What is Clinical Pastoral Education?
Clinical Pastoral Education is interfaith professional education for ministry. It brings theological students and ministers of all faiths (pastors, priests, rabbis, imams and others) into supervised encounters with persons in crisis. Out of an intense involvement with persons in need and feedback from peers and teachers, students develop new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs of those to whom they minister. From theological reflection on specific human situations, students gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping persons, they develop skills in interpersonal and inter-professional relationships.
The Essential Elements in CPE Include:
- Detailed reporting and evaluation of that ministry
- Pastoral supervision
- A process conception of experiential learning
- A theoretical perspective on elements of the program
- A small group of peers in a common learning experience
- A specific time period
- An individual contract for learning consistent with the objectives of CPE
- A CPE program conducted by an ACPE Certified Supervisor (faculty) attached to an ACPE accredited CPE Center.
What Kinds of Things Might be Included in the Individual Learning Contract?
- The CPE participant’s contract is developed around the learning goals of:
- Pastoral Reflection – reflection on one’s self as person and pastor in relationship to persons in crisis, the supervisor, and peer group members, as well as the curriculum and institutional setting.
- Pastoral Formation – focus on personal and pastoral identity issues in learning and ministry.
- Pastoral Competence – deepening and unfolding of competence in pastoral function, pastoral skills and knowledge of theology and the behavioral sciences.
- Some centers also offer Pastoral Specialization, focusing on the student’s desire to become competent and knowledgeable in a particular area of ministry, e.g. oncology, urban ministry, parish ministry, hospice ministry, etc.
What Does CPE Prepare a Person To Do?
CPE serves as a part of one’s preparation for parish ministry, chaplaincy, lay ministry, teaching, and counseling. A student’s learning contract may be focused toward integration of theological, psychological, and pastoral insights into pastoral functioning for parish work. Or the contract may be designed with a career goal of chaplaincy or pastoral counseling. CPE develops the capacity for the pastoral and spiritual care of individuals, families, and systems.
Some students, after completing several units of CPE, choose to enroll in Supervisory CPE working toward certification as a CPE supervisor. In Supervisory CPE the student learns the theory and practice of supervision and has an experience of supervising CPE students under the guidance and with the consultation of a CPE supervisor.
Many theological schools require one unit of CPE as a part of a theological degree program. Other schools accept a year of CPE as the required intern year of ministry for a theological degree program. A number of theological schools which are members of the ACPE have graduate degree programs which combine academic study and CPE Supervisory CPE.
Where Can One Enroll in CPE?
The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education has accredited over three hundred and fifty clinical pastoral education centers and clusters throughout the United States. These CPE centers are located in health care institutions, hospitals of all kinds (e.g. general, university, children’s, psychiatric, military, VA), geriatric centers, hospices, parishes, mental health facilities, correctional institutions, and a variety of other settings. The ACPE provides an annual Directory of Accredited Clinical Pastoral Education Centers and Member Seminaries.
Who is Eligible to Enroll in CPE?
For Units of CPE:
An individual who, through a written application and an admissions interview, has demonstrated the ability to participate in CPE, usually one who has successfully completed at least one year of theological school.
Such other requirements for education and experience as a specific CPE center may require.
For Supervisory CPE programs:
An individual who has successfully completed several units of CPE and has demonstrated a readiness to utilize Supervisory CPE, usually one who has a theological degree and several years of pastoral experience.