Book review: LaBat, “Anton Boisen”

Sean J. Labat, Madness, Mysticism, and the Origins of Clinical Pastoral Education (New York: Lexington/Fortress, 2021)

With this book Sean LaBat offers a concise, stimulating and insightful analysis of the life and work of Anton Boisen, a central character in the establishment of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and healthcare chaplaincy as practiced today.

The book is much more than a biography of Boisen, as LaBat also explores the origins, development, and identity of CPE. Through this he weaves a fascinating and realistic perspective of Boisen’s use of self. He offers insight into Boisen’s well-known experiences with serious mental illness and the stigma associated with it. LaBat also invites the reader into the mysticism and creativity of the art of spiritual care as Boisen came to learn it. While seasoned spiritual care providers will find much familiar here, Labat provides good refreshers on concepts core to spiritual care and spiritual care education, such  as patient/student-centered training, CPE as a theological endeavor, and research as an essential component to advance the movement. The reader ultimately knows well Boisen’s work to integrate science and religion more closely. The book would serve well both newcomers to CPE and those with more experience, with its helpful exploration of the history, theory, and practice of clinical pastoral education and the “science” of chaplaincy.


Carlos Bell serves as Director of Pastoral Education in the Office of Mission and Ministry of Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas, Texas. He previously served as the 26th president of ACPE.