Story Metaphor Listening
Supervision, debriefing, and reflective learning were the keys to follow up and service. This is where community programs often break down, refusing the take the time that makes the difference.
The Grief Resource Group started in 197 5and the group is the main source for the pastoral innovations that followed.
The Befriender program, a group trained in story listening, begin in 1966 with a question, ““how can we change the rule, don’t talk to patients when you take the notions cart around”? I think patients want to talk?” A person from the hospital Auxiliary, Mavoreen Briggs, came to my office with this question. I went to work on getting approval from the medical, nursing, auxiliary, and administration. Mr. Stuhler, the Administrator, said I would need approval from all four groups before beginning a separate group to visit patients. The Medical Staff had the longest discussion before approval. I began with three people from Trinity Cathedral who had been discussion leaders with the youth groups. I had given them some prior training in listening.
The challenge was I needed to know more about training. I consulted with 2 nearby Clinical Pastoral Education supervisors, Paul Swanson, Moline, and David Belgum, University of Iowa. Paul Swanson had some experience in training volunteers at Massachusets General Hospital.
I began with twenty weeks of training at the start, increased to 30 weeks as the interest generated participants, training 12 - 15 people each year. The first ten weeks, a two hour evening session each week, was on story listening using active listening skills, the second ten weeks focused on the various situations in the hospital, and the last ten week focused on three verbatim conversations each was required to write. The group started patient visits during the second ten weeks in order to write the verbatims reviewed these as part of our learning. When metaphor listening came into being we would identify the metaphors and explore their meaning for the patient during the discussion.
Our morning schedule included chapel, shortened Morning Prayer with Scripture, discussion on the text, and intercessory prayers starting a 9 AM. Next, assignments of visits to patients. When they went to the nursing station to get updates from the nurses they asked another question, “do you have names of other patients who may need a visit?” Over a five year period that question changed the culture to a more story listening culture. Nurses began to refer patients to Befrienders realizing the value of story listening in patient care.
At the end of the morning each Befriender wrote a short summary of their visit followed by debriefing with a chaplain before leaving the hospital. Discerning follow up was made as well as reducing the Befriender stress from more involved visits. Time was built in for periodic reflection on the stories being heard. This was an important learning time for increasing listening skills and connecting the dots between Scripture stories, the stories of others, and our own story.
In 1973 I made a presentation of the Befriender Program to the College of Chaplains meeting in Atlanta, GA. Ron Hasley, Chaplain at Lutheran Hospital in Moline, was there. We begin joint training of Befrienders for five years. Their Befriender program continues to the present under new merged hospital named Unity Point now located on both sides of the Mississippi River, Bettendorf, IA. and Rock Island, IL. We joined training again for three years with Chaplain Joe Robb when he took Ron’s place.
1975 – The Grief Resource Group begins in January at the suggestion of Edith Meier, a Befriender who reviewed the stories Befrienders heard and found most were grief stories, loss and change, of all kinds. We concluded that we don’t know much about grief. We started a Wednesday morning reflector group to learn, 7 to 8:30. The hospital furnished the coffee and rolls. We would invite people to instruct us, every other week and the intervening Wednesdays would be time for sharing our own findings. The group was interdisciplinary, professionals and non-professionals, mainly Befrienders. We had community clergy, social workers, nurses, and anyone who wanted to attend. We had around ten or twelve regulars. The group met continually until June of 1992 when they took on the task of learning the needs of the community. With the unexpected death of death of Chaplain Johnson the group was disbanded by the next chaplain manager of Pastoral Care and the name of the Department was changed to Spiritual Care.
In 1975 year I had a pre op surgical visit with a follow up. (See the Aha! Story in the Befrienderforum.org for more detail) I recorded the conversation with Harry Geibelstein after the surgery and a new listening model was born, the art of story/metaphor listening. We had a portion of the Noah story in chapel, he said “A friend said you have to stay with the boat in order to survive.” … And again after I said, “I have the bow to the violin, but the strings are worn out.” His reply, “O yes, we all wear out.” Words were being moved about to provide meaning, and a new insight in how metaphors work in conversation came to light.
1975 – The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa and St. Paul Lutheran Church begin to make yearly contributions to the Befriender program. We are becoming an established program at the hospital.
1976 – At the suggestion of the Grief Resource Group a The Grief Recovery Program began with two co-leaders.
Six participants were in the first group meeting once a week for ten weeks. We have ten week sessions periodically for a couple of years when the participants told us the ten week sessions were to short. We changed to every other week year around. During the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s we started a holiday blues workshop which drew more people for a single session.
The First Presbyterian Church expanded Befrienders for their Congregation. We become the training unit for their program. They started with several people who had already been trained at the hospital. St. Paul Lutheran Church did the same although later they opt for the St. Stephens Ministry which was more parish based than hospital.
I rewrote the Befriender training language with the help of the Nursing Education Department to conform to their language and approval. The State approved the curriculum and I begin training nurses in the Art of Story Metaphor listening. They received Continuing Education Units which were part of maintaining their license as nurses.
In 1977 a discussion on starting a hospice program was initiated by Bev Kreiter, a social worker and Befriender, in the Resource Group. She had visited St. Christopher’s Hospice in London while on vacation. She said we already had three components of a Hospice: Befrienders as volunteers, chaplains, and a grief recovery group. We were missing the medical team of nursing and a medical doctor. We began inviting doctors to get their opinion. They were in favor. We signed the Articles of Incorporation in November of 1978. Dr. Wilson became our first medical advisor, a nurse from the Visiting Nurses did home care, and Anette Benjamin was our first social worker. The Hospice Pilot Project had its first year at St. Luke’s hospital. In our second year The Visiting Nurses and Mercy Hospital join us. After five years the Visiting Nurses takes charge to become a government funded hospice where patients can receive money for their medications. In time the free- standing hospice, Clarissa Cook Hospice, was built. They are getting ready to celebrate 15 years after the beginning 43 years earlier.
1979 - Sister Connie Nadue from the Wilder Foundation, St. Paul, MN, visited for a day. She returns to St. Paul,MN., to start a Befriender Program at the Wilder Foundation. Later she went to St Thomas College where a Befriender Ministry program is marketed starting in 1982. Our contribution is not recorded in their history but it is documented by a letter from Sister Connie Nadue.
In 1980 Health Central from Minneapolis conducted a survey where Befrienders were named by the community as one of the ten most positive activities connected with St. Luke’s Hospital.
In 1980 Ron Hasley and Marlin Whitmer wrote a book on the Befrienders at the Suggestion of Dr. Howard Clinebell. It was to be published by Fortress Press. Instead it was published by St. Luke’s and Lutheran Hospital. We didn’t make the grade with the publishers since he thought the readership would be limited by our being hospital oriented. In honesty we could not say we were parish oriented.
Jeanie Olson, a Befriender, becomes the coordinator of Grief Recovery group. We are now working with over 200 people a year in the grief recovery group. She later becomes the coordinator of the Umbrella For Caring, providing continuity of care from hospital to home through lay ministers from churches.
The big surprise in 1980 - The Saturn Project, they are seeking a plant location for manufacturing a new automobile. Scott County was on their list. The Chamber of Commerce asked me to write one of fifty letters about the community. My topic was how the programs of pastoral care, including the Befrienders, contribute to the Quality of Life of the Community.
This was an eye opener to realize we were having a systemic influence on the community systems. I asked a person from the Chamber of Commerce to come to the hospital and speak to the Befrienders. They needed to know about the unseen impact they were making.
1988 – I presented the new program on the Umbrella for Caring at the College of Chaplains
An article on the Umbrella for Caring was published in the College for Chaplains Journal The Diocese of Iowa had contributed $10,000 to the pilot project called the Umbrella for Caring.
The Umbrella for caring took six illnesses where people are apt to return to the hospital. Upon discharge we connected them with a Befriender from their church. Six churches participated by signing a memorandum of understanding listing their responsibilities in the program. A quick summary: In churches with a well-established and supportive Befriender program patients stayed out of the hospital for a longer time and benefited from the relational ministry.
The Grief Recovery group underwent a change. People are coming to the group within the first several weeks after their loss. Word had spread that we were helping. Many are too emotional for the group experience. Previously people came either after the fourth month or after a year and a half. To adjust I added a six sessions over 12 week for beginning new people. We went through the alphabet, four letters at a time, naming their grief experience. They could identify with others in the group on the basis of these words. Telling their story would come later. They named the pain, paradox of opposite feelings, and a purpose (where they wanted to be in the future.) Over time I expand the exercise on naming words for our feelings during grieffor any life transition. We discovered 50% of the words wouldl be alike regardless of the transition.
1990 - Quad City Labor Council expresses an interest in Befriending.
Sharing the Befriender Discoveries with Others begins in various settings.
1992 Rick Johnson takes over the training and supervision of the Befrineders as Marlin Whtimer retires. The Grief Resource Group becomes more oriented to the community with a focus of juvenile issues and children’s grief. Rick’s House of Hope is the outcome for children.
Now retired, in 1993 I have a summer meeting in St. Paul, MN, with those involved in the Befriender Ministry Program. They are surprised to find my part in the beginning of their program. To participate I would have to start as a beginner. No thanks. They give me their thick training manual. Ugh!
I continued to offer workshops in retirement until my hearing became a disability.
2003 - 9 I am given the opportunity through The Wayne Oates Institute to do a distance learning seminar on The Healing Power of Stories. Professional Chaplains could obtained CEU credits. The computer overcomes my hearing disability.
Break time for illnesses, my own and Bobbies fourth cancer. She died on July 30th, 2011. She was very supportive of my work with the Befrienders, being a Befriender herself. She was in the Clarissa Cook Home the last four months of her life. We lived the hospice program as intended.
2013 in April, on three Saturdays, made a DVD on the Healing Power of Stories. I rewrote the six seminar presentations for the Wayne Oates Institute into a creative writing mode. Instead of footnotes my best stories become the footnotes. Patty Blackman, Befriender, was my coach.
Now at age 91 I am now retired and an active gardener.
We have lived in our own way an article from the Harvard Business Review, The Culture of Originality. (March, 2016, page 86)