“Clinical Pastoral Training provides formative experience through learning pastoral practice in a clinical setting under supervision.” (Standards, §200).
The first benefit of Clinical Pastoral Training (CPT) is to the person in training by growth in self-awareness, emerging from psychodynamically informed reflection on one’s encounters in the clinical setting, in the training group among one’s peers, and in one-on-one supervision.
The process by which CPT is conducted within CPSP builds on a fundamental insights about the individual – particularly one who has had some experience of disappointment or failure in life – and their relationship with a group.
Anton Boisen noted that a person finds that “the relationship to the group becomes all important, and that [one] judges [one]self by ethical standards which are determined by the group with which [one] seeks identification and whose approval [one] needs” (Boisen, 1936, The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience, p.172).”
At some level – although Boisen lacked the language to describe this more precisely – the CPT process offers the opportunity for the healing of object relations. Further, the strength of the resulting attachment to the group reflects the scarcity of opportunities in adulthood for the social construction of loyalties that support one’s efforts to maintain or regain self-respect.
While not intended as therapy, the CPT experience frequently has a therapeutic effect on the person in training and their relationships, particularly in the early stages of training.
A second benefit is an enhanced understanding of the unconscious defenses that a group uses to deal with anxiety and conflict that distract the group from its conscious tasks. These are referred to as the “basic assumptions” (dependency, fight or flight, pairing, and the phantasy of unity). Becoming conscious of the inner life of groups enhances a person’s ability to contribute to the success of the group in training, in the work environment, and also in personal life.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the patients or clients and institutions served by the pastoral clinician in training benefit from their acquired ability to engage with people — by listening deeply and making connections — in a spirit of cooperative inquiry that is person-centered, intersubjective, and inductive.
Clinicians trained and fully formed in this tradition are adept in engaging with each patient or client as a whole person — a bio-psycho-social and spiritual unity — and in discerning how the person finds meaning and purpose — their “working theology” — as it is shaped and expressed in the experience of life.