Is CPE broken? Reconsidering the “CPE horror story”

anyone having flashbacks to their CPE supervisor’s office?

If you Google “CPE” chances are pretty good that it will start autofilling “horror stories” in the search box. It seems like there are much more stories about bad experiences in CPE than good. Perhaps this is just bias toward the negative, but it certainly does seem to be that CPE is not a good experience for many.

If you follow that search you’ll see why. I read stories about supervisors that destroyed boundaries and exercises designed to tear people down in front of their peers. One person even wrote that “Clinical Pastoral Education is nothing more than a systematic ‘weeding out’ of orthodox seminarians through a process of enforced radical leftist indoctrination.” It’s criticized as being unnecessary, unhelpful, “navel-gazing”, pseudo-psychoanalysis. So why is it still required for those entering ministry? Is there something wrong with the program? Are supervisors adequately trained and supervised themselves? Or are seminarians missing the point of CPE entirely? Continue reading

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Awareness, Part II

I wrote already of awareness in terms of being aware of problems and issues in one’s life.  However this time I’m thinking of awareness in terms of simply being aware of one’s self in the world.  Yoda’s basic criticism of Luke came to mind:

“All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was! What he was doing!”

I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s journals and one thing I find is that every day is not filled with some kind of inspirational masterpiece or heavy thought on life or whatever.  Often it’s simply what’s going on:

“The sun, the clear morning, the quiet…” June 3&4, 1963

“Brilliance of Venus hanging as it were on one of the dim horns of Scorpio.  Frozen snow.  Deep wide blue-brown tracks of the tractor that came to get my gas tank the other day…” Jan 5, 1968

When I started CPE I saw awareness as being aware of what was going on with me at that time.  And that’s fine, but I’m seeing more that awareness involves not a narrow focus on me, but on me in the world.  I’m getting used to not putting on the iPod when I go out for walks.

I’m even a bit self conscious as I write this, knowing that this sounds a bit like navel-gazing or flaky or something.  But I’m appreciating the experience.