Who Is Anton T. Boisen?
Anton T. Boisen (1876-1965) was the visionary founder of the clinical pastoral movement that includes pastoral care, counseling and psychotherapy, and of clinical pastoral training and education. It was as a result of his own personal crisis and the caring he received from his classmate and friend Fred Eastman that modern day clinical chaplaincy was born.
A forester and language teacher by training, Boisen went on to study theology at Union Theological Seminary and was ordained a Presbyterian minister. He served with the YMCA in Europe during World War I. It was not until a psychotic episode landed him in a mental hospital, however, that Boisen found his calling: to help other people who were suffering, bewildered, vulnerable, confused, distressed, anxious, traumatized, or grieving in their search for meaning and purpose to make sense of life.
While he was a mental hospital patient in the early 1920s, Boisen began to read Freud whose writings were still new in America; he found his own ideas to be congruent with Freud's. By adapting the clinical case study method that was introduced by Richard Cabot, MD, to the training of chaplains, at nearly 50-years-old Boisen's life's work was begun.
Near the end of his life Boisen wrote Out of the Depths (1960), the autobiographical book he described as his own case study. It contains his life story as well as an account of the earliest decades of the clinical pastoral training movement, today's CPE (clinical pastoral education).
It was his first (1936) book, however, The Exploration of the Inner World, that brought him international recognition and secured a place for Boisen in the psychology of religion and drew attention to him as founder of the clinical method of doing theology and ministry. Along with the nearly forgotten but important Religion in Crisis and Custom (1945), a hymnal that Boisen compiled for his patients (Hymns of Hope and Courage, in four editions) and Problems in Religion and Life, a small book for pastors, these titles make up his book publishing legacy.
For more about the life and persona of Anton T. Boisen, watch these web pages as excerpts from Boisen's books will appear here.