Challenges, Status Quo, and Generativity

Last month I wrote to you about how we need each other.

"We" --> professionals who practice theologically-informed spiritually-integrated psychotherapy and care.

"Need each other" --> because we work mostly alone, trying to effect changes that often happen so incrementally we may not even notice them ourselves, often within systems that ask us to quantify, mechanize, and protocol-ize a process that happens best in relationship and as Mystery.

We need each other. This community matters. It helps us stay alive and wise for the people who need us. And it can help other professionals, who are not yet among us, be alive and wise, too.

This month I want to name for you the challenges we face in being such a community -- as clearly as I see them and as simply as I can state them. I'll also tell you what the Coordinating Council and I believe it will take to meet them.

From 10,000 feet, we have one major challenge: how to attract new members.

Every year for the last 20, we have lost more members than we've added. We don't have to be rocket scientists to know where the current trajectory is taking us.

Closer to the ground, this major challenge becomes several related ones.

How do we offer the wisdom of our community in a form that serves the needs of a new generation of therapists? We used to offer education and formation in three-to-four-year training programs - across the country, hundreds of them. Like many of you, I came to AAPC through one of these programs. My peers and I were mostly pastors who wanted to become therapists, and licensure was not on our radars (and, unfortunately, not on the radars of the programs in which we trained). With a few exceptions, the remaining training programs are not serving pastors who want to become therapists. Today, these programs are focused on licensed or licensure-track therapists who want to learn how to integrate spirituality into their work. It is possible that newer professionals no longer need the professional development and education we have historically offered. It is more likely, I believe, that they will still need it. But we need to learn how to present it in a way that works for them. How do we lower the cost of being a member and deliver enough value to justify the cost? We pay more to be a member of this community than the market believes it's worth. It's that simple.

One of our issues is that, for years, a large percentage of our membership dues went to the association to provide a membership data system, financial management, and strategic leadership. We need to work with the association to reduce the cost of this "overhead," so we can bring our dues to a price-point that is more manageable for our own budgets and those of potential new members.

How do we make our community more hospitable to those who would find life here? For lots of us, this community has all the trappings of home: faces that look like ours, language that resonates, and rituals that are familiar. But what does a young person see? Or a person of color? What does a professional whose first language is not theology hear? Or whose identity is not that of pastor? If we want to be generative and share what's here (rather than take it with us to the grave) what will hospitality look like?

The good news is we are already at work, well underway, in meeting these challenges.

  • Our Curriculum and Certification Work Group is developing curriculum and a repackaged professional development path to meet the needs of a new generation of therapists.

  • Our Continuing Education Work Group is offering two online opportunities in February alone: a theological case consultation group, led by Robert Cooke, and a webinar featuring Richard Rohr conversing with Bill Harkins about how Rohr's teachings are applicable to pastoral psychotherapy.

  • Our Coordinating Council has voted to introduce a membership management system that will help our region lower overhead and, eventually, the cost of membership. In time, we might be able to share this system with other regions.

  • Our Coordinating Council is also developing ideas for how we become more hospitable to professionals who are not our identical clones but who might find life and support in the fellowship and practices of our gatherings. We hope to bring these ideas to you in the coming weeks.

I am grateful to be part of this season of transformation in our community. Thank you for sharing your time and gifts through our work groups. We are stepping outside the status quo, with faith and hope that we are passing along the gifts given us to a next generation. Please continue to pray for the collective wisdom, humility and courage we need to be generative.


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We are a welcoming community of therapists and other professionals grounded in diverse spiritual traditions and communities of faith. Informed by research and science, we offer education, connection, and support for those engaged in vocations of compassion, transformation, and healing.

We invite all healing practitioners – pastoral counselors, psychotherapists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, ministers, coaches, physicians, nurses, public health workers, students in training in these professions, and others – to join us in this good work. ​ ~Adopted 2016

© 2016 by AAPC SE REGION