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Re: Anyone upset about unprofessionally run groups and circles
Posted by: violet55 ()
Date: August 09, 2011 11:33PM

Hi Corboy,

Exactly. The short-term nature of CPE allows the problems to continue...people move on, new unsuspecting students arrive. Graduates lose interest, and potential reformers may also be daunted by the sheer size and scope of the CPE system and how widely it's accepted.

I also agree with you that the pain on the wards themselves is something that CPE graduates may, perhaps unconsciously, seek distance from. People in CPE justify the program's intensity by saying "it'll be exactly like this in your congregation"; but in fact, on any given Sunday, most people are walking around freely, mostly well, mostly content, mostly alive. There's pain, certainly, but it's of a different order. CPE plunks you down in the middle of intense pain, intensifies your own pain, and then spits you out with a certificate...but without support systems for returning to the way life was before.

I wonder whether student ministers, as a demographic, are more likely to "forgive" CPE and therefore not work towards reform? Is it seen as somehow "un-pastoral" to call this system into question? Or, do those who continue to feel troubled by it--like you and me--tend to hide that fact, to show that we can "handle it"...that we have the right stuff for professional ministry? This makes sense to me. It also makes sense that when we turn to our ministers/mentors for assistance or advice, they may be unlikely to encourage us in reform efforts...partly because they have, perhaps, compromised their own principles but partly, too, because they're looking out for us, not wanting us to negatively affect our careers.

How would you go about reform? Where would you start? Join the organizations and work from within (ethical guidelines, structural approaches...) or build networks of graduates to create an advocacy organization? Make a documentary film or write an article (for whom)?

Wishing you peace, healing and blessings.

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Re: Anyone upset about unprofessionally run groups and circles
Posted by: PUD1234 ()
Date: July 19, 2018 12:04PM

I see that these posts were posted 7 years ago now but the situations of abuse are still happening in CPE. I am in CPE, serious abuse is occurring and it is a very bad situation. Any advice? What can be done about this systemic problem of abuse by supervisors? Thanks.

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Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) abuses and systemic sin
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 19, 2018 09:47PM


CPE supervisor
interpersonal relations IPR
student loans
ordination track

I am very sorry to hear this and not at all surprised.

Persons established in ministry would be a good group among whom to
create a CPE Survivors movement.

If some way could be found to educate students about CPE hazards and give them survival tips prior to doing CPE, that would be great.

Creating an anonymous portal such as CPE Truth would be fantastic.
Abuse stories, a message board would be great.

Get legal advice before launching this but it would be a great prophetic
and healing ministry all rolled into one. .


If you are in an abusive CPE program and cannot leave due to the pressure of
completing ordination on schedule, here is a set of survival tips:

* Avoid social isolation. Find people outside your program to whom you can
confide, vent.

For the sake of your sanity, you may need to arrange temporary survival sessions with an understanding counselor. If that person can be available by phone or text, this can be a sanity saver. (I can only wish smartphones were available to me and my CPE sufferer friends twenty years ago)

If you qualify for Alanon or Codependangs Anonymous or another 12 Step program, going to meetings may help. However - choose your confidantes carefully.

Avoid getting into relationships or making important decisions while enduring CPE. In that kind of anguish, your mind is in survival mode. Keep important decisions on hold as much as you can until later.

Your fellow students in CPE may or may not be safe confidantes. You are all under pressure. Some may side with the supervisor. Some of your fellow students may be more wounding than the supervisor.

* You have the right to your inner privacy. The spouse of a CPE abuse survivor
told me that one way her husband coped was by not making himself vulnerable
when writing verbatims or during IPR (interpersonal relations).

In short, do not cast pearls before swine. A friend of Janis Joplin said that
her tragedy was that she skinned herself alive each and every time she performed on stage. As he put it, that was not sustainable. He wished Janis had been like
the great jazz and blues musicians -- hold some of your power back. Budget your energy.

Only allow God into your Holy of Holies. The CPE supervisor is not God.

IMO CPE programs based in hospitals and prisons (as many programs are), is not
optimal training for pastoral counseling. In total institutions such as hospitals and prisons, boundaries take physical forms, the lack of privacy imposed by the semi public nature of hospital rooms and limitation on movement imposed by illness or incarceration.

By contrast, in parish work, an effective pastoral counselor or therapist
meets with people who are ambulatory, and in the privacy of an office. In such circumstances, the counselor must have internalized boundary awareness and boundary ethics - and be able to apply this to each session. Despite the
eloquence of CPE supervisors touting their programs, hospital based CPE is not necessarily transferable to parish and congregational settings.

Another concern is that CPE trainees may be forced to submit to a supervisor's favorite methods or fads.

A CPE trainee may have grave reservations about the enneagram but what if a CPE supervisor is enthralled with the enneagram and insists on judging trainees based on it? A trainee who protests risks flunking the program and being thwarted in his or her ordination.

What if a supervisor is an avid proponent of Landmark Education and a CPE trainee wants nothing to do with Landmark?

Or the supervisor has a different theological/political stance than the trainees?

And, sad to report, some CPE supervisors are just bullies, period.

IMO, the worst feature of CPE is that unlike psychotherapy, one is, in effect under duress as most persons do CPE as a requirement for ordination. One is at the mercy of intrusive supervisors and troubled fellow students and cannot protest or leave, for fear of being delayed or worse, failing ordination.

What adds to the pressure are the financial burdens - so many seminary students
are burdened by student loans and must find pulpit employment as soon as possible so as to repay the loans. Anything that hampers finishing ordination requirements (including CPE) means a delay in graduation, obtaining employment and paying back the loans.

In addition, there is anxiety at home from worried family.

In dead seriousness, the best remedy for the systemic abuse in CPE
would be that CPE no longer be the only counseling training option required for ordination.

Instead, CPE should be just one of a variety of training options available to persons on the ordination track.

That way, people on the ordination track would have a variety of counseling training options to choose from. If CPE were no longer the only option, the abusive CPE supervisors would find themselves with fewer trainees.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/19/2018 10:00PM by corboy.

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Re: Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) abuses and systemic sin
Posted by: PUD1234 ()
Date: July 23, 2018 07:21PM

Hi Corboy, thanks so much for your feedback. I agree with you that there needs to be another training method besides CPE for ministers. I wish that already existed. Additionally, the system is rigged. It is clear that even the entire system itself is rigged in favor of the supervisor and supports the abuse that occurs. Even the method of reporting inappropriate behavior is rigged in favor of the supervisor.

Also, I believe that ministry students are less likely to report abusive and inappropriate behavior that occurs in CPE for a lot of different reasons. I have encountered way to many people who are afraid to report a supervisor for fear of some type of retaliation (e.g. being black balled, etc.)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/23/2018 07:25PM by PUD1234.

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Re: Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) abuses and systemic sin
Posted by: PUD1234 ()
Date: September 30, 2018 02:16PM


I posted a while back in July about a CPE abuse situation that was happening to me. Well it is about to be October and I am still having to deal with some things concerning it. I actually reported the abusive situation to my school and it turns out that mulitple other students reported similar situations concerning the same supervisor. It turns out that there is an issue of discrimination occurring (I and the other students have almost the exact same demographics) and that is why the abuse was happening. Additionally, if a person does not agree with the way the supervisor believes and thinks it is also a problem for that student as well.

Long story short, after I finished CPE, the school began investigating the issue. The problem is that the school did this before I ever recieved an evaluation (I did not know this until I got my evaluation). The evaluation (written by my supervisor) has lies about my interactions with my supervisor and the supervisor makes it sound like he did nothing wrong at all and that I was never abused or mistreated. Additionally, my supervisor lied about my interactions with my classmates as well. My supervisor mentions my reporting to the school and that’s how I found out that my school had already started investigating.

I really have no idea what to do in this instance because the evaluation is written to be a cover up of what really happened. I know my supervisor is angry because I told on him and he found out and that is why he wrote what he did. I know this evaluation goes in my permanent file... Is there some way I can protest what was written? Are there any options for what I can do?


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