Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling

Article excerpt

Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling. By Pamela Cooper-White. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2004. x + 246 pp. $18.00 (paper).

Shared Wisdom is an exploration of the critical dynamics within pastoral and therapeutic relationships and an examination of the way in which these forces become a pathway in the establishment of a relational theological praxis. Cooper-White's text serves as a comprehensive examination of how attention to the unconscious forces, particularly those that emanate from within the transference and counter-transference dimensions of the pastoral relationship, can be a source of wisdom for both the pastor and the client. Cooper-White is successful in employing current psychodynamic theories along with accessible case material. It is clear that Cooper-White has a wonderful mind and an acute understanding of her theory base.

Cooper-Whites text is a valuable contribution to the movement within pastoral counseling that began in the early 1980s with the work of Heinz Kohut. (Although Kohut died in 1981, he became increasingly popular after his death.) Kohut, the father of self psychology, used the relational needs of the client as they manifested themselves within the therapeutic relationship as a way of understanding the archaic world of the client. Transferences and countertransferences were no longer viewed as pathological; rather, they became the bases for greater empathie attunement. Pointedly, Cooper-White breathes fresh, life into our understanding of counter-transference, when she refers to it as "the sum total of thoughts, feelings, fantasies, impulses, and bodily sensations, conscious and unconscious, that may arise in the pastoral caregiver in relation to any person who has come for help" (p. 5). With this definition in hand, Cooper-White sets about the task of exploring how the pastoral relationship can be a source of wisdom for both the pastor and the client/parishioner.

The text blends a comprehensive understanding of pastoral psychology with very accessible case vignettes. …