Arriving during the midnight hours at Dover, Massachusetts for a six-day international residential training was an experience I will not soon forget.
The conference, presented by the A.K. Rice Institute, was titled “Learning for Leadership 2015: Working Across Differences” and was billed as “An International Experiential Leadership Opportunity.” The event was held at Boston College’s Connors Family Retreat and Conference Center, which dates back to the early 1900s. Boston College is situated on 280 acres of land along the Charles River, offering a variety of wonderful hiking and running trails through wooded areas, wetlands, gardens, bocce ball greens and basketball courts. The comfortable temperatures, along with pesky mosquitoes, hooting owls, an orchestra of tree frogs and frequent deer sightings, all contributed to a very memorable experience.
Being an International conference, participants came from as far away as the Faroe Islands, Alaska, Hawaii, Germany, the United Kingdom and Ontario, Canada, as well as many members of the administrative staff who reside outside of the United States. Membership included a large number of working professionals and leaders in the fields of behavioral health, education, government, and business. A respectable 25% of the attendees came from CPSP.
The learning environment was intensely challenging, unconventional and practical. It provided unique opportunities for the most valuable kind of learning: experiential. In my assigned small group, I had the opportunity to continue learning from my CPSP colleagues as well as to gain fresh insights from members from Minnesota, Ontario, and the UK. I made enlightened discoveries about the unconscious nature and behavior in groups – and about myself. Sometimes, the learning was emotionally challenging. During one brutally honest session, I learned where my personal responses come from and how they intersect with the interests of the group. I came to understand my responsibility for engagement and not, as I’m often inclined in group settings, to withdraw and simply listen to others.
Our assignment was to build a new organization — quickly. From this exercise and the inherent group dynamics, I gained a better understanding of leadership at the interface of an individual, groups and organizations. The stress of building a new institution was exhausting and painful at times, but allowed me to see how the conscious and unconscious interactions of every member influences change, giving me a unique and valuable opportunity to study various aspects of how people and organizations work.
This conference provided me with an extraordinary opportunity to “tune in” to the frequency of group and organizational life experiences that’s always present, but virtually never approachable due to everyday work demands. I found the experiential learning, as well as the opportunity for reflection in small groups with other participants of different cultures and beliefs, to be sometimes exhilarating, often exhausting, but always richly satisfying.
Regardless of whether you are new or a well-seasoned member of The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, or perhaps still completing your CPE training, I highly recommend that you challenge yourself and plan to attend one of these conferences. The experiences you will gain in group relations work will bestow indescribable benefits to you, those you serve and our entire CPSP community.
Board Certified Clinical Chaplain