Painful Observations... and hope...
by Bill Scar, Editor
I can mostly do what I want in my semi-retirement, which means a small clinical caseload, editing the CPSP Pastoral Report, getting engaged (!), and building a stable here on my little ranch for my beloved wife-to-be. And two rescue horses, Safire and Ponce—he actually likes me.
The credentials that are dear to me are being a Diplomate Pastoral Psychotherapist in the CPSP, an Approved Supervisor in the AAMFT, and a Certified Pastoral Psychotherapist in the ACPE, which arose out of my years with the AAPC. These have been fundamental to the career I built as a clinician and agency director. But things do change for all of us serving in institutions, agencies, and the military, etc. Some of our chaplains are challenged facing the structural and political changes that are modifying and even redefining their roles.
The truth is that there really is no current embodiment of the old AAPC, nor are there counseling centers functioning like the old Samaritan Counseling Centers or AAPC Service Centers. The “old” should now be considered extinct when it comes to how they were structured, functioned, and were supported. In my small current practice, I mimic the past by turning no one away, I accept whatever people can afford to pay, and I do not accept insurance. I strive to serve effectively today by remaining as informed as possible, having several colleagues who share accountability, and faithfully embodying the person and role of the Pastoral Psychotherapist. Could I support a family doing this full-time? Barely, maybe.
The bodies that certify professional chaplains are also in flux. As mentioned, the ACPE is trying to train and certify counselors, especially non-ordained persons who are already state licensed, and they call them “spiritually integrated psychotherapists”. Yes, SIPs, and I have been certified by the ACPE as an authored SIP Trainer. I have been dissatisfied with both their nomenclature and with their inadequate approach to the “formation” of these clinicians.
In addition, on December 9th, the Board of Directors of the APC voted to indefinitely suspend all negotiations with the ACPE regarding their proposed merger. The APC wrote to its members that their board did not see it to be in their best interest at any level to continue discussions! In its published announcement, the ACPE is naturally soft-pedaling the implications of this surprise development. After our experience of the birthing of the CPSP, we are left to wonder what issues are foremost in the minds of the leadership of our cognate groups. I believe that the CPSP must focus more than ever on our OWN vision for serving the growth of our members and supporting the ministries to which they are called.
My mind indeed wonders what the future is for what all of us are most trained and motivated (and feel “called”) to do. I look around, and I don’t see that available clinical care generally benefits people in our communities! There is a seeming surfeit of counselor types, all advertising their wares, and yet the quality of community mental health is diminishing and not improving. Divisions among us seem easier for the morally unhinged to foster, and there is a willingness amongst our neighbors to believe more and more lies. Truth itself needs redemption.
Perhaps God’s plan really is for a macro solution that is not yet visible to us since the present efforts of so many people are not making much difference in meaningful and measurable ways. Perhaps such a macro solution will be revealed soon, and I pray it does not pass me by. Yet, in the Christian tradition, John the Baptist told the seekers in the crowds to just plug away, honorably doing whatever their jobs might be—that is what the redeemed and faithful are called to do while we wait for the end times. It is not up to US to save the world.
Hopefully, that is good news for us, and all of our faith traditions have celebrations that nourish hope at this time of the year. We are to turn to our faiths for the strength to persevere, the thanks for all we have been given, and the humility to look beyond ourselves to the needs of others. The rest is always in God’s hands…
Bill Scar, Editor