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The College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy Task Force Report


Delivered at the 2009 CPSP Plenary By Luise Weinrich

The late writer David Foster Wallace, a man of great soul who I believe would have loved a community like CPSP, told this story at Kenyon College's commencement: in 2005:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says "What is water?" (David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College commencement address, 2005).

For over a year now, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy's Task Force for the Future has been at work, talking with our members about your vision for CPSP. We've been seeking your views about where we are, and where we're headed in the future, finding out what the water is like our community.

Our work is ongoing. We've conducted dozens of interviews so far. These interviews are in-depth conversations. Most have been conducted by telephone and have lasted from 30-60 minutes, yielding on average 2-3 pages of notes per call.

Because CPSP is an international community, our task force has also made use of Internet technology to speak with people across the country and in other parts of the world. We have intentionally spoken with members of our community whose voices are not usually heard at our formal gatherings in hopes of gaining a broader view of our community in all its diversity. We have spoken with new members and members who have been a part of CPSP from its inception, and many in-between.

From those conversations, the following five themes have emerged:

1. Our members deeply value local chapters. Almost to a person, CPSP members report that the work they do and the depth of community they share in their local chapters lie at the heart of the CPSP experience for them. Members indicate that the challenge, support and peer supervision they receive in local chapters is life-giving, and positively impacts the quality of their clinical work and ministry.

They also state that chapter life has enriched their lives in significant and positive ways. Members describe life in chapters as a rare, precious gift. One person noted that no other professional organization – of doctors, lawyers, care givers etc. – has anything approaching the depth of communal and professional support we have in our CPSP chapters.

Chapter life is not perfect. Some members expressed concern that other chapters are not functioning in an ideal manner. Our observation from speaking with individual members of chapters is that the overall level of health in chapters is quite high. Members frequently state that it is this rare quality of human community, shaped by the values of CPSP's covenant, that draws them to CPSP and sustains them in their work and in their life together.

Several chapter members have spoken of how valuable it has been for them to receive outside consultation about their chapter's process, while other chapters seem less clear about this requirement. Our task force believes that the policy for chapters to be in ongoing consultation with an outside consultant is a good one that promotes health and vitality in chapters.

We recommend that this practice continue to be encouraged. We also recommend that we continue to make the strength and vitality of local chapters the central focus of CPSP.

2. Our members value CPSP's commitment to traveling light. Overwhelmingly, CPSP members have voiced their appreciation for our decentralized organizational structure and our commitment to keeping administrative operations, costs and bureaucracy to a minimum. Members also appreciate that the leadership in our organization is informal, flexible, and personal.

Members have noted that our streamlined, grass-roots way of organizing ourselves allows us to move quickly into a variety of settings and to provide vital services in communities and to people who would otherwise not have access to high-quality clinical care.

Members appreciate that when they see a need, they are able to establish training programs, clinical services and ministries in a wide variety of contexts without the excessive bureaucracy, "red tape" and high administrative costs that might otherwise render these services cost-prohibitive.

There is also appreciation that our work is carried out not by a paid staff in a centralized office but rather is accomplished by individuals who see a need and voluntarily give of their time, energy and resources to meet the need.

A number of voices, old and new, have cautioned that, while structure seems to promise security or stability, the creation of unnecessary structure would in fact weigh us down, take the focus away from our mission, and decrease our ability to respond to and serve people in need.

We as a task force echo what we have heard from the community on this matter. We urge CPSP not to let conscious or unconscious anxiety about our growth lead us to create unnecessary structures that would hinder rather than support our carrying out the creative work of ministry that gives us our vitality and, after all, is the reason for our existence.

3. Our members appreciate the current leadership and have some anxiety about future leadership. While a couple of members called for a change in leadership, there is widespread satisfaction with and appreciation of the present leadership. Some members expressed anxiety about what will happen when the "old guard" passes away or its influence wanes. Some excitement has been expressed about new leadership emerging. Some have observed that there has been a "changing of the guard" in recent years as new leadership has increasingly stepped forward.

Our task force believes that there is strong leadership in our community. We note that the covenant states that we value personal authority and creativity. We trust that, with such a covenant to one another, CPSP will manage well leadership transitions that occur in the future.
Luise Weincrich

CPSP a professional community committed to accountability in which every member has a voice.

To read the rest of the CPSP Task Force Report and to learn more about the CPSP Community vist the Pastoral Report the online Journal of CPSP

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