One of the confusing things about Clinical Pastoral Education – the main way of educating chaplains and others who provide spiritual care to the ill and dying – is that we don't call the educators in this field teachers or professors. We call them supervisors.This is because of the educational model we use, one borrowed from medical education where the main part of the learning happens on the job under the supervision of a kind of highly trained professional mentor (see this recent New York Times article, which suggests more use of supervision in training schoolteachers). I am one such professional mentor – supervisor – but I am not yet fully certified (a process that typically takes around five years start-to-finish). But on Thursday I came one giant step closer when I appeared before a committee of senior supervisors in Atlanta and was granted status as an Associate Supervisor.
I am grateful to so many people for helping me on the way, but mostly to Minna for both moral and practical support, especially when I was putting together my written materials for this appearance, and also to my supervisor – a true mentor of mentors – Gregory Stoddard.
At this time the Jewish supervisors who passed this way before me also come to mind. They are a small, but, thankfully, rapidly growing group, each one of them a pioneer. I am glad to join their ranks, not just as supervisors in the chaplaincy field, but as people who have a special voice – a special Torah – to contribute to the education of rabbis and other spiritual caregivers in the Jewish world. With our long tradition of bikkur holim (visiting of the sick) and of aveilut (the caring for mourners), we Jews have a lot of wisdom to offer the rest of the world when it comes to caring for people whose spirits are wounded.
But rest of the world has things to teach us as well. The world of Clinical Pastoral Education has a lot to teach us about the importance of paying attention to the emotions and reactions of the caregiver his or her self when they come into contact with the suffering. And that attention to emotions can also teach us much about how to forge emotional connections between our people and ourpeople's holy texts and holy values.