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Relational Ministry

Integrating Ministry and Psychotherapy

Catherine Gibson

Historically, the relationship between religion and psychotherapy has been more negative than positive. Are there inherent contradictions between the two, or can advances in the area of mental health care offer insights that are useful for the work of those in ordained ministry? This book presents an analysis of the relationship between ordained ministry on the one hand and counselling and psychotherapeutic practice on the other. It draws on extensive interviews carried out with current and former clergy in three churches (the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) in order to clarify why some have stayed in ministry and combined it with psychotherapy, while others have left and continue their practice as psychotherapists. The book explores possible links between the sense of ministry in these two important areas of human experience – religion and psychotherapy – and goes on to investigate how combining these might lead to a different form of ministry.
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CHAPTER 12 - New Possibilities: Relational Ministry


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New Possibilities: Relational Ministry

This research has been concerned with the relationship between ordained ministry and counselling/psychotherapy, and as the analysis progressed it has become clear that those participants who left ordained ministry did not do so because of difficulties integrating counselling/psychotherapy with ministry, but because of difficulties with ecclesiastical institutional structures. Historically, clerical and lay relationships have tended to follow particular patterns that evolved from the understandings people had about the meaning of ordination and the clerical ministry that followed it (cf. Chapters 3 and 4; Code, Appendix A; The Covenant, Appendix B). These patterns included practices that over time built up and maintained clerical identity and were enshrined in institutional structures which set the parameters of clerical life, such as regulations in the Presbyterian Code, in the Anglican Covenant, and in canon law.

As noted in Chapter 5, the core concept that emerged from the data in this research showed that the various areas of difficulty participants experienced in the course of carrying out their work in their churches centred on the issue of relevance, a concern which was rooted in the nature of the relationship between clerical and lay church members. For the participants this relationship fostered a style of ministry which they saw as irrelevant and therefore problematic and unhelpful.

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