Clinical pastoral education

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Clinical pastoral education (CPE) is education to teach pastoral care to clergy and others. CPE is the primary method of training hospital and hospice chaplains and spiritual care providers in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.[1] CPE is both a multicultural and interfaith experience that uses real-life ministry encounters of students to improve the ministry and pastoral care provided by caregivers.[2]


An underpinning theory of education that structures clinical pastoral education is the "Action-Reflection" mode of learning. CPE students typically compose "verbatims" of their pastoral care encounters in which they are invited to reflect upon what occurred and draw insight from these reflections that can be implemented in future pastoral care events.[3]


Although the practice of pastoral care has a long tradition in Christianity and to some extent in other faith traditions, the systematic analysis of pastoral practice associated with clinical pastoral education had its beginnings in the early 20th century. In 1925, Richard Cabot, a physician and adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Divinity School, published an article in Survey Graphic suggesting that every candidate for ministry receive clinical training for pastoral work similar to the clinical training offered to medical students.[4] In the 1930s, the Rev. Anton Boisen placed theological students at the Chicago Theological Seminary in supervised contact with patients in mental hospitals, a flagship program that later resulted in the forming of the ACPE.[5]

Accrediting bodies[edit]

CPE in Australia and New Zealand is conducted by six CPE accrediting associations that consult together for common curricula and standards of practice under an umbrella association, the Australia New Zealand Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ANZACPE).[6] The six constituent associations are: New South Wales College of Clinical Pastoral Education (New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory); Queensland Institute of Clinical Pastoral Education; Association for Supervised Pastoral Education in Australia (Victoria and Tasmania); Association for Clinical Pastoral Education in Western Australia; South Australia and Northern Territory Association for Clinical Pastoral Education; and New Zealand Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.

In the United States, the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education is recognized as an accrediting organization for CPE programs by the U.S. Department of Education.[7]

In Canada, all CPE training and accreditation is done through CASC, the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care.


  1. ^ Cobb, Puchalski and Rumbold (eds.), Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare, 2012, p. 417.
  2. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about ACPE Clinical Pastoral Education". The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. See section What is Clinical Pastoral Education?. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  3. ^ Cobb, Puchalski and Rumbold (eds.), Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare, 2012, p. 294.
  4. ^ Stokoe, Rodney J.R. (2005) [1974], "Clinical Pastoral Education" (pdf), The Nova Scotia Medical Bulletin (Reprint) 53 (1): 26–28, ISSN 0029-5094, retrieved 2011-10-20  The reprint is available as part of the project: "Living Human Memories". CASC/ACSS The Canadian Association for Spiritual Care. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  5. ^ American Association of Pastoral Counselors/History
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Specialized Accrediting Agencies". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 2013-07-04.