What Does it Mean to “Trust the Process”?

In any kind of Clinical Pastoral Education experience, you will probably hear this phrase at least once: “trust the process”. I know I heard it several times in my own CPE classes, and it was never spelled out what it meant to “trust the process”.

That is part of trusting the process.

Many seminarians enter CPE because they have to, because they want to enhance their pastoral care toolbox, or enhance their resume. I’m not going to pan these reasons at all. They are all good reasons to take a CPE unit. However this is only part of what CPE does. The tools and materials used in CPE to help develop interpersonal caregiving skills – books, group work, role-play, writing essays and reports, films – are also designed to work intrapersonally as well. When entering in to the work at first, the focus is outward. We come to learn to help others, to manage others’ crises better, and see how caregiving fits in to our theological and scriptural paradigms. Continue reading

Verbatim: Being good to the person in the mirror

At my recent CPSP meeting I presented this verbatim and got some new insights from the group. I’m going to shorten it a bit just to make it easier to read.

This happened quite some time ago and when my colleagues asked why I brought it up I responded that it deals with things that I still deal with today: self-care, tiredness, and burnout.

The patient in this visit, Mrs. S, is 67 years old and has been on hospice now for a few months. She has a history of alcoholism and is on hospice for chronic pain and malnutrition. She is extremely thin and emaciated even though she eats fairly well. She smokes regularly 3-4 times a day. She is a widow and has children but they are not involved with her and she does not want them contacted. Mrs. S is Roman Catholic but has not attended church in some time. She maintains her own prayer practices and she says that she finds these comforting. She almost always presents herself as happy and content unless she is in pain, and even then she tends to minimize her pain. Her pain is regularly 8 out of 10. She is very friendly but not always open regarding her own feelings, family and past. She tends to use humor to divert attention and make light of her situation. She is frequently in bed as this is most comfortable for her. Continue reading

Chaplain certification: APC vs CPSP vs … both?

I wrote previously about how I had decided to choose certification through CPSP rather than APC/BCCI and gave a run down of the positives and negatives of both sides. However it occurred to me that I was looking at this decision as an either/or, where in actuality I think I can look at it as a both/and.

Both bodies, while they are typically seen as competing, actually complement each other very well. APC though it is more highly recognized lacks the strong local network of CPSP. Therefore it makes sense to join CPSP while at the same time pursuing APC accreditation.

Yes it is more work and more expense, however I think it will be worth it. Plus CPSP requires members to be productive so I’m still going to be writing verbatims, which can be applied toward my APC membership materials.

Sounds like a win-win to me!

I have my first CPSP meeting tomorrow and plan on posting a new verbatim up soon. Thanks everyone for reading!

***update!***

After talking with folks on the CPSP side it seems that getting accreditation through both programs would be difficult given that ACPE and CPSP don’t seem to get along. From my vantage point it’s not as much an issue on the CPSP side, but rather from ACPE. So that puts a damper on things.

Plus after spending my money and time for CPSP certification, I’m not that eager to jump through ACPE’s hoops!

Clinical Pastoral Education isn’t just for Chaplains

Back in seminary I had the opportunity to do CPE at a local hospital in New Haven. It was a great facility and a prime opportunity – the slots fill up fast. But I didn’t take it because I planned on doing more traditional church ministry, not chaplaincy. While some of my classmates jumped at the opportunity to get CPE, others, like myself, said “why bother if I’m not going to need it?” Looking back I can see that I missed out on a great opportunity.

So do you need Clinical Pastoral Education if you’re planning on traditional ministry? Is it really only for hospital chaplains or navel gazers? Absolutely not.  Continue reading

Chaplain certification: APC vs CPSP vs … nothing?

***update: if you like this then read this article as well: APC vs CPSP vs … both?***

***update #2: here’s my thoughts on the benefits of certification after I completed my own: Why Certification Makes a Difference for Chaplains***

***update #3: why the formation of the Spiritual Care Association (SCA) is a good thing***

This is probably one of the most polarizing topics concerning professional chaplaincy – at least from what I’ve heard – but it’s a good one to consider if you’re considering a career as a Chaplain. I’m going to give  a quick run-down of the options, the benefits and drawbacks of each, and let you know what I’m doing. Bear in mind that these opinions are just based on my own limited experience and aren’t intended to be an exhaustive, investigative comparison. I couldn’t recommend any stronger that you need to do your own homework and research. Read on and I’ll give my impressions on the two major certifying bodies as well as the “what, me certified?” route.

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What counseling others reveals about yourself

One of the things I learned through reflecting on and getting feedback to pastoral encounters through verbatims is that many times I am counseling myself without knowing it. It’s only in reflection, sometimes long after the fact, that you start to hear yourself talk to yourself. I decided not to go the whole CPE verbatim route, buyt I like this format for reading.

For an example I included part of a dialogue I had with one of my regular patients, an older woman on hospice. She typically has a lot of pain but rarely tells anyone about it. She puts on a pleasant front but typically doesn’t let much out. I decided one day to press her a bit.

C8: So how’s you’re back been? Better or worse or about the same.
P8: No, about the same.
C9: About the same? Just not a good day today.
P9: eh..
C10: eh…
P10: (pause) I’m not complaining too much. Stick around though.
C11: You’re not too much of a complainer though.
P11: Seems like I’m always complaining.
C12: Really? I’ve never seen you as much of a complainer.

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Choosing a career in Chaplaincy: 8 steps to take

On one hand, planning for a career as a Chaplain is easy – get board certified and get a job. Well it is that easy, sort of (if you consider about two extra years of career training easy), but getting to the place of “I want to be a Chaplain” is much harder.

Personally, I did not plan on becoming a Chaplain. I had a background in undergraduate and graduate level psychology from a religious college, had interned and worked in heath care settings after that, and while in seminary developed a passion for pastoral care. However Chaplaincy was never in the picture. Now I see that my path led me right to this career. Continue reading

Sample CPE Verbatim: Allowing for authenticity

The following is an excerpt from a Level II verbatim I did several years ago to give you an example of how I wrote toward the Level II standards.

This case ended up being one of my most difficult, in that the patient was a child and I was good friends with his mother. His death was hard on all of us. As I have children this child’s age, it cut very close for me. Perhaps a bit too close. This visit is a follow-up regarding her son’s death. I think you’ll see several themes at work:

  1. who is caring for whom?
  2. recognizing defensiveness
  3. allowing space for authenticity and giving permission to be authentic
  4. theodicy – how does God work things out for the good when a child dies?
  5. self care

While I see these themes at work, I don’t think I touched on all of them in the conversation.

Feel free to comment!

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Chaplain certification and other nightmares

Before I completed my last unit of CPE several years ago I was encouraged to go for my certification through the APC. It’s the “gold standard”, the “union card”, the key to get you in the door of any Chaplain job in the country.

Only I didn’t go for it.

I have plenty of excuses now looking back. I already had a job that didn’t require certification and they didn’t really care if I was. I was the Director of Spiritual Services already and none of the chaplains I supervised had their certification either, so I didn’t feel that pressure. As Director, I was also really really busy and didn’t feel like investing any more time then toward putting all the papers together and so on. I also felt really secure in my position and didn’t feel like certification would really help me where I was. Plus, I also got the feeling that although my job had supported me through part of my CPE, they were done with giving me time and financial support to pursue certification.

Then I got let go. Continue reading

Handling authority and conflict: another CPE verbatim

In the beginning…

First I want to thank those of you who read my posts. I have two blogs that I write on, and while this is the one which I update the least (until recently) it is definitely the more popular one. That said I am going to look in to ways to make posts easier to find and rework the design a bit in the process.

That said, I wanted to post another CPE verbatim as an example. This is one that I wrote in my 3rd unit at the Pittsburgh VA which I took at level II.  I chose this particular one because I think some might find it helpful to see how to write toward the competencies (I used footnotes) and also because of the context. Most chaplain interactions are seen within the chaplain-patient context, but this one happened within a supervisor-supervisee context. So I also wanted to include this an example of how you can use the CPE environment to look at many different areas. It also included several people, so it was pretty complicated. Feel free to comment.

I don’t deal well with conflict and my main question going in was “did I handle myself appropriately?” If you’re interested in familial roles, handling personal and professional authority, trust and handling conflict you’ll find this interesting. Oh – and I later on ended up firing this person (ok, if you ask her she resigned before I could fire her but that was only because she hadn’t made it back in to the office that day). Intrigued? Read on-

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