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VITAS CPE: More Information

Who May Participate?

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is designed for people who are interested in:

  • Learning about end-of-life issues
  • Deepening their own spirituality
  • Enhancing their pastoral care skills
  • Increasing their understanding of medical ethics and related issues
  • Improving their ability to process through reflection

The program is open to laity and clergy who have an interest in deepening their own spiritual life through attentiveness to end-of-life issues, as well as to those seeking to strengthen their competency in providing pastoral care. It is also for those hoping to broaden their understanding of inter-faith and interdisciplinary relationships.

Persons interested in CPE at VITAS also should have a desire to work with others in an inter-faith and interdisciplinary setting. VITAS does not discriminate based upon race, gender, age, faith group, national origin, sexual orientation or physical disability.

The Learning Process

Clinical Pastoral Education is a dynamic and creative program that uses the “action reflection” method of learning.

Typical learning structure includes:

  • A small interpersonal group
  • Verbatim clinical presentations
  • Didactic seminars
  • Spiritual reflection
  • Individual supervision

Preparation involves:

  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • Articulation of one’s spiritual journey
  • Practicing pastoral care

Through supervised pastoral encounters, participants benefit from the opportunity to work directly with hospice patients and their families. With deep introspection, honest critique and real learning, CPE participants over time ideally can increase their awareness of self and the needs of those to whom they minister.

Areas of Focus

Pastoral Reflection

Reflecting on oneself as a person and pastor in relation to people in crisis— through feedback offered by the supervisor, peer group members, the curriculum and written learning tools.

Pastoral Formation

Increasing awareness of one’s pastoral identity through ministry provided in the clinical setting, integrating one’s family history and incorporating one’s theological heritage.


Developing ways to broaden one’s ministry based on existing and newly learned skills and resources.

Pastoral Specialization at VITAS

Ministering to persons facing end-of-life issues, working as a member of an interdisciplinary team, providing bereavement services, offering staff support and other areas of focus.

The Hospice Experience

Hospice offers a unique opportunity for Clinical Pastoral Education. The level of intimacy at the end of life invites a vulnerability that is rich with meaning and profound explorations of spirituality.

Through hospice care, a focus on the quality of relationships deepens between you and others as well as you and your own spirit. Possibilities for hope and courage emerge for all involved.

Chaplains use this clinical context for learning how to strengthen and build upon spiritual awareness. Mutual growth with hospice staff, patients and families happens in surprising and exciting ways.

Training in the hospice environment offers diverse experiences in patients' homes, hospitals and nursing homes, and assisted living facilities/residential care facilities for the elderly.

Bereavement group leadership rounds out the cycle of end-of-life care. Chaplains conduct memorial services and help facilitate bereavement support groups in the community. Experiencing end-of-life rituals helps clergy learn the nuances of ethnic, cultural, religious and familial heritage.

Levels and Training Hours

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is offered in three levels (Level I, Level II and 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).

Many faith bodies require a minimum of one unit of ACPE-accredited CPE to be considered for ordination. VITAS requires its hospice chaplains to complete one unit of CPE, with encouragement to do more. 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.


VITAS is accredited as a system to offer Level I, Level II, and Supervisory CPE by:

Association for Clinical Pastoral Education Inc., (ACPE)
1549 Clairmont Road, Suite 103
Decatur, GA 30033

Accredited CPE centers offer clinical pastoral education:

  • One component of theological education
  • Continuing education for ministry
  • Training for institutional chaplains
  • Training for pastoral counseling
  • Training for certification as a supervisor of CPE
  • Training for other specialized ministries