As you ought not to attempt to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you attempt to cure the body without the soul…
for the part can never be well unless the whole is well…
And therefore, if the head and body are to be well,
you must begin by curing the soul.
~ Plato ~
Anton T. Boisen (1876-1965) grew up in an academic family in Indiana and felt a call to the ministry and eventually graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1911. Unfortunately, several significant psychotic episodes caused him to be hospitalized for 15 months at Westborough State Hospital.
After his release he studied psychology and religion at Andover Theological Seminary and became convinced that some mental illnesses are “problem-solving experiences.” He reported that he had had a “valid religious experience, which was at the same time madness of the most profound and unmistakable variety.” “Mental disorder,” Boisen later wrote, “is the price humanity has to pay for having the power of choice and the capacity for growth.”
In 1925, he became a chaplain at the Worcester State Hospital, where he inaugurated an innovative program of “clinical training” for theological students. Boisen believed that ministerial students could learn some important things about health and religious experience by “studying living human documents” in a mental hospital. His clinical training program addressed the needs of the patients; but it also challenged students to become more self-aware about their own mental and spiritual health. During that first summer program at Worcester State Hospital in 1925, the students served as ward attendants during the day, attended staff meetings, and in evening participated in seminars with Chaplain Boisen and various members of the professional staff. Each year an increasing number of theological students enrolled in this new method of theological learning. In 1930 Boisen joined with others to form the Council for the Clinical Training of Theological Students, developing a program later to be known as Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), an international program pastors continue to participate in and learn from. (Boisen biography adapted from church historian the Rev. Barbara Brown Zikmund, 2004).
In 1931, Boisen was succeeded by Rev. Carroll Wise at Worcester State Hospital. Wise had a different view of what clinical training was all about. Boisen was primarily a researcher of religious experience connected to mental illness, and Wise was interested in a pastoral emphasis. Wise commented, “He (Boisen) finally forgave me for changing the Worcester program from a research to a pastoral emphasis.” (ACPE History) Wise wrote, “Pastoral care is more a function than an activity, more a living relationship than a theory of interpretation, more a matter of being than doing. It is the manifestation in the relationship between pastor and persons, either individually or in groups, of a quality of love, which points to, and gives a basis in experience for, the realization of the love of God.” (Meaning of Pastoral Care by Carroll A. Wise)
Carroll Wise would go on to become one of the four “gospel writers” for the modern pastoral counseling movement along with Seward Hiltner, Paul Johnson and Wayne Oates. Succeeding Wise as supervising chaplain at Worcester State Hospital was Rev. John Smith. In 1956, Smith started the Worcester Pastoral Counseling Center.
In 1979, the clergy of Westborough decided that their ministries would be strengthen by the presence of a pastoral counseling center in the town and approached the Worcester Pastoral Counseling Center. A satellite pastoral counseling center in Westborough was born under the name of the Triborough (Westborough/Northborough/Southborough) Pastoral Counseling Center.
In 1984, the Triborough Pastoral Counseling Center was incorporated as the Assabet Valley Pastoral Counseling Center.
On October 15, 2011, a joint board of directors meeting of both organizations agreed to a strategic merger of both centers. The official incorporation of the new organization was filed on November 16, 2011 as the Pastoral Counselling Centers Of Massachusetts..