The Experiential Value of the Critical Incident -- By: Santosh Jain

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 18:0 (NA 1985)
Article: The Experiential Value of the Critical Incident
Author: Santosh Jain


The Experiential Value of the Critical Incident

Santosh Jain

Gary Greer

Many seminaries across the country require their Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry students to pursue, in addition to their regular theological course work, participation in Clinical Pastoral Education programs. Students participating in these programs receive supervision from an accredited supervisor and function as pastoral interns in various medical hospitals, correctional institutions and mental health facilities. Along with their pastoral functioning, the C.P.E. student participates in individual counseling encounters with his supervisor as well as group dynamic processes with other students.

Much has been said on the grassroots level of the C.P.E. programs about the learning process, a process called learning through the clinical method. Simply stated it is a method of learning whereby the student starts with and examines his prejudices, fears, attitudes, interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics and faith system in the light of knowledge he receives in ministry, through group interaction and individual supervision.

This clinical method of learning is quite different from the more traditional educational mode wherein the student is given neat little packages full of helpful facts and information into which the student must plug his experience, often without the benefit of much personal insight. The struggle to integrate theory with experience is often a painful and arduous one. An integral part of that clinical learning method is for the student to experience, document and analyze those incidents that arouse some significant issue in him. In the C.P.E. vernacular these events of awareness are written in a form called Critical Incident Reports. Obviously, each student’s critical incidents are unique to him as he gains valuable personal insight through this living laboratory method.

In the pages that follow, we would like to share a couple of such critical incidents that have become part of our experience as well as vehicles through which we have received invaluable spiritual insight and professional growth. We will begin with a narrative about Sarah which illustrates quite vividly some of the very same issues that seminarians, lay persons and clergymen might struggle with in the course of their seminary or pastoral experience.

The Experience of Santosh Jain

I had the privilege of seeing the patients and staff at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which is associated with Northwestern University

Medical School, as a Staff Psychologist for about five years. Patients, who were physically and neurologically disabled, were provided with much ne...

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