in isolation?" or "What's it like for you being so far from home in a strange place?" or "What's it like for you to have to protect yourself with all this gear and equipment?" or "How much do you miss your family?" She may or may not have ever been able to respond freely and talk about herself in that way with an adult stranger in the form of a chaplain. But we can be sure she would have understood the questions. However the question, "How are you doing with God?" is not a question she would have any way to answer. Even the chaplain, if he were honest, would be flummoxed by such a question put to him.

I suggest here that the failure of this chaplain to ask questions that might have evoked the girl's pain and sorrow and despair can be explained by the chaplain's avoidance of pain in his own life. That would mean, in Boisen's terms, that his own counter transference inhibited his ability to touch the girl's pain. He preferred to take the role of religious functionary, defending himself against the profound pain he likely would feel in identifying with her should she disclose herself to him. Boisen's clinical training movement was designed to engage pastors with their own unconscious and transferential material, which in turn sensitizes them and makes them aware enough to hear the pain of others. This chaplain would likely benefit from further clinical training, where with a competent supervisor he might understand what is buried in him that leads him to look away from the terrible pain of this 12-year-old.

As we in CPSP struggle to promote the inheritance of Boisen's teaching, we will have to do battle with the surging influence of such propaganda as this case and this book presents. It will not be easy. The purveyors of this new direction in chaplaincy - this new spirituality - are formidable, supported by millions of dollars in foundation monies. The future of a credible, therapeutic pastoral role is at stake. If we do not succeed in countering this alliance of superficial religiosity and money, the Boisen tradition of the psychologically competent pastoral clinician will vanish from our culture, and religious leadership will fall entirely in the hands of those with a competency level of used car salesmen and traveling evangelists.

For reviews of the other eight cases in the book, please contact Raymond Lawrence by email:

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:48 AM