Spanish Inquisition…Presbyterian Style

I’ve been writing a lot in the past few weeks, just not for my blog, unfortunately.

As some of you know, I’m in the process of becoming an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). To be accepted as an inquirer (phase 1 of the ordination process), I have to jump through a few hoops. One of those is a psychological evaluation, performed by a counselor hired by my presbytery (that’s the regional governing body for the denomination).

I expected to do a lot of writing (and did) when I applied to seminary. I even expected to do a lot of writing when I applied to the presbytery become an inquirer. I even expect to do a lot of writing when I’m *in* seminary, and to be thoroughly grilled by my presbytery’s committee on preparation for ministry, several times.

But I didn’t expect this:

The shrink wants me to answer a *few* questions (see below) before he’ll schedule an appointment with me. He wants them in writing. Silly me — I thought his job was to *talk* to me, and ask me some of these things in person. And I never expected that he would require more writing than Princeton Seminary, Grace Presbytery, and all my blog posts for the past year combined! And the questions border on ridiculous! Is this a Jedi-mind game to find out how much bureaucracy a potential minister will put up with? Or how obedient I’ll be? Please, if you have gone through this process, let me know if your experience was similar, or if this guy just takes himself waaaaaay to seriously…

  • What is your current marital status and your marital history?
  • If currently married, what is your spouse’s name and occupation?
  • Do you have children? If so, indicate their name, age, grade in school and any special circumstances like adoption, step children, from a previous marriage, etc.
  • Family of Origin- List all the members of your family of origin (including parents, step parents, siblings, step siblings, etc.) and indicate their name, sex, age (or age at death) and occupation. Include yourself at the appropriate place in the birth order.

Ok. So far so good — I have no great objection to any of these questions, and can easily see the validity in them.

  • Have you had any operations or hospitalizations (type and date)?
  • Have you had other illnesses (nature and date)?
  • Have you had a thorough physical exam in the last two years? If so, what were the results?
  • What kind of exercise or recreation do you do (type and frequency)?
  • Are you currently taking any prescription medications (name and reason for taking)?
  • Are you currently taking any over the counter medication (name and reason for taking)?
  • Do you have hearing or vision problems (Explain)?
  • Do you have a pattern or history of smoking or tobacco use?
  • Do you drink alcoholic beverages? If so, with what frequency?
  • Have you ever thought you should cut down?
  • Has anyone ever suggested that you should drink less?
  • What time do you normally go to sleep and wake up?
  • Do you have any problems with sleep (getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking too early, sleep apnea, etc.)?
  • Do you have any health issues that could affect your ability to work in any way? Explain.

Medical questions? Wait a minute…I thought this was a psychological exam. Is that really his job? I could *maybe* see the Presbytery wanting to know how healthy I am, but are all of these questions really necessary to assess that?

  • Do you have any of the following symptoms regularly or severely enough to cause you concern? Chest pain, Concentration, Fatigue, Heart rate, Interest in sex, Painful intercourse, Perspiration, Sexual arousal, Shortness of breath, Urination, Weight changes, Dizziness, Fainting, Black outs, Seizures, Abdominal pain, Diarrhea, Constipation, Allergies, ADHD, Headaches, Blood pressure, Cholesterol, Obesity

Interest in Sex?????? Perspiration?????? Concentration?????? Oh yes. I have concentration regularly enough to cause me concern…

  • Have you ever experienced any of the following symptoms?Sadness, Loss of interest, Loss of pleasure, Sleep problems, Concentration, Fatigue, Irritability, Self-criticism, Wanting to be alone, Weight changes, Appetite loss, Thoughts of self-harm, Interest in sex, Decision making, Hopelessness, Pessimism, Chest pain, Heart rate, Panic attack, Shortness of breath, Perspiration, Urination, Sweating, Shaking, Nausea, Dizziness, Fear of losing control, Anxiety, Unwanted thoughts, Fear of going crazy, Repetitive hand washing, Other repetitive behavior, Feeling detached, Traumatic events, Sexual, abuse, Verbal abuse, Eating disorder, Sexual dysfunction, Emotional numbness, Explosive temper, Unusual thoughts, Excessive Worry, Impulse control, Pedophilia

Ok, first of all, that “pedophilia” seems tacked on like it was added on just in the last few years. That’s actually a pretty sad statement about the church. But other than that, who HASN’T experienced most of the things on this list? Ooops. Guess “pessimism” just got the better of me again…This test is giving me “unwanted thoughts.” And what does that mean if I DON’T experience the symptom “interest in sex?” That I would make a good Catholic priest?????

  • Have you ever sought counseling with your pastor or a pastoral counselor? If so, when and for what reason?
  • Have you ever consulted a mental health professional? If so, when and for what reason?
  • Have you ever been hospitalized for mental or emotional reasons? If so, explain.
  • Is there any history of emotional illness (suicide, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, etc) or alcohol or drug abuse in your family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings)? If so, detail below?
  • Have you ever been suspected of sexual misconduct or the subject of a sexual misconduct charge?
  • Do you have a criminal history? Describe.

Not Yet, Mr. Shrink. Not yet…

  • Year finished high school:
  • Please list all education since high school:
  • What subjects do you enjoy?

My favorite subject in school was doing busywork for teachers who most likely would never even read what I had written…NOT!

  • List all major job experiences since high school including dates, employer and type of position. Rate your overall level of satisfaction from 1 (very low) to 10 (very high).
  • List, beginning with the first, the communities you have lived in and your religious affiliation.
  • Describe your mother.
  • Describe your father.
  • Describe yourself.
  • Describe your current life situation.
  • Describe your current plans and goals for work.
  • Reflect on your experience of childhood (birth through high school).
  • Reflect on your experience during the high school years.
  • Reflect on your experience during college and the years following to the present.

He could have just said, “Write your freakin’ autobiography from start to finish. Be sure to list what you had for breakfast…EVERY DAY OF YOUR @#$@# LIFE!”

  • Describe your sense of call to ministry.

Let’s see…I feel called to sit at a computer screen all day long and type out my life story so someone can decide if I’m “normal” enough to do what fishermen, tax collectors, tent-makers and prostitutes did 2000 years ago…

  • Describe your family of origin including economic status, emotional climate, illnesses, separations, divorce, place in the community, etc.
  • What specific tasks would you like to do in ministry?

How ’bout overhaul the ordination process for starters? Or at least give applicants two or three psychologists to choose from?

  • What issues in the church and the world would you like to address in your work?

I won’t be able to!! I’ll still be filling out this questionnaire 30 years from now!!!

  • What are the five most significant events of your life in terms of shaping your character, goals, values, philosophy and theology?
  • What five skills do you bring to ministry? Give a specific example of when that skill has been demonstrated.

    Hmmm…patience? Filling out an excessively long questionnaire for a psychological examination?

    • What skills or attributes do you need to develop in order to excel in ministry?

    Dang. Obviously a little more tolerance, patience, and a twisted sense of humor. Give me serenity, St. Francis (or maybe courage to change what I can).

    • Estimate the amount of time you spent on this questionnaire.

    How about two wasted weeks of my life, NOT spent with my family, NOT spent doing ministry, answering BUSYWORK questions that I COULD have answered in person?

    Careful, Neal. If I go crazy trying to complete a psychological evaluation, wouldn’t that be ironic?

    Oh, and did I mention that I also have to pay this guy for the privilege of talking to him after I’ve answered his questions? And that he wants three letters of recommendation? And I have to take a 400 question personality test? Universal Life Church, here I come…


    Comments

    Spanish Inquisition…Presbyterian Style — 12 Comments

    1. Well, look at the bright side, you do not have skeletons in your closet…or do you?

      Kidding, but that looks rather insane. And the guy won’t even read it all. He’ll probably stop at “no life and questions make Neal something something”

      Good luck and try not to crack. Or crack gracefully. Either one will do.

    2. If you wanna be in the club your correct response would have been, “Thank you, may I have another?”

    3. one of my clients told me that you have to take off your shoe and try to stuff it in your pocket during your psych eval for SS if you want to get on disability

      another one of my clients (not so bright) completely denied any psychiatric symptoms and then came out and told me that he thought he did realy well… like he was trying to pass with flying colors!

      lots of ways to stump the shrink, if you need ideas : D

    4. Ah, yes…the psychological devaluation. I remember that torturous experience well. It was sixteen years ago. In two and half days a small staff of mental health professionals at what was then called The Southwest Career Development Center in Arlington, Texas presumed to figure me out and submit a report to my Committee on Preparation for Ministry. Now they call it The Southwest Ministry Development Center in Dallas. Same song, second verse.

      And now a series of unfortunate events has led me to reconsider my career options. What happened, you ask? I’ve only been serving as a pastor in small PC(USA) churches for the past 12 years, that’s all. I’ve reached the point where I’m tired of being an underpaid cheerleader for fearful franchises of an Established Church that is unwilling to look beyond its own survival to the greater mission of living and spreading the gospel.

      When I quietly expressed my discontent, my executive presbyter suggested I get career counseling at — where else? — the Soutwest Ministry Development Center. I agreed for two reasons: my EP secured confidential funding for two-thirds of the cost, and I’m the only one who sees the report. This time around it’s just for me, not for some committee prying into my life.

      Last week I filled out the Medical History form, which, as you’ve noted, asks for everything except urine, stool, and blood samples.

      I spent all of today filling out the MMPI-2 (567 questions), the PF 16 (185 questions), the Campbell Skill and Interest Inventory (280-ish questions), the Enneagram survey (not numbered, but looked like about 120-140 questions), and the MBTI (144 questions online). Yeee-haaawwwww.

      And I still need to fill out the freekin’ 20 page Autobiographical Questionaire (virtually the same questions as yours) before I go to bed so I can mail all these dead trees by tomorrow afternoon.

      My hands have cramped into claws and I see nothing but a sea of little Number 2 pencil dots floating before my eyes. Solidary, brother!

      (My name has been changed to protect what’s left of my innocence, but you’ll know who I am, Neal, by my email address.)

    5. Did I really vent my spleen like that last night, complete with misspellings and dropped words? I guess that’s what happens after a day of scraping the walls of your psyche, then moderating a Session meeting in a church that’s run out of money.

      Now to cleanse my inner English student.
      Two and ahalf days.
      Questionnaire.
      Solidarity, brother.

      Yes, Neal, you are experiencing a standard psychological evaluation for candidacy in the PC(USA). They do everything except crawl up your anus, and the only reason why they don’t do that is because it would violate G-6.0106b in the Book of Order. It pretty much sucks, particularly since our denomination is in decline. Filling out all that paperwork can feel a lot like fiddling while Rome burns.

      Solidarity, brother.

    6. @ Sparky — you rock! And yes, solidarity. In fact, if you’re up in Dallas for your shrink visit, let’s have lunch!

      Also, I find it ironic that a lot of burnt-out pastors who leave the ministry behind seem to go into what field??? Yep, psychological counseling. Either that or they move up the ranks into presbytery/denominational leadership. Grrrrr….

    7. I’d love a chance to meet up with you in Dallas! I’ll email you later with the particulars of when I’ll be there.

      For now, I have to get back to my Autobiographical Questionnaire, which I did not complete last Friday.

    8. I’ve been an active member of a PCUSA church for over 20 years. I’m a part time seminary student (not at a Presby seminary). It’s stuff like this that turned me off to seeking ordained ministry in the PCUSA a long time ago. I’m convinced that the PCUSA doesn’t really want people like me. What kind of people are they selecting for here? I wonder, why does anyone put up with it? Could this be a sign that we don’t belong in this denomination?

    9. Oh yes. How fun my experience was as well. Mine lasted 2 days at the Northeast Career and Counseling Center. Granted, you may think yours is bad – but I am glad that you are being spared the NECC version of the pscyh-eval. Every guy (including myself) who I know who has gone through there has ended up getting the same “analysis” – we all needed two years of intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy in a group with a male counselor, and then another year of intensive individual psychotherapy with a male counselor.

      It was almost humorous how many people ended up with that.

      The questions are ridiculous, but the nice thing is that you can re-use it for CPE or other times where you have to answer similar questions throughout seminary. Not the “interest in sex” part, per se, but other parts probably, family of origin stuff, etc.

      It sucks dude – I wrote a TON, way over 20 pgs of material for my psych eval. And my CPM has never mentioned one thing about it – like it never even happened. Makes me really wonder about the point of it.

    10. Pingback: Mr. Locke’s Classroom » Naked Brutal Honesty

    11. Pingback: Mr. Locke’s Classroom » PresbyMEME 5

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