What Is CPE?
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is interfaith professional education in the field of pastoral care. It is intended for theological students and ministers of all faiths who want to learn pastoral care skills and work within a pluralistic and clinical setting. CPE has been described as an "in-depth study of the living human documen," meaning that while we seek to understand others, we inevitably learn about ourselves. This program offers a rich environment for learning pastoral care skills, understanding end-of-life care issues and understanding the overall duties of a hospice chaplain.
CPE also is described as an opportunity for spiritual and educational renewal—although it can be intensely demanding, emotionally and intellectually.
CPE is offered in three levels (Level I, Level II, Supervisory), each with distinct objectives and outcomes. A single unit of CPE requires a minimum of 400 hours of training (300 clinical and 100 educational).
At least one unit of CPE is required for ordination; VITAS also requires its hospice chaplains to complete one unit of CPE, with encouragement to do more. Many faith bodies are now requiring a minimum of one unit of ACPE-accredited CPE to be considered for ordination, while a minimum of 4 units of CPE are required to qualify for board certification as a professional chaplain.
- Interns are students enrolled in a single unit of CPE; they pay tuition to the CPE site for this educational experience and often apply this training toward their seminary degrees.
- Residents make an even more substantial commitment to their studies—typically full time—and often receive a modest stipend to cover living expenses in consideration for the hours of commitment and spiritual care they provide. This entails 40 hours per week for either 9 or 12 months. Upon completion, residents earn 3 or 4 units of training.
- Those who have completed four or more CPE units and aspire to become a certified CPE supervisor may wish to apply for a supervisory training position. This process takes a minimum of 4 years and requires writing a number of papers on relevant topics, which are reviewed by both regional and national committees at varying stages of the process.
“Credit for successfully completing a unit of CPE is granted under standards established by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE),” notes Martha Rutland, D.Min., VITAS’ national CPE director.
For VITAS CPE contact information, please click here.
For CPE contact information, please click here.