Chaplaincy Returns to McLean Hospital

July 6, 2018

The Spirituality and Mental Health Program’s Michael A. Carter, MAPM, came to McLean Hospital in the fall of last year to become McLean’s new chaplain—the first chaplain here in more than 25 years. According to Carter, the return of spiritual care to McLean has been welcomed by both clinicians and patients.

“One of the great things about bringing spiritual care back into McLean is bringing holistic care to those we provide for,” said Carter. “We need this. We need these opportunities of healing to be here.”

“It’s servicing an unmet, unvoiced need of patients and of staff to have their spiritual identities validated and valued,” added David H. Rosmarin, PhD, ABPP, director of McLean’s Spirituality and Mental Health Program. “It’s also in line with the mission of the hospital, because religion and spirituality are aspects of diversity. It sends the message that McLean truly is an inclusive institution.”

Spirituality and mental health
Dr. David H. Rosmarin, left, stresses the importance of offering spiritual care for patients at McLean

Carter’s spiritual care services, which can be ordered through McLean’s electronic health record system Epic, include 30-minute multi-faith chaplaincy visits at inpatient programs; pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, and general spiritual support; and coordinating patients’ spiritual/religious needs. Rosmarin stressed that receiving such spiritual care services is entirely voluntary.

“Of course, these services are only for people who want them,” said Rosmarin.

According to Carter, many people at McLean want these chaplaincy services, which were made possible through a grant from the Gildea-O’Keefe Family Foundation. He said that he has been providing spiritual care to more than 40 patients per month as well as spiritual support for many staff, and he wants chaplaincy services to continue to grow.

“I hope that spiritual care really becomes integrated in the everyday care of our patients,” said Carter. “If there’s a spiritual need, we’re doing our best to provide it.”

Chaplaincy is just one component of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program—started largely through the philanthropic support of the Reverend Dr. Barbara H. Nielsen and Susan and David Fowler—a cross-divisional initiative designed to meet the spiritual needs of McLean patients by providing spiritually integrated, evidence-based care within clinical programs throughout the hospital. Another coordinated component is spirituality and mental health research and training, including discovering how spirituality can impact symptoms and patient care; clinical innovation of best practices in spiritually integrated treatment; and consultation for clinicians in addressing patient spirituality. The program also facilitates weekly Spiritual Psychotherapy for Inpatient Residential and Intensive Treatment (SPIRIT) groups, which help patients harness spiritual resources in treatment and address spiritual struggles and concerns.

According to Rosmarin, having such a multifaceted program at McLean is unique. He explained that “spirituality and psychiatry have historically been at odds with one another,” so most psychiatric hospitals don’t have anything resembling McLean’s spirituality initiative.

“When I tell my colleagues at mental health hospitals around the country that we have a hospital-wide initiative on spirituality and mental health, they literally can’t believe it,” said Rosmarin. “It is so foreign, but so necessary for patient care. McLean is indeed a cutting-edge place.”

To arrange for spiritual care services, please call Chaplain Carter at 617.855.2520, or McLean clinicians can make a request in Epic.

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