2019: Masterclass Therapeutic Journeys

A Camino Academy event, hosted by DCU at Tilburg University
3 April 2019, Dante Building DZ08, Warandalaan 2, 5037 AB. Tilburg

Key note speaker: dr. Heather Warfield (Antioch University, New England, USA)

In recent years, humanities and ritual studies alike have shown a renewed interest in the therapeutic potential of cultural and spiritual practices. This has resulted in the emergence of two parallel fields which, as yet, rarely meet: health humanities and the psychology of pilgrimage. The Camino Academy and DCU organized an inter-disciplinary one-day program in which the therapeutical dimension of pilgrimage was explored in the context of themes such as trauma, veteran experiences, spiritual care, and identity construction.

Regardless of cultural, geographical, and temporal setting, the phenomenon of pilgrimage is concerned with notions of both physical and psychological healing. These notions are always part of the considerations when one decides to embark on a journey to a sacred site. In modern pilgrimage studies, this therapeutical dimension has received surprisingly little attention. It remains a little explored field in comparison to cultural and historical considerations of pilgrimage, e.g. by understanding pilgrimage as a liminal experience, or by placing it in relation to secular tourism.
Even so, there have been several interesting early studies into the therapeutical dimensions of pilgrimage. For example, Post, Pieper & Van Uden included a psychological perspective in their large-scale project on pilgrimage studies (1980s and 1990s, synthesis in The modern pilgrim, 1998). A similar body of work can be found when taking a different approach: in the study of psychology we can find a renewed interest in the potential of rituals and within the field of humanities we can find a renewed focus on the body and medical treatment (cf. health humanities). Through the inclusion of ritual in processes of spiritual, psychological and physical healing, new possibilities therapeutical treatment open up in a variety of places. These can be found on traditional pilgrimage routes (such as the Camino de Santiago) and on less expected occasions (such as on journeys to Srebrenica organized for veterans).
This therapeutical dimension of pilgrimage was explored during an interdisciplinary program at Tilburg University in which two fields of interest with the Department of Culture Studies come together: ritual studies and health humanities.

The program started with a masterclass led by dr. Heather Warfield. Dr. Warfield is an internationally acclaimed expert in the field of the psychology of pilgrimage and is currently Program Director for Clinical Mental Health Counseling at New England College, New Hampshire. The discussion continued in a round table discussion with experts from academia and the professional world.

Academic speaker:
• Prof.dr. Jos Pieper (TST), working on the psychology of religion in general and the role of rituals in coping and the psychological effect of pilgrimage in particular.
• Prof.dr. Paul Post (TSH), doing research on ritual dynamics, pilgrimage, ritual theory.
Professional speakers:
• Peter van der Schaft was spiritual carer and organized a journey along the Camino de Santiago with patients and companions for GGZ-Centraal (the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care).
• Ben Noorloos and John van der Sluis organize journeys along the Camino de Santiago with underprivileged youths in association with youth organization TriviumLindenhof.
• Bart Hetebrij is a former humanistic counciler with the Ministry of Defense and has experience with return journeys in the tradition of pilgrimages.

The program was introduced and chaired by prof.dr. Jenny Slatman (TiU/DCU).

For the report of the meeting, see [Report Masterclass Therapeutic Journeys 
For a (Dutch language) article from Bart Hetebrij about his experience, see Veteranenterugkeerreis als pelgrimage