The Role of Clinical Chaplaincy
From time to time, great articles are written that need world-wide distribution. This article by George Hankins Hull is one of those articles. It stands juxtaposed with my article titled, “Seriously, you want Chaplains to do what?”
Thank you, George Hankins Hull for a definitive statement on the work of the clinical chaplain. May we all embrace these truths.
November 12, 2013
ELEMENTS OF CLINICAL PASTORAL ASSESSMENT: The Role of the Clinical Chaplain By George Hankins Hull
Clinical Chaplaincy is relational, neutral and non-judgmental. It is a patient centered approach in keeping with the person centered model as advocated by Carl Rogers, integrating the arts and sciences relative to psychodynamic theory in pastoral practice.
Around any illness is a collection of stories. The chaplain endeavors to be present to the patient as a fellow human being, as the patient’s stories unfold; bearing witness to the patient’s dilemma- not judging the patient for what they say or how they choose to express themselves. This narrative approach places the chaplain in the unique role as the interpreter of metaphors, assisting the patient in making the connections to their story.
At times these stories are confessional in nature, as a patient, through narrative seeks to reconcile themselves with the life that they have lived. At other times, the stories they relate represent more a review of their life inextricably interwoven with finishing the business of living.
Consequently, clinical chaplaincy is a patient centered narrative approach. Integral to that, is the patient’s family. Working with the stories that patients and families share, the clinical chaplain can begin to assess how the family approaches illness, and in particular, this hospitalization.
The Clinical Chaplain also assesses how the patient utilizes their religious experience or their philosophy of life as a means of support as they seek to come to terms with their diagnosis and its attendant ambiguities of living each day.
Extensive clinical training and a proactive integration of the social sciences, especially in the fields of counseling and psychotherapy is essential to the work of the Clinical Chaplain.
George Hankins Hull, Dip.Th, Th.M.
Director of pastoral care and clinical pastoral education at UAMS Medical Center. He is a Diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy and a board-certified clinical chaplain.