Clinical Pastoral Education Program (CPE) What is CPE?

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The Essential Elements in CPE Include:

  • The actual practice of ministry to persons
  • Detailed reporting and evaluation of that practice
  • Pastoral Supervision by an ACPE certified supervisor
  • A process conception of learning
  • A theoretical perspective on all elements of the program
  • A small group of peers in a common learning experience
  • A specific time period
  • An individual contract for learning
  • ACPE accreditation of the CPE Center

The Individual Learning Contract

The CPE participant’s contract is developed around the learning goals of:

  • Pastoral Reflection – reflection of one’s self as person or 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.

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.

CPE develops the capacity for the pastoral and spiritual care of individuals, families and systems.

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 Supervisory CPE.

Objectives for Clinical Pastoral Education

CPE programs accredited by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education must meet specific standards adopted by the ACPE.  The objectives for Clinical Pastoral Education as stated in the ACPE Standards are as follows:

  • To become aware of oneself as a minister and the way one’s ministry affects persons
  • To develop the skills to provide intensive and extensive pastoral care and counseling to persons in their crises and situations
  • To understand and utilize the clinical method of learning
  • To accept and utilize the support, confrontation and clarification of the peer group for the integration of personal attributes and pastoral functioning
  • To utilize individual and group supervision for personal and professional growth and for developing the capacity to evaluate one’s ministry
  • To develop the ability to make effective use of one’s religious/spiritual heritage, theological understanding, and knowledge of the behavioral sciences in pastoral ministry to persons and groups
  • To become aware of how one’s attitudes, values and assumptions, strengths and weaknesses affect one’s pastoral care ministry
  • To become aware of the pastoral role in interdisciplinary relationships and to work effectively as a pastoral member of an interdisciplinary team
  • To become aware of how persons, social conditions, systems, and structures affect the lives of self and others and to address effectively these issues in ministry
  • To develop the capacity to utilize one’s pastoral and prophetic perspectives in a variety of functions such as: preaching, teaching, leadership, management, pastoral care, and as appropriate, pastoral counseling
  • Objectives of pastoral specialty, if selected are to develop:
    1. Familiarity with the theories and methods for the ministry specialty
    2. One’s own philosophy and methodology or the ministry specialty
    3. Pastoral competence in the practice of the specialty
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