She needed to turn aside and name what was unexamined and unfinished in her own life story as she continued in ministry to this woman. Were she simply to react to her as she had to her mother, she would have seen clearly neither her own story nor that of the patient, who was different from her mother in important ways. These parallels can be named and examined or referred for therapeutic work. Particular themes of grief or abandonment or abuse may provoke anxiety in the minister who has these themes as parts of his or her own history. Supervision helps the minister to learn to walk between the perils of overidentification and detached aloofness. Ministry in depth will always raise themes for the sensitive and reflective minister that are in need of attention in his or her own story. Recognizing these themes and remaining responsible in pastoral relationship are the goals of supervision that looks at life stories of parishioner and pastor.
(From Steere’s The Supervision of Pastoral Care, pg. 122)
My clinical supervisor asked me a question a couple weeks ago after I opened our supervisory meeting with an agenda to discuss our relationship and our training work together. As we talked, he arrived at an illuminating-for-me question: how are you changing?
Photo Thanks to Annie Spratt
Here are some of the pieces of my answer as I consider my supervisory and clinical training:
- I’m seeing my relationship with those I observe develop as a relationship in itself. I watch what’s happening in students’ experience, and that observation is a relationship itself.
- I’m noticing how it feels to observe myself. In CPE words, I’m observing myself as an observer.
- I’m developing another identity. I’m many things, one of which is a supervisor of pastors, and that identity is in particular development these days.
- I’m using clinical materials differently. I’m developing the ability to read a person from her/his “application materials,” the renderings she/he offers in a moment.
- I’m seeing myself. As I keep going, I’m growing to see the many parts of me and to value those parts, to evaluate those parts, and to elevate those parts of me.
I hope you are in relationship to people you trust who can ask you, in their own words, how are you changing because the question itself is a gift.