May 28 – Migrating from ‘Chaplaincy’ to ‘Spiritual Care’

Spent the latter part of last week completing a 10 – 15 page ‘report’ on my experience in Chaplaincy Training at the UHN and with CAPPE. Entitled “Migrating from ‘Chaplaincy’ to ‘Spiritual Care’ at the UHN: Confusion and Discrimination in UHN ‘Chaplaincy Services'” it outlines my own experience in the training, and observes a number of entrenched discriminatory practises.
I have only been working in the UHN for nine months (a potential career arrested by the need for an MA in Theology) but it seems self-evident that the UHN needs to seriously attend to the patients, families and staff on the Wards, not based on a tradition of Chaplaincy, or on a set of educational standards provided by CAPPE, but on their actual needs as expressed by their spiritual and emotional systems of comprehension. There is no question in my mind that Spiritual Care is both needed and greatly appreciated, but Chaplaincy at the UHN, as it stands, is debilitated by intransigent antiquated religious notions which have no place in a contemporary Canadian urban hospital.

Skills in trauma counseling, in grief counseling, and in psychotherapy, all of which would be exceptionally useful for a Spiritual Care Practitioner, do not require a specific faith background. Openness to Spirituality, in all its diversity, necessity and deep healing capacity, is indeed a requisite. But training in any one specific Religion does not guarantee the Spiritual openness to meet every new patient where they are at; it can, indeed, stand in the way of it.

Would it not make sense to assemble a divers team of Staff, Patients, Practitioners of the Therapeutic Health Sciences, as well as Chaplains, and local ‘Spiritual Innovators’, inviting them to redefine what ‘Spiritual Care Practise’ is, as delineated from ‘Religious Care’, and understanding that the ‘Secular’ Sciences (trauma + grief counseling, psychotherapy) may have much to offer.

Perhaps a new kind of ‘Spiritual Care Practitioner’ can emerge: one clearly delineated from ‘Religious Care’; one with deep respect for and understanding of the multitude of religious traditions and how religion, or any symbolic language, may evoke and contribute to health; but also one with clear and practical training in trauma and grief counseling, as well as individual and group therapeutic counseling.”

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