Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Outstanding Clinicians … 3 Outstanding ways of saying the same thing

Carl Rogers, Kathleen Rusnak, and Douglas Smith… only one of those names may be familiar to you. Yet, for the hospice Chaplain, I urge that Rusnak and Smith be much more a household name. What is that these three say that is similar and foundational for pastoral care relationships? Rogers identifies 3 essential attitudes in providing client centered therapeutic relationships: 1.Unconditional positive regard; 2.Empathic understanding; and, 3.Congruence. Rusnak identifies 7 attributes of the pastoral care relationship: 1. Why a Brick Wall?; 2. Loss of Future; 3. Grieving; 4. Life Review and Change; 5. Vulnerable; 6. Authentic; 7. Paranormal/Symbolic. And, Smith adds 1. Eliminating relationships of dominance, and humility training. So, who are these people and what are they trying to bring to the Chaplain and pastoral care? Carl Rogers, the creator of client-centered therapy and counseling, student-centered education, and person-centered approaches to human relations and community building, is arguably the most influential American psychologist of the 20th century. While some may dispute this, pointing to the domination within academic psychology of the behaviorism of B.F. Skinner, if the view is widened beyond the academy to include the entire sphere of influence, the fact is indisputable that Rogers' profoundly humanizing psychology of human potential has been embraced by not only American culture but by much of the developed world. Those spheres include education, organizational consulting, health care, psychotherapy and counseling, community action and social agency, adult development, communications training, parenting education, and pastoral care. (By Maureen O’Hara, Kathleen Rusnak is an ordained Lutheran pastor with a doctorate in Psychology and Religion. She has been the pastor of three Lutheran congregations, a hospice chaplain in two hospices, the director of spiritual care and bereavement at The Connecticut Hospice (the first hospice in the United States), and lived and worked in Israel for over two years as the director and study coordinator of the theological department at a post-Holocaust Christian European kibbutz in the Galilee, which focused on repentance and renewal towards the Jewish people. She is an internationally known speaker and writer on the topic of end-of-life issues. Her Brick Wall2 is an outstandingly clear presentation on the experiences of persons who have just received the notification that they have 6 months to live. Douglas Smith is a professional speaker, trainer, consultant and counselor. He has worked in hospitals, hospices, and social service agencies. He is the author of several books, including The Tao Of Dying, Caregiving: Hospice-Proven Techniques For Healing Body And Soul, Being A Wounded Healer, and The Complete Book Of Counseling The Dying And The Grieving. His manner of speaking is far different than Dr. Rusnak and his approach to writing is different than that of Dr. Rogers. However, his message is very clear as are the messages of Dr. Rusnak and Carl Rogers. Each of these educators is passionate about treating the client as someone who matters and communicating that fact. They urge us as therapists, pastoral counselors, and chaplains to accept people where they are, be gentle with those at end-of-life and explore with them such things as meaning-making, emotional/existential pain, and communicate in a manner that does not set up a relationship of dominance. I ask you as a reader, have you been to Dr. Rusnak’s website or Douglas Smith site? I am sure you have read Rogerian theory. So, I extend an invitation to you to expand you knowledge to include and I am grateful for all three of these educators in pastoral care. May you be blessed as well.

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