In the last journal entry we offered a paper by Carrie Doehring, discussing the necessity for body- centered spiritual practices when searching for wholeness amidst traumatic grief. Now, for this journal entry—a podcast—she is joined in conversation by Alan Johnson, Bill Forbes, Pedro Silva, Don Blomberg and Chuck Knapp. Together they discuss the topic of moral injury and moral stress, and how people search for meaning amidst suffering.
It was interesting to learn at the recent INMI Conference that the term moral stress was originally coined by nurses. It was not uncommon for them to experience concern that they may have, at times, caused harm or compromised care in regard to their patients. In Carrie’s presentation at the Conference, she said that “people with strong core values of responsibility and concern for others are more susceptible to moral stress.” So, not unlike nurses, it is fair to say that we as mental health clinicians will feel distress at times that we may cause harm to those we are wanting to care for and support.
While listening to the podcast, this is what my mind continued to come back to. I found myself thinking of times with clients where I lacked patience or skillful means, and how that felt to me. Feelings of guilt or shame for what I did or didn’t say or do can be, as Carrie would suggest, “life-giving if people don’t isolate themselves and are able to reach out to others in order to share responsibility and realistically assess harm.” How fortunate we are at Windhorse to cultivate and encourage relationships of mutual recovery where this can happen.
Not unlike working with traumatic grief, body-centered spiritual practices can be very helpful too, in bringing understanding and compassion to ourselves as clinicians and as a community when we make mistakes in our work with each other – staff and clients. So, in the spirit of working together, forgiveness, learning and growing, I would like to present the next addition to our journal.
I hope you enjoy!
Carrie Doehring PhD: Joined the Iliff faculty in 2003, having taught for eleven years in the masters and doctoral programs at Boston University’s School of Theology, and in the Boston University Counseling Psychology and Religion Ph.D. Program in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She is a licensed psychologist in Massachusetts and Colorado, and a diplomat in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. At Iliff, she advanced to full professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling in 2015. She directs the Masters of Arts in Pastoral and Spiritual Care (MAPSC) and the Military Ministry Course Provider program.
Carrie Doehring was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1978, and became a minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA, in 1991. She has worked in congregational ministry for nine years, full time in Ontario, Canada, and seven years part-time in Boston, Massachusetts.
Chuck Knapp, M.A., L.P.C: A student of Chogyam Trungpa and graduate of Naropa University, worked closely for many years with Dr. Ed Podvoll, originator of the Windhorse Approach. Chuck was a founding member and later director of Friendship House, which was a publically funded residential treatment home for people with extreme mental states. In 1990 he co-founded Windhorse Community Services in Boulder, Colorado, where he served as a Co-Director until 2019, and currently works as a senior clinician. Through his published writings, presentations at conferences, and as co-founder and coordinator of the Windhorse Journal in 2018, Chuck continues to share his interest in exploring mindfulness-based therapeutic environments for both individual and social wellbeing.
Reverend Alan Johnson: The Rev. Alan Johnson is a graduate of Yale University Divinity School. He was pastor for 14 years in churches in Connecticut and New York City and he has been on the national staff of the United Church of Christ for 16 years. He has been chaplain at University Hospital, Denver, Children’s Hospital, Denver, and HospiceCare, Boulder. Alan’s book “Encounters at the Counter: What Congregations can learn about Hospitality from Business” was published by Pilgrim Press. He is chair of the Accessible to All/Mental Health Ministry of the First Congregational Church, Boulder, is a cofounder of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness and serves as Chair of the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network.
Pedro S. Silva II: Before answering the call to ministry, Pedro served eight years in the U. S. Air Force as a satellite-communications technician and intelligence analyst. In his post-military years, he worked in both for- and non-profit organizations. Here he discovered a passion for helping people respond to life’s challenges. Compelled to cultivate this passion, he enrolled at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts in 2009 and in 2013 earned his Master’s in Divinity. After serving four years as student minister in Massachusetts, he came to Colorado. He is ordained through the United Church of Christ.
Bill Forbes: Bill Forbes has been a practicing psychologist in private practice in Boulder, Co. since graduating with his Ph.D. in 1978. He is especially interested in the interface between psychology and spirituality.
I appreciated the conversation between the speakers, as I think it brought in a lot of different perspectives that often fit together and sometimes didn’t. This podcast brought up a lot more questions than it answered. Moral injury seems like a very ambiguous concept with a lot of different interpretations that range from deep seated biases and prejudice to everyday disagreements and challenges of life. I would’ve like to hear more about how this concept fits into everyday life. I appreciated the stories and the speaker’s personal perspectives, but I was struggling to figure out where the concept fits for me and how I can apply it in a way that either makes me a more effective clinician or challenges me to grow in my own personal development.