A Critical Response to
"Tolerance and Encouragement Within A Covenant of Mutual Accountability"
by Robert Charles Powell, MD, PHD
by Natoya Hylton
Robert Charles Powell’s article on Tolerance and Encouragement Within a Covenant of Mutual Accountability is as relevant today as it was first published in 2011. The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) was founded over three decades ago with the aim of reforming the Clinical Pastoral Movement. Since its inception in 1990, it has succeeded in achieving many of its goals largely because of its focus on restoring the critical tradition of the founder of the Clinical Pastoral Movement, Anton T. Boisen. Keen examination or analysis of clinical pastoral work reveals our strengths and areas for development. Through criticism, we gain a deeper understanding and greater control over what we do and how we function in our various roles. Therefore, we should indeed aspire to nurture a capacity for the self-critical in our midst. I concur with Raymond Lawrence that criticism is the lifeblood of the clinical pastoral training movement. 1
Evolution is inevitable. It is not a question of whether or not change will occur but rather what form it will take; reform within a decentralized governing structure or a move towards centralized leadership? The essence of our CPSP covenant community is its commitment to ongoing collegial support and accountability. We are responsible to one another for our professional work and direction. However, what happens when a member or Chapter falls short of our College’s ideals under our current decentralized governing system? How do we identify and address these challenges? Should we rush to remedy the situation by excommunicating the member or closing the Chapter? When the fifteen founding members of CPSP penned the words ‘we believe life is best lived by grace’ and ‘we believe that persons are always more important than institutions’ fresh in their minds were cases of colleagues such as George Buck, who had his license rescinded by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) while he was in treatment for alcohol addiction. Given proper intervention and support, those who fail can be restored as George was by CPSP. We need to reconsider and clearly outline the role of the Chapter versus our College when corrective action is required; at what point does the College step in to guide a Chapter? It is easy to be critical of another, but it is difficult to be our critic. However, we must never turn a blind eye to the personal failing of an individual member or the failings of a Chapter. We should care enough to confront and be intentional in examining that which lies within our individual and collective unconscious. People, in general, conceal failures or shortcomings due to fear of negative consequences. Members will be encouraged to self-disclose if there is a ‘no blame culture’ wherein conflicts, challenges, and failures are viewed as opportunities for restoration, growth, and development.
Glenn H. Asquith posits that when Boisen started clinical training at Worcester State Hospital in 1925, he did not design the program to introduce a new form of theological education. He was also looking for colleagues in research.2 Boisen’s clinical inquiry and case study method promoted evidence-based practice and improved health care for individuals with mental and emotional disorders. I believe a self-critical stance and research engenders creativity, collaboration, and innovation, which is needed today if CPSP does not wish to go the way of the dodo bird.
1. Raymond Lawrence. Nine More Clinical Cases: Case Studies in Clinical Pastoral Care, Counseling and Psychotherapy. (New York: CPSP Press, 2020), 9.
2. Asquith, Glenn H. “The Case Study Method of Anton T. Boisen.” Journal of Pastoral Care v34 n2 (June 1980), 84.
Asquith, Glenn H. "The Case Study Method of Anton T. Boisen". Journal of Pastoral Care v34 n2 (June 1980): 84-94.
CPSP Covenant – CPSP Website
Lawrence, Raymond. Nine More Clinical Cases: Case Studies in Clinical Pastoral Care, Counseling and Psychotherapy. New York: CPSP Press, 2020.
Lawrence, Raymond J. Recovery of Soul: A History and Memoir of the Clinical Pastoral Movement. New York: CPSP Press, 2017.
Natoya Hylton, Clinical Chaplain/Pastoral Counselor, is a member of the Toronto, Ontario, Canada Chapter of CPSP and a current student in The Graduate Institute of CPSP, Class of 2022.
She can be reached at [email protected].