Reflections from Spiritual Directors International 2013

Last month, Colleen Sharka, Still Harbor Spiritual Director, joined around 500 spiritual directors from around the world in St. Paul, Minnesota for the annual Spiritual Directors International 2013 Conference.  In addition to participating as a conference attendee, Colleen spoke on a panel entitled “Compassionate Person-Centered Care: Strengthening Interdisciplinary Collaboration,” as part of the Spirituality and Health Care Institute preconference workshop.  After some contemplative time, she was excited to share some of her reflections with us:

Q:  What was the overarching theme of the Spirituality and Health Care Institute this year?

A:  This workshop offered a space for health and spiritual care providers to come together and share ideas for how they can continue to work for interdisciplinary and spiritually integrated care.  When clinicians and other care providers who are part of the circle of care for others are willing to communicate with each other, the impact is astounding.  Not only are medical and therapeutic outcomes maximized, but there is also an increased likelihood for deep and lasting bio-psycho-social-emotional and spiritual transformation for the client/patient.  Through small group discussions, the workshop emphasized that integrated care is not only critical for maximizing clinical outcomes for patients and clients by promoting health in mind, body and spirit, but it also decreases the isolation felt by clinicians. 

Q:  What were some of the key takeaways from your panel discussion on compassionate, person-centered care?

A:  It was a very lively and intellectual conversation on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and spiritual accompaniment in integrated clinical care.  My goal was to highlight the three essential components of providing spiritually integrated care:

  1. All caregivers need to attend to their own spiritual practice and self-care.
  2. The quality of the clinical relationship and, if applicable, the client’s relationship to a higher power are integral to the therapeutic process.
  3. Community is key; integration of all sources of support, including other health and spiritual providers, drastically decreases the possibility of fragmented care that can lead to unintentional harm.

Dr. Henry Emmons, an integrative psychiatrist, pointed out that while much of clinical care involves depression, only 20% is true major depression and 80% is stress or situational.  In his statement that “an erosion of resilience is taking place in three ways: 1) physical body, 2) unsettled mind and 3) illusion of separation,” he really emphasized the need for integrated care that addresses all of these layers, particularly for those on the margins of our society. 

That said, the largest takeaway, in my opinion, was Dr. David Moen’s call for a social movement to shift the norms of care, not just for individuals, but also for the larger health care system.  He challenged us all, as he moderated the panel and dialogue, to shift “…from command and control to engage and empower; from fear to trust; from shame to acceptance; from expertise to inquiry; from guardedness to vulnerability; from autonomy to collaboration; from hidden to transparent.”

Q: What quote, idea, or concept from conference do you find yourself still thinking about today?

A:  Wow, that is tough as there are so many…

It would probably be best summarized by a quote from Pema Chodron: “What we do for ourselves concerning self-compassion transforms how we see the world.”  This theme of compassion as a way of life and being was woven throughout all the presentations, including one of the keynote speeches by Joyce Rupp.  She was quick to acknowledge that while it is never convenient, compassion is essential, requiring awareness and action founded in an attitude of oneness.  Compassion requires self-compassion first and foremost, since our propensity for self-compassion translates into our compassion for others.   

Next year’s conference will be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  To stay updates on the event details, click here.

Lauren SpahnComment