Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
What Is CPE?
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 the feedback from
peers and teachers, students develop new awareness of
themselves as persons and of the needs of those to whom they
minister. By theologically reflecting on specific human
situations within a small group setting, students gain a new
understanding of their ministry practice and develop skills
in interpersonal and inter-professional relationships.
Students engage in a self-directed, action-reflection-action
method of learning that invokes their self-evaluation of
their pastoral practice and which invites feedback and
critique from their peers and supervisor.
verbatim cases (in the form of Pastoral Care Reports),
critical incidents, weekly journal writing, group
discussions, theological reflections, the behavioral
sciences, personal history self-studies, seminars, and
weekly one-on-one supervisory consultation around one’s
ministry practice with a certified ACPE supervisor.
What do the essential elements of CPE
The actual practice of ministry to
Detailed reporting and evaluation of
A process conception of learning.
A theoretical perspective on all
elements of the program.
A small group of peers in a common
A specific time period.
An individual learning contract
consistent with the objectives of CPE.
A CPE program conducted under the
auspices of a certified APCE Supervisor (faculty)
attached to an ACPE accredited CPE center.
What kind of things might be included
in the Individual Learning Contract?
Pastoral Reflection – reflection on
one’s self as person and pastor in relationship to
persons in crisis, the supervisor, peer group members,
curriculum and institutional setting.
Pastoral Formation – focus on
personal and pastoral identity issues in learning and
Pastoral Competence – deepening and
unfolding of competence in pastoral function, pastoral
skills and knowledge of theology and the behavioral
sciences. Advanced students may focus 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.
Where will I be ministering?
CPE is offered in a number of different
kinds of settings. In many of the settings, such as
parishes, general hospitals, mental health facilities,
correctional institutions, children’s hospitals, and nursing
homes, you will minister to individuals, families, and small
groups of people as a chaplain. CPE may, however, be done in
any setting where ministry happens.
What does a typical day of CPE look
CPE units may be either full time or
part time. Either schedule will include an equivalent number
of ministry and education hours. Some extended CPE units
meet one day per week for structured educational sessions
with ministry performed at other times. A more common day
(e.g., Full Unit 10-12 week intensive), however, is one in
which time is provided for ministry and for several
Since the heart of CPE is ministering and
learning from the experience, a day’s schedule frequently
includes a clinical seminar in which a student presents a
pastoral encounter to other students and the supervisor for
discussion and feedback.
Other typical sessions are:
didactic seminars in which discussion follows a lecture;
discussion of a book or article; exploration of theological
concerns; peer group meetings or interpersonal group
sessions where mutual sharing, caring, support and
relationship concerns are explored; and worship or sharing
occasions that provide opportunities for spiritual nurture.
Field trips, workshops, and clinical observations may be
Evaluation experiences with the other
students and your supervisor are also part of a CPE program
and may be scheduled at the end of a unit to sum up the
experience, midway to assess your learning objectives, and,
at other times, such as with the other care providers in
your ministry area. You will discover that a CPE schedule
asks for active investment but also provides time for
sharing, reflection, preparation, and relaxation.
What is the CPE Learning Environment?
If you have never participated in a
dynamic, interpersonal, process educational experience, you
may be concerned about what it will be like. A foundational
task will be for the other students, your supervisor and you
to share with each other in such a way that all are cared
for, supported, and challenged without being belittled.
Furthermore, since an individual best knows his or her own
limits, everyone will need to respect other’s boundaries and
work to negotiate appropriate learning relationships.
Developing a learning environment that is supportive,
stimulating, and safe will make the risks of interpersonal
learning and growth worth taking.
What are the different types of CPE?
UIC currently offers single
intensive CPE units (10-12 weeks), and Extended Units (16-18
weeks). Sometimes UIC offers a Super Extended CPE unit over
the course of 8-10 months. Please inquire at the center
whether an upcoming Super Extended unit is being offered.
The schedule for CPE units offered by the UIC program is
decided yearly and depends on the availability of resources,
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
Some students, after completing
several units of CPE, choose to enroll in Supervisory
CPE working toward certification as a CPE supervisor. In
Supervisory CPE students learn the theory and practice
of supervision and have an experience of supervising CPE
students under the guidance and with the consultation of
a CPE supervisor. UIC does not provide
Supervisory CPE training. Please contact www.acpe.edu
directory for availability for Supervisory Education
CPE develops the capacity for the
pastoral and spiritual care of individuals, families,
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. Theological
schools which are members of the ACPE have graduate
degree programs which combine academic student and CPE
I want to be a chaplain or a pastoral
Do I need CPE?
The Association of Professional
Chaplains (www.professionalchaplains.org), the National
Association of Catholic Chaplains ( www.nacc.org) and the
National Association of Jewish Chaplains (www.najc.org) and
other organizations certify chaplains. The American
Association of Pastoral Counselors (www.aapc.org) trains and
certifies pastoral counselors. Some CPE is required as a
pre-requisite. You should contact these organizations
directly about their requirements.
Areas of Service
Training Recommended or Required
Pastor, Church Staff, Social Services
Clinical Pastoral Education (minimum
of one unit)
Association for Clinical Pastoral
Education, Inc. (ACPE) or CAPPE
Hospital, hospice, military, or other
Clinical Pastoral Education(4 units
required for Board certification)
training and Association of Professional Chaplains (APC)
or NACC or NAJC for certification
Pastoral Educator (CPE Supervisor)
Supervisor of CPE programs in a
variety of settings
CPE (Level I,
Level II and Supervisory) Successful completion of
Association for Clinical Pastoral
Education, Inc. (ACPE)
Counselor on church staff, counseling
center or agency
CPE (at least 1
unit) PLUS pastoral counseling training program
introductory unit and American Association of
Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) For pastoral counseling
Licensed Professional Counselor
Varies from state to state. Can often
be done in conjunction with pastoral counseling
AAPC or state