Boundaries & Ethics
Back in an earlier incarnation of Cherry Hill Seminary, the late Judy Harrow and I were recruited to a new course offering called “Boundaries & Ethics in Pagan Pastoral Counseling” – yes, I dislike using the word ‘pastoral’ in a Pagan context because it’s a specifically Christian term relating to sheep and shepherds (“shepherds of men”; however, Judy convinced me that it was the term used for what she did as a member of professional counseling organizations). Now Judy actually was a pastoral counselor by training, I, on the other hand, have never been one, nor do I have such aspirations. This course is appropriate for anyone, Pagan or not, pastoral counselor or not.
I think this may have been CHS’s first online class, taught by the inestimable Cat Chapin-Bishop, Chair of the then-Pastoral Counseling Department. This was during her previous career in counseling. Our class had its own Yahoogroup for discussion, plus our weekly live online meeting held in a Yahoogroups chat. This was prior to Moodle teaching programs. As you can imagine, the chats were clunky and unreliable, with people getting bumped off and having to re-enter.
In any case, I found it to be really useful, addressing a topic that one doesn’t learn in the typical process of a Pagan training. We discussed such issues as:
« How much counsel coven or group leaders can reasonably provide (i.e., has adequate professional training);
« Avoiding burnout;
« Evaluating the counselee’s situation to determine if you (leader, HPs, whatever) can help or if and when to refer someone to professional therapists;
« Researching local therapists, and even interviewing them, to see if they’d be sensitive to Pagan spiritualities (i.e., would they think it strange that anyone would consult the Tarot for guidance or do they think it’s is the work of the devil);
« Researching and reviewing the ethics statements of various helping professions (i.e., American Counseling Association and the like);
« Ultimately, writing our own personal statement of ethics, which may or may not be like others’ statements of ethics.
This last had the most value to me. These things are not usually taught as part of Pagan religious training. And it’s not essential for you to articulate a formal statement of ethics if you’re not the person whom troubled members consult. However, it is important to review one’s own ethical principles once in a while.
In fact, one significant product engendered by that course is “Spiritual Counseling and Wiccan Clergy: not psychotherapy in disguise,” which remains available to the public among the archival treasures on the Proteus Coven website, founded by Judy Harrow and colleagues and thankfully still available to anyone online.
Cat’s solicitation to take this course recruited both Judy and me in the development of Cherry Hill [Pagan] Seminary. Sadly, Judy is gone now, but I’m still kickin’. Drop by to see how you can help and to see what’s being offered.