Ann Klein Forensic Center, a psychiatric hospital in Trenton, New Jersey for patients in the legal system, focuses on the treatment of psychiatric illness and evaluation as requested by the courts. Princeton Theological Seminary student interns interact one-on-one with patients for pastoral counseling, and lead patient groups on topics ranging from mindfulness to spirituality.
Rev. Ali Van Kuiken, chaplain of the Ann Klein Forensic Center, says Princeton students benefit both patients and her work. “PTS students bring their own diverse experience and creativity, and have really connected with patients and staff,” she says. “They also benefit me and my work by reconnecting me to the basics of chaplaincy and expanding the reach of pastoral care.”
Jonathan Burke, MDiv '19, who interned at Ann Klein, says his interest in prison ministry began when he took a class at the Seminary called Trauma and Grace. “I wanted to do something where I can learn more about what trauma-informed care looks like,” he says. He experienced chaplaincy in the contexts of both mental illness and a prison setting at Ann Klein, where he conducted regular one-on-one pastoral care sessions with eight patients once per week at the patient’s request.
The sessions sometimes brought strong emotions, he says. “It can be very difficult. Self-care and knowing my limits were really important, because I heard tragic things on a daily basis.”
He says his supervisor, Van Kuiken, helped him find the balance between “the emotional connection that drives us to help patients, and having an emotional response that could distract me from listening reflectively.”
He also credits his supervisor with helping him see his role at Ann Klein as a “spiritual midwife,” championing patients on their spiritual journey without giving them specific answers.
“The idea is to allow them to see that they have spiritual resources to help them move forward.”