Formation of the Institute

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The Albert and Jessie Danielsen Institute began as the Danielsen Pastoral Counseling Center at the Boston University School of Theology in 1952 with a $5000 gift from Albert V. Danielsen. Its initial purpose was to provide counseling to parishioners referred by Boston area clergy, and training to clergy psychologists studying for doctoral degrees in pastoral psychology at Boston University.

During the mid-1940s interest in pastoral psychology as a discipline began to take shape at Boston University—an effort that was inspired by Professor Paul E. Johnson and encouraged by Dean Walter Muelder. Dr. Johnson’s dream was to combine pastoral and spiritual care with clinical training and paramedical experience. At about the same time, Albert and Jessie Danielsen joined the Open Church Group founded by Roger Babson, at their church in Wellesley. Volunteers from this group gathered at the church each afternoon and evening to help anyone who called or came seeking assistance. Greatly impressed by their experience in the group, the Danielsens began to consider underwriting a professional program aimed at the relief of mental and spiritual distress through the resources of pastoral counseling. They sought the advice of Dr. Johnson, and together they agreed that this center would be best placed in a university setting where it could avail itself of the helping professions already concentrated there. Their efforts culminated in the Danielsen Institute at Boston University, the Counseling Psychology and Religion Program (CPAR) within the Division of Religious and Theological Studies, and a long collaboration between Albert and Jessie Danielsen and Boston University.