Cooper–White, Pamela 1955- (Pamela C. White, Pamela Cynthia White)

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Cooper–White, Pamela 1955- (Pamela C. White, Pamela Cynthia White)


Born October 3, 1955. Education: Boston University, B.Mus., 1977; Harvard University, M.A., 1980, Ph.D., 1983; Harvard Divinity School, M.Div., 1983; Holy Names College, Oakland, CA, M.A., 1994; Chicago Institute for Clinical Social Work, Ph.D., 2001.


Office—Columbia Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 520, Decatur, GA 30031. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, educator, Episcopal priest, pastoral psychotherapist, and administrator. Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, former professor; Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA, professor of pastoral theology, care, and counseling. San Francisco Partnership Ministry, executive director. Ordained minister and priest, first with Church of Christ, then with Episcopal Church, 1979—. Graduate Theological Union, Center of Women and Religion, director.


American Association of Pastoral Counselors (clinical fellow), American Academy of Religion (cochair, Psychology/Culture/Religion Group), Society for Pastoral Theology.


Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow, 1995-98; Academy of Parish Clergy, Top Ten Book Award, 1995, for The Cry of Tamar; Distinguished Achievement in Research and Writing Award, American Association of Pastoral Counselors, 2005; Samaritan Spirit Award, Philadelphia, PA, 2007.


(Under name Pamela C. White) Schoenberg and the God-Idea: The Opera "Moses Und Aron," UMI Research Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1985.

The Cry of Tamar: Violence against Women and the Church's Response, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.

Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.

Many Voices: Pastoral Psychotherapy in Relational and Theological Perspective, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.

Also author of Women Healing and Empowering, Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2000. Contributor to periodicals and journals. Editor, Journal of Pastoral Theology.


Author Pamela Cooper-White is an educator at the Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, where she serves as professor of pastoral theology, care, and counseling. Formerly an ordained minister in the Church of Christ, Cooper- White is now an Episcopal priest with almost thirty years of parish experience in the eastern, western, and central United States. Her early education focused on music—she earned a bachelor of music from Boston University and a master's degree in historical musicology from Harvard University. Her Harvard Ph.D. also focused in large part on music. Later, Cooper-White changed her academic focus to counseling and pastoral psychotherapy, earning an M.A. in pastoral counseling from Holy Names College in Oakland, California, and a Ph.D. from the Chicago Institute for Clinical Social Work. Much of Cooper-White's writing and professional work have been in this field as well, combining religious counseling with clinical psychotherapy. She frequently writes articles and book chapters on topics such as "pastoral theology, women's development, and pastoral care of post-traumatic stress," commented a biographer on the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia Web site.

In The Cry of Tamar: Violence against Women and the Church's Response, Cooper-White addresses the difficult topic of violence against women in a variety of cultures and social environments throughout the world. She considers not only physical violence, but emotional abuse, threats that amount to terrorism, brainwashing, and other physical and mental methods men use to inflict pain on women and exert control over them. In response, she considers what the response of the church and the clergy should be, and how those entrusted to offering pastoral care and counseling can help women in these most difficult of circumstances.

Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling, is Cooper-White's "exploration of pastoral care that employs contemporary perspectives in intellectual discourse, social analysis, and psychoanalytic theory," noted reviewer Lallene Rector in Pastoral Psychology. In the book, Cooper-White considers the psychoanalytic dynamics of psychotherapy and pastoral counseling, and concludes that "the self of the pastoral caregiver/therapist is a significant contributor to the psychodynamics of the pastoral care situation," Rector observed. She assesses how the interactive client/counselor relationship of transference and counter-transference serves to broaden the scope of the clinical interaction. "We each have neurotic tendencies, unresolved losses or traumas, and psychological vulnerabilities that affect our lives as pastors and persons," noted Bob Ahern in the Trinity Seminary Review, and Cooper-White cautions that professionals must not allow these personal issues to influence the pastoral counseling session. The dynamic interplay of transference and counter-transference that Cooper-White endorses does not erode professional boundaries between counselors and clients, nor does it allow counselors to apply their own issues to their clients. Instead, it creates a clinical situation in which the counselor shares wisdom and experience gained in working through and facing their own problems, and opens up a broader context for assessing clients' problems. Thus, counter-transference "is not simply a matter of one's own baggage, but the helper's experience of the way in which knowledge and meaning are being constructed and shaped within the relationship. This is the shared wisdom which can be a valuable resource in working with another person in a process of exploration and growth," commented Jan Berry in the Ecumenical Review.

To reinforce her conclusions, Cooper-White also offers four detailed case studies that illustrate both the theology and theoretical context of her work. "The use of these cases is very creative and helpful to basic divinity students who really need to see exactly what the back and forth of a ministry situation might look like," Rector commented. The cases "assist in giving life to the theory but also provide practical responses to troubling issues that frequently arise in ministry," noted Anglican Theological Review contributor Jody H. Clarke.

"There is not another text in pastoral care that includes such a thoroughgoing, cutting-edge psychoanalytic framework," Rector stated, and called the book a "remarkable tour de force of theoretical integration." Clarke concluded, "It is clear that Cooper-White has a wonderful mind and an acute understanding of her theory base." Leonard M. Hummell, writing in Currents in Theology and Mission, concluded, "Cooper-White has written a detailed yet highly readable book for pastors that will assist them in all dimensions of their practice."

Many Voices: Pastoral Psychotherapy in Relational and Theological Perspective is a "thoughtful, comprehensive, and careful presentation of how contemporary relational psychoanalysis offers a theoretical framework for understanding the task, goals, and processes of pastoral psychotherapy," commented R. Scott Sullender in a Pastoral Psychology review. She also seeks to understand the interaction between counseling psychotherapy and individual religions and theological needs. Her theoretical framework finds people operating from the perspective of multiplicity—not as a single monolithic entity but as an amalgam of the interaction of internal parts and external forces, roles, and relationships. "She argues that the therapeutic process is best understood not as an attempt to integrate our parts, but rather as a process of helping another person acknowledge, ‘give voice to,’ and hold in creative tension his or her various parts," Sullender noted.

Throughout the book, Sullender reported, Cooper-White "does a masterful job at updating us on what contemporary relational psychoanalysis is about these days—its assumptions, developments, and practices, and thus makes a convincing case for its continuing relevance to the world of pastoral counseling." Sullender concluded that she offers an "outstanding presentation of the integration of contemporary psychoanalytic theory and Christian theology, all within the context of an emerging post modern world view."

Cooper-White told CA: "I grew up in a house full of books, and have written (journaling, poetry, prose) since I could first hold a pencil. My primary vocation as a teacher, priest/pastor, and social activist has led me to write the books I needed. I view my published writing as a conversation, and as an extension of teaching and learning.

"My work is influenced by published sources (both historical and contemporary), including those written by Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas, Gilles Deleuze, St. Augustine, Catherine Keller, Krister Stendahl, Jacques Derrida, Luce Irigaray, Dorothy Day, and St. Ignatius; influences in psychoanalytic theory include Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, D.W. Winnicott, and contemporary relational-psychoanalysis; and many, many sources within feminist theology, liberation theology, process theology, postmodern philosophy and theology, and contemporary psychoanalysis.

"Personal influences include a rigorous intellectual training, especially at Harvard and at the Institute for Clinical Social Work; a long association with battered women's organizations; missions of accompaniment (with my spouse) to El Salvador; clinical training and personal analysis (Jungian/Winnicottian) as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist; all I have learned from my therapy patients and from my students; spiritual formation, as an Episcopal priest, through parish work and personal spiritual direction (including an Ignatian ‘19th annotation’ retreat in 2005-06); working in urban, intentionally diverse racial/ethnic/cultural settings in theological education; early training as an opera singer, musicologist and visual artist; and my deep experiences as spouse, mother, daughter, and friend.

"I would describe my writing process as a relational process, moving back and forth between periods of solitude for reading, research, and actual writing, and periods of brainstorming and dialogue with colleagues and students. Because race, gender, sexual orientation, and issues of power are central to my work, I am intentional about seeking feedback from others whose perspectives and social locations are different from my own.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that no project is ever completed! Every project generates new questions, new avenues for further exploration.

"My three most recent books are ‘favorites’ for different reasons—The Cry of Tamar because it seems to have touched so many personal lives, and served as a tool for advocacy and education; Shared Wisdom because it has become a widely used tool for better self-awareness, especially among pastoral counselors and chaplains; and Many Voices, because it represents some of my deepest thinking to date, both about theology (including the complexity of both God and human beings) and the practice of therapy. Note that the original working subtitle of Many Voices—Theology and Therapy in Relational Perspective—theology is a subject of the book, not merely a modifier!

"The Cry of Tamar (1995) was written to advocate for greater attention to the empowerment and healing of women, especially within the church, but also to raise consciousness more broadly in society. Shared Wisdom (2004) grew out of my work in training religious leaders to maintain professional ethics and boundaries, and extends this work into a deeper, postmodern psychoanalytic understanding of the conscious and unconscious dynamics in helping relationships. It emphasizes the importance of self-knowledge in pastoral care and counseling—not only as a guard against unethical enactments, but as a positive tool for greater empathy, through ‘intersubjectivity.’ Many Voices (2006) advocates for a recovery of psychoanalytic attention to the unconscious in pastoral psychotherapy, and offers a new postmodern theology for care and counseling. It adds a new concept to the trinitarian theology literature: God as ‘creative profusion, incarnational desire, and living inspiration,’ which, I hope, opens an invitation to further imagination and generosity in our thinking about both psychological theory, and pastoral practices that foster growth, healing, and empowerment for justice."



Anglican Theological Review, spring, 2005, Jody H. Clarke, review of Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling, p. 332.

Currents in Theology and Mission, August, 2006, Leonard M. Hummel, review of Shared Wisdom, p. 333.

Ecumenical Review, October 1, 2005, Jan Berry, review of Shared Wisdom, p. 518.

Interpretation, July 1, 2006, Carol L. Schnabl Schweitzer, review of Shared Wisdom, p. 362.

Pastoral Psychology, November, 2006, Lallene Rector, review of Shared Wisdom, p. 229; March, 2007, R. Scott Sullender, review of Many Voices: Pastoral Psychotherapy in Relational and Theological Perspective, p. 533.

Trinity Seminary Review, summer-fall, 2005, Bob Ahern, review of Shared Wisdom, p. 139.

ONLINE, (May 22, 2008), review of The Cry of Tamar: Violence against Women and the Church's Response.

Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia Web site, (October 1, 2002), profile of Pamela Cooper-White; (May 22, 2008), author biography.

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Cooper–White, Pamela 1955- (Pamela C. White, Pamela Cynthia White)

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