Enhancing Integration of Psychological and Theological Reflection on Caregiving Practice: Implications for CPE Curricula
A curriculum design problem exists within our current Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, which has a significant implication for student learning. The design problem involves the lack of a clear method for integrating psychological and theological reflection in the practice of ministry. As a result, students lack the ability to apply both psychological and theological perspectives to their ministry practice. The primary goal of this project is to learn to what degree the application of Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger's method for theological reflection in pastoral counseling will effectively enhance the ability of CPE students at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to reflect theologically on the practice of ministry. This goal will be accomplished by presenting opportunities for pastoral reflection through the use of case studies and the clinical verbatim process. Assessment is comprised of the CPE student's own feedback, along with peer review, and the supervisor's written assessment of the clinical verbatim, which is presented by the student in a small group setting.
Hunsinger's method incorporates the use of the Chalcedonian pattern, the three features of which can be summarized as the "indissoluble differentiation," the "inseparable unity," and the "indestructible order" of two particular terms, in this case psychology and theology. "Indissoluble differentiation" means that they maintain distinct difference without confusion or change. "Inseparable unity" means that they coincide in an occurrence without separation or division. "Indestructible order" means that in and with their differentiated unity, the two are asymmetrically related, with the one term, in this case theology having precedence over the other. The two terms theology and psychology are thus differentiated, unified, and ordered in a particular way.
The results of this project demonstrated a significant improvement in the students' ability to clearly identify psychological and theological themes present in the client narratives. The students also reported through pre- and post- project self-assessments an increase in their understanding of the goal of practical integration, "bilingual fluency" demonstrated through the effective use of both psychological and theological perspectives in the context of caregiving. The conclusion is that the application of Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger's method for theological reflection enhances the CPE students' ability to effectively apply psychological and theological perspectives in the context of caregiving.