How to Skin a Cat

First you read your verbatim aloud to your fellow chaplains and supervisor.

In Clinical Pastoral Education, a verbatim is a written recollection of a visit you had with a patient and/or family. You outline what your goals are; the dialogue of the visit itself; how long it was; your analysis of it; and theological implications you discovered.

Then a brief period of silence usually follows. Then the shrapnel comes.

I’m being overly dramatic, but maybe not by much.

“Why did you do that? Why didn’t you deal with the other thing?”

The person giving the verbatim can speak back and offer defense or critique of the other person, but generally it’s the presenter’s turn in the hot seat.

So far this year, I’ve done two of these. There are four of us in my program so I take my turn once a month. (After which time I realize how much I suck and walk out of the room in a disoriented haze.)

However, if this exercise were merely about beating one another up, I’d have more objections. It’s not. The point is to find the “learning places” where you can develop more fully and deeply in the art of caring for people.

For instance, one of my learning place is engaging with patients and families when I myself feel vulnerable. If I can’t run out of the room, then I can disengage inwardly. Sometimes what’s before me is just too much and yet I still have to find a way to offer care. It takes my colleagues and supervisor to point out these blind spots, when I can’t see them for myself.

The larger picture for me, in my shortcomings and foibles, is that somehow it all works. I have to trust that it does, even when I sputter through my words or forget to say “Amen” at the end of prayer or if I trip while walking down the hall.

Meanwhile if you see my skin falling off my body, give me a pat on the head, and offer me a bowl of milk or some kibbles. Thank you.


2 thoughts on “How to Skin a Cat

  1. Nicely said and so true. Having done about 60 Verbatims in my 18 months of CPE I describe the process in two different ways. The first is a definition and the second is the feeling experienced much of the time during the process.
    1. The process of extricating both feet from your mouth or extricating your Supervisors foot from your rear end.
    2. Having a root canal and a colonoscopy simultaneously without anesthesia.

  2. too true. i think verbatim presentation is universally referred to as ‘the hot seat’. one of the things i remember as best, perhaps in retrospect, is the permission to be completely honest, with oneself, and with others, something too rare, maybe non-existent, in our society. a time to grow, perhaps never duplicated again. wanting to run out?? very sevenish, i might add, not that others don’t want to do that too, but that is one of your growing points.

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