Contemplative-Based Spiritual Care
What is a Chaplain?
A Chaplain is a Spiritual Care professional who:
- has a specific spiritual/humanist orientation, training, and practice
- offers a broad spectrum of emotional support and spiritual solace/ritual
- attends to patients/residents, family members, and other professional caregivers
- works primarily in secular settings that are prone to trauma, life crisis, and existential human suffering such as a hospitals, prisons, the military, government, law enforcement, airports.
While most chaplains have a religious orientation, some chaplains are “spiritual but not religious,” and are secular or humanist. All are trained to offer emotional support, attuned compassionate care and solace, to individuals, their families, and employees, as well as interfaith prayer and ritual when that is sought. As interfaith practitioners, we are specifically trained to set our particular spiritual aside in order to meet people where they are, attuning and responding to what would best serve their needs.
In recent years, schools, mental health facilities, eldercare facilities, & nonprofit/social justice corporations also have in-house or on-call chaplains to offer compassionate and skillful emotional and spiritual care in the face of distress and trauma. While the majority of chaplains in the US are still in the Judeo-Christian faith and are trained in seminaries, there has been a notable trend in the rise of Zen Chaplaincy in the US, perhaps because Zen is a “spiritual but not religious” orientation that is primarily psychological and philosophical for the majority of its western practitioners. Most buddhists chaplains do not go to theological seminaries but attend programs expressly for buddhist chaplaincy.
Are you a Counselor or a Chaplain?
I am both. I’m a licensed professional counselor and a secular zen chaplain. If, when, and how I integrate these into my clinical work with clients depends on what best serves client’s needs. I’ve developed an integrated model of psycho-spiritual care call ENSO Psychotherapy and train other care providers in psycho-spiritual care. I have an M.A. in Counseling Psychology and am a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice, offering counseling and psychotherapy to individuals (adolescents, emerging adults, adults), couples, and families in my office near MoPac and Bee Caves Road (2525 Wallingwood Drive, Building 9, Suite 901).
It was also important to me to offer compassionate care to seriously ill and end-of-life patients, and grief support and spiritual care to their families. In order to work in a hospital setting, it was necessary to become a chaplain. As a secular zen practitioner for over ten years, I chose to attend the two-year Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at Upaya Zen Center in Sante Fe, NM under the guidance of Roshi Joan Halifax, rather than a seminary. Like many western Buddhist practitioners, buddhism is a spiritual but secular psychological and philosophical orientation, and a daily practice in mindfulness, compassionate presence, service, and skillful means. I did my Clinical Pastoral Education training at Seton Hospital, in 2015-2016, and am a Chaplain at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center (2016 to present), where I work with patients, family members, and teach science-based mindfulness practice to medical professionals.