Reflections and Review of Book by Robert Charles Powell

The book Clinical Pastoral Training, Education, and Transformation: The First 50 years (1925-75) of Learning through Supervised Encounter with Living Human Documents by Robert Charles Powell covers the same topic, generally, with Recovery of Soul – A History and Memoir of the Clinical Pastoral Movement by Raymond J. Lawrence, but expresses it in a wholly different manner. In part, this is a contrast of relationship to the object studied. When this book was written, Powell was working on his course of study– The Medical Historian Training Program– at Duke University. His training is as a medical doctor with specialization in psychiatry, with training as a medical historian. That makes his perspective “etic”— that is, an outsider viewpoint. Raymond Lawrence, however, is a theologian/minister with decades of involvement with Clinical Pastoral Education/Training. His perspective is “emic”— an insider viewpoint.

This difference reveals itself in style. Powell’s work is focused on organizational movements and the evolution of ideas. Lawrence work is move focused on personalities and personal conflicts. Powell’s work shows the passion of a historian that (at least) feels more objective than Lawrence’s work that shows the passion of a CPE supervisor that feels more subjective… even gossipy.

Which is better? I believe that both have their roles. The four “panes” of the Johari Window speaks of people having four categories of self— known self (that which is known by the person, as well as others regarding the person), hidden self (that which a person has self-knowledge that others are unaware), “the blind spot” (that which others can clearly seen about one, but that person lacks self-awareness), and the unknown self (that which is unknown to the person as well as to others). This applies not only in psychology, but in sub-cultures as well. The Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) movement is just such a sub-culture. Growth comes in reducing the hidden self by (insider) self-revelation, and reducing the blind spot through (outsider) observation and sharing.

Powell’s book is a series of essays, the first and largest of which is one produced for the 1975 recognition of the 50 year of clinical pastoral education, by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). Although Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is viewed as beginning in 1925, Powell describes roots that go back before this and then follows three major streams (The Council for Clinical Training, The Institute of Pastoral Care, and The Graduate School of Applied Religion) toward the first National Conference of Clinical Pastoral Training in 1944, and finally to the 1967 formation of ACPE. Although this essay is nearing 50 years old, it is updated with numerous endnotes that address the time after its original publishing, as well as corrections and updates to the original essay. Although this essay was produced for ACPE, its present version is printed by CPSP, a rival of ACPE in terms of accreditation and certification.

After this first essay are five shorter essays. Three of the five are focused on the history of CPE. The first is of Ethel Phelps Stokes Hoyt, who had an important role in CPE and in the conversation between medicine and religion in the early decades of the 20th century. The second and third essays are written introductions for two Dunbar Award winners— Rodney J. Hunter and Edward E. Thornton. As they were Dunbar Award winners, these introductions provided information about these two men, but also the namesake of the award, Helen Flanders Dunbar. She shares a pivotal role, along with Anton Boisen and Richard Cabot in the formation and growth of the clinical pastoral movement.

The final two essays seem somewhat out of place in this work. It is about the author’s own experiences with Hindu chaplaincy. In more recent years it could be said that Robert Charles Powell has moved from being an outsider to the clinical pastoral movement, to being either an insider or an observer-participant. However, as one who is not a member of the Hindu faith, his look at pastoral and palliative care (and what is referred to as “devotion care”) in a few different Hindu pastoral care settings, has him again writing as an outsider. As stated before, these two essays seem out of place in a book that is primarily interested in the history of Clinical Pastoral Movement. However, Powell addresses this. He wanted to look forward in the movement, not just backward. In other words, he wanted to not only explore the history of the movement but also look at what the movement can become— very different from its original roots and setting, yet sharing its DNA.

The book is very much recommended for chaplains, pastoral counselors, and trainees in CPE. Time should be invested in not only the texts of the essays, but also in the considerable endnotes. The book supports the interpretation suggested in the title of clinical pastoral work in three aspects— training, education, and transformation.

Reviewed by Robert H. Munson, Administrator of Bukal Life Care


One thought on “Reflections and Review of Book by Robert Charles Powell

  1. Pingback: Book Review on the History of the Clinical Pastoral Movement | Bukal Life Care

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