What Can Safety Learn from Pastoral Care?
The Beaconsfield Mine Collapse (https://safetyrisk.net/the-beaconsfield-leadership-workshop/) traumatised many in the mining community, not just those who worked at the Mine. For some in the Mine who had experienced similar events on the West Coast of Tasmania (eg. Renison https://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-09/two-mine-workers-killed-in-mt-lyell-accident/5144308?nw=0) the trauma was critical.
One of my roles in Beaconsfield was a focus on the pastoral care of people, particularly the immediate families of those who lost a partner or, whose partner was trapped underground, the immediate team on shift and the broader mining community. Then after the event my role was to remain in the community for 6 months as Manager of Community Recovery.
One of the revelations of the Beaconsfield crisis, despite provision of Employee Assistance counsellors and flying in Clinical Counsellors, was that most of these services were not used during or after the crisis. Instead, it turns out that a majority of people sought out the town Catholic sister and the Uniting Church (female) clergy much more than any of the services the Mine provided. Nothing is more important to a person seeking support and help than the quality of trust and confidentiality. Unless trust is supported by historical knowing, we rarely put out ‘faith’ in ‘professionalized’ services in times of crisis.
The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate that much can be learned from a Transdisciplinary approach to care, even if the care model is offered by Clergy. It is a shame that the moment anything religious is discussed people tend to switch off, ‘nothing to learn here’. Safety has much to learn from ‘pastoral’ approaches to counselling.
I use the word ‘pastoral’ carefully coming from the notion of ‘shepherding’. The notion of ‘pastor’ comes from the first century Greek understanding of how shepherds lived ‘with’ and understood ‘pastoral knowing’. The nature of the care for persons in the pastoral model is the opposite of anything hierarchical or ‘clinical’. The metaphor of shepherding relies upon admission of an intimate knowing of the ‘flock’ and taps into the many references to lambs, sheep and the kiaophoros metaphor in Christian literature. The emphasis is on the opposite of ‘telling’ and much more on the notion of ‘serving’ and non-judgmental orientation to another. The emphasis is on powerlessness in the relationship of the counsellor and the power of the person who is seeking help. Learning and choice can never come from the counsellor but is always the power of the counselee. The first stage in pastoral care is the surrendering of power to the other. The notion of ‘pastoral psychology’, ‘pastoral care’ and ‘pastoral counselling’ whilst unique to the Education of Clergy, is not limited to just this profession. The notion of pastoral caring has much to offer the safety Industry because of its very practical, non-hierarchical focus of being ‘with’ others.
One of the unique attributes of pastoral counselling is the orientation to metaphysical matters. In pastoral counselling the person is never understood as just a brain on a body, nor as an engineering factor in a system but acknowledges the holistic nature of personhood including a non-material ‘soul’ focused approach to meaning. Being closed and dismissive to the possibility of a client’s understanding of spiritual meaning is a bias that quickly breaks trust and ruins any opportunity of healing. Openness to the client’s worldview and non-judgmental of it, is essential to the counselling relationship. At this stage let’s be very clear, Safety is not averse to engaging in metaphysical discourse.
One of the bizarre confusions of the safety industry is the constant reference to metaphysical meaning (eg. https://safetyrisk.net/the-spirit-of-zero/; https://safetyrisk.net/the-dangers-of-common-sense-language-in-safety/) and mystical, sacred powers and its own internal conflict with engineering. How fascinating this industry that rejects the religious but then makes the secular sacred at every turn (https://safetyrisk.net/how-the-secular-is-made-sacred-in-safety/). How fascinating this industry that loves to parade the soteriology of ‘safety saves’ (https://safetyrisk.net/the-doctrine-of-atonement-for-safety-people/) and at the same time conduct engineering approaches to events, as if a metaphysical perspective need not be considered. Indeed, if Safety were more attune to its own religious linguistics it could envision just how religious (https://safetyrisk.net/heaven-n-hell-and-the-safety-religion/; https://safetyrisk.net/the-religion-of-safety/ https://safetyrisk.net/no-evidence-for-the-religion-of-zero/) it has made its own identity. How fascinating all this language about ‘just believe’ in zero and then being apologetic about using the word ‘faith’. Sadly, this paradox creates closed mindedness when it comes to learning from other disciplines and respecting the worldview of others. How strange this industry that is so keen to criticize any discussion of the religious at first opportunity and then parades its religiousness openly.
When I was studying pastoral counselling our foundational text was: Egan, G., (2010) The Skilled Helper. (http://www.leaderlabs.asia/uploads/4/7/6/2/4762488/________the_skilled_helper.pdf). This model of pastoral care adopts an eclectic/transdisciplinary approach across a range of psychological and counselling methods. The primary focus is ‘helping’. In a similar way Edgar Schein’s work: Helping: How to Give and Receive Help (https://creelmanresearchlibrary.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/creelman-2009-vol-2-4-ed-schein-on-helping.pdf) takes a pastor approach to helping. Schein’s model of ‘Process Consultation’ is articulated here: Schein, E., (1999) Process Consultation Revisited, Building Helping Relationships. Addison, New York. Schein’s approach is very similar to Egan’s and mirrors the essentials in Pastoral Care basics. You can download Schein’s book here: https://www.scribd.com/document/330308319/Process-Consultation-Revisited-Schein-1999.
I would consider both Egan’s and Schein’s work foundational for any safety person who will find themselves drawn into any traumatic event and wondering what to do. Unfortunately, you won’t find any emphasis at all on this aspect of care and helping either in the AIHS BoK or the WHS Curriculum. Indeed, if your ideology is founded on zero, any entry into a traumatic moment with such an agenda will prove disastrous and only add to the trauma of persons. Carrying agenda into a crisis or traumatic event such as wishing to gain a testimony about the event from a safety perspective is not likely to be helpful. Indeed, the naivety of Safety to its own subjectivity (https://safetyrisk.net/investigating-events-is-not-about-brain-farts/) is a huge issue in considering an ethical approach to risk, particularly any fixation with data, zero or seeking cause.
The basics of pastoral counselling are similar to the basics of all counselling (https://counsellingtutor.com/basic-counselling-skills/) with the exception of openness to the metaphysical in healing/help. The pastoral counsellor never raises any perspective or any personal agenda but is open to this dimension should the counselee want to talk about it. The important factor here is not to be closed to any possibilities in helping. Given that such a large percentage of the population are spiritually conscious (https://mccrindle.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Faith-and-Belief-in-Australia-Report_McCrindle_2017.pdf), it would be wise not to be closed to the faith of the client in times of crisis and trauma.
If you are in the safety industry and seeking to improve your helping skills, I would suggest this online diploma as a helpful start: https://www.aipc.net.au/mobile/course-dip-counselling.php
Similarly, if you wish to improve your skills on how you approach events, the SEEK module is a helpful place to start (https://cllr.com.au/product/seek-the-social-psychology-of-event-investigations-unit-2-elearning/).