Entering the World of Clinical
Pastoral Education at SFTS

Enrolling in CPE in at SFTS means entering into several different cultures: the culture of CPE, the culture of the health care/medical world, the culture of parish ministry, the culture of community action ministry, the culture of institutional ministry and the culture of theological education at SFTS as a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary. Each has its own "language" that is idiosyncratic. So welcome to the distinctive and idiosyncratic world of Clinical Pastoral Education!

Clinical Pastoral Education is conducted by an ACPE CPE Supervisor who is specifically trained and certified to offer this kind of education. Typically, supervisors also served as pastors, chaplains, lecturers, hospital administrators, program directors, and educators. The CPE Supervisor offers both individual and group supervision.

As a unique discipline, CPE has developed its own "language" and educational methodology.
In the course of CPE orientation and seminars, you will begin to learn some of the time-honored phrases of CPE. The ideas that accompany such phrases as "the living, human documents," "peer group," "parallel process," "the clinical method of learning," "checking your assumptions," "trusting the process," "theological implications," "spiritual assessment," "self-awareness," "spiritual practice," "values, attitudes and assumptions," "support, clarify and confront" – these, and more, are part of the heart and soul of CPE. As a CPE student, you will also learn some of the administrative and procedural language of CPE.

In "CPE Speak," for example, Clinical Pastoral Education is considered to be one "program" with three "Levels" (Level I, Level II, Supervisory Education). One "unit" of CPE is a minimum of "400 hours," of which 100 hours must be "structured learning" and 300 hours must be "direct contact" with the population you are serving. "Structured learning" refers to seminars of various types and to individual supervision with your CPE Supervisor. A "peer group" is made up of at least three CPE (Level I/II) students who engage in a small group learning process.

In "CPE Speak," a "half unit" of CPE is a minimum of "240 hours", of which 60 hours must be "structured learning" and 180 hours must be "direct contact" with the population you are serving.

A unit or half unit of CPE, in "hours" means hours of structured learning plus hours in which ministry is provided to patients, parishioners, families, interdisciplinary staff, clients or prisoners.

CPE programs have Objectives and CPE students have Outcomes. Objectives define the scope of the CPE (Level I, Level II and Supervisory Education) program curricula. Outcomes define the competencies to be developed by students as a result of participating in CPE programs.

SFTS offers a community based CPE program. Helpful resources will be provided or sited for you in order to learn the "language" used within your ministry site.

This page is designed to introduce you to the vocabulary, methodology and requirements of CPE. You will learn about the clinical and experiential method of learning and about pastoral formation, pastoral competence and pastoral reflection. An important ingredient in your CPE educational program is the people who guide your learning. You will meet Faculty and members of the SFTS CPE Professional Advisory Council. Your unofficial faculty, your primary teachers are, of course, the parishioners, patients, families and clients you serve.

Clinical Pastoral Education Methodology
In times of change the Learners will inherit the Earth, while the Learned will find themselves fully prepared for a world that no longer exists.
Eric Hoffer

The early history of Clinical Pastoral Education is rooted in the educational reform movements of the early 20th Century. Educational reformers of this era questioned the value of learning information without the benefit of knowing its practical application. People like John Dewey in education, Richard Cabot in Medicine and William Keller in theological education, advocated educational methods that involved students in learning from concept to practice and practical application. These ideas caught the imagination of Anton Boisen who conducted the first recognized unit of CPE, first called CPT (Clinical Pastoral Training), at the Worcester State Hospital (Massachusetts) in 1925. In addition to the disciplines of academic education, CPE students also study what Boisen called "The Living Human Documents." The Living Human Documents are studying the sacred texts, history, theology and spirituality written on the people of God – parishioners, patients, families, clients, staff, peers and CPE supervisor – as well as oneself. In CPE, the people (self and others) are primary sacred texts.

The reform movement in theological education produced a new generation of people devoted to the advancement of pastoral care, counseling and the integration of the person and professional in spiritual practice. Their principal values lay in a commitment to pastoral care learned through supervised ministry practice integrated with the behavioral sciences in a theologically informed, relevant and effective ministry.

The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) was formed in 1967 through the merging of the Institute of Pastoral Care, Council of Clinical Training, the Association of Clinical Pastoral Educators and the Department of Institutional Chaplaincy and Clinical Pastoral Education. The present-day Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc., describes itself as "a multicultural, multifaith organization devoted to providing education and improving the quality of ministry and pastoral care offered by spiritual caregivers of all faiths through the clinical educational methods of Clinical Pastoral Education."

The CPE program at SFTS is a Satellite CPE Center to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center's (ABSMC) Department of Chaplaincy Services and Clinical Pastoral Education. [Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Department of Chaplaincy Services and Clinical Pastoral Education, 2450 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705, (510) 204-6730, Fax (510) 848-6119]

ABSMC is fully accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) to offer the following formats of CPE: Level I, Level II and Supervisory Education. ACPE is nationally recognized as an accrediting agency in the field of Clinical Pastoral Education through the U.S. Department of Education. The Intensive and Extended CPE units will be conducted in accordance with 2005 Standards of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. (See http://www.acpe.edu/acroread/2005_standards_manual.pdfs - section 308). [The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc., 1549 Clairmont Road - Suite 103, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4635, (404) 320-0849, www.acpe.edu]

To learn more about the history of the Pastoral Education Movement read Head and Heart by Charles E. Hall (Journal of Pastoral Care Publications, 1992), Inside the Circle: A Historical and Practical Inquiry Concerning Process Groups in Clinical Pastoral Education by Joan E. Hemenway (JPCC Publications, 1996), Trust the Process: A History of Clinical Pastoral Education as Theological Education by Stephen D. King (University Press of America) or go to www.acpe.edu for more information.

The "Clinical" in Clinical Pastoral Education
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is an approach to theological education that emphasizes learning through the supervised practice of ministry. CPE programs use a "clinical method of learning." The word "clinical" means "at the point of contact with the person(s) being served". Here the parishioner, patient, client, families become our teachers as we seek to minister to them at the ministry site. The clinical method of learning focuses on understanding care processes and dynamics, learning how to conceptualize possible care needs and learning how to initiate pastoral care interventions that support certain care outcomes for the parishioner/patient/client as well as the pastor. We seek to teach a disciplined cycle of "action and reflection," a process which is basic to developing pastoral identity, pastoral authority, pastoral insight, pastoral care and counseling skills, pastoral boundaries and spiritual maturity. As applied to pastoral care, the action/reflection approach to learning provides a way to bridge and integrate theology and experience, theory and practice, pastor and person, classical theological education and competence in delivery of pastoral care -- provided we maintain the tension and appreciate the contribution of all of these elements.

The "Pastoral" Focus of Clinical Pastoral Education
Exploring what makes one's action, activity, or person "pastoral" is the primary focus of the clinical method used in CPE. We establish a "pastoral" focus by assigning students roles as "chaplains, pastors, spiritual care providers and spiritual leaders." When CPE students assume the role and responsibilities of "pastor," they invite the projection and spiritual care needs of patients, clients, parishioners, families and institutions who relate to them through that role. The tension of learning to carry this holy transference and support the spiritual needs within the scope of pastoral community drives the learning process. Through attempts to minister and reflect upon the ministry, students come to understand and clarify the values, attitudes and assumption they bring to the pastoral role. Thus, "reflection helps to identify and clarify who we are as "pastors," "chaplains," "ministers," "counselors," "spiritual leaders" and/or "community organizers." The pastoral focus of CPE specifically addresses:

  • Pastoral Reflection - Reflection of one's self as person and pastor in relationship to whom you provide pastoral ministry, the supervisor and peer group members, as well as the curriculum and institution.
  • Pastoral Formation - Focus on personal and pastoral identity issues in learning and ministry.
  • Pastoral Competence - Deepening and unfolding of competence in pastoral function, pastoral arts and skills, knowledge and application of theology, behavioral sciences, and social sciences.
As a CPE student, you have the opportunity to pursue educational goals related to pastoral identity, self-understanding, relational skills, theological questions and the use of religious resources. Clinical supervision provides guidance and structure for the overall program. The action-reflection methodology allows students to experience themselves in ministry and then utilize reflective opportunities to understand these experiences intrapersonally, interpersonally, theologically and practically.

During CPE, students often grow in confidence about their ability to provide ministry and gain an appropriate sense of their strengths, limitations, pastoral authority, pastoral identity, and spiritual development. The importance of developing professional identity and authority through disciplined practice is a training concern common to every helping profession. What sets the pastoral care professional apart is that, among all professions, ministers uniquely symbolize the presence of the "Holy" in human interaction. Hence, the importance of developing one's spiritual capacities and practices along with pastoral identity and authority are essential. CPE, as a unique form of supervised ministry, offers both new and seasoned pastoral care providers the opportunity to explore their identity as ministers and grow in ministry by meeting the "pastoral" challenge found in process learning.

The "Education" of Clinical Pastoral Education
Clinical Pastoral Education is first, and foremost, education. The root of the word "education" derives from a Latin root meaning "to lead out," or more literally, "to widen the horizon." CPE is for adult learners and uses a peer group process that provides opportunities for support, clarification and confrontation. As individuals, each student brings rich resources for learning to the group. This means that students enrolled in CPE come with previous life and ministry experience from which to draw. Students also come with a set of values, attitudes and assumptions shaped through experience in the social and cultural context that may both limit and enhance what is possible in ministry. CPE as an educational experience seeks to widen our view of what is possible. A student's ministry site will call their suppositions into question and confuse them about what they think they know. As students encounter the task of ministry, previously established attitudes will "unfreeze." This unfreezing is sometimes experience as stressful, yet it is a necessary prelude to a broadening vision and understanding of what ministry is and how we may better serve. By the end of the program, we at SFTS hope that each student will have come to see ministry and themselves as a minister in a broader perspective.

Learning from Mistakes
CPE asks students to take risks, try new approaches to ministry, reflect on their assumptions, and share their "mistakes." In Clinical Pastoral Education, a "mistake" is a learning opportunity. This attitude is a prerequisite for a learning environment that emphasizes human growth and dignity. The only way to fail in CPE is to fail to learn from one's experience including one's own mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable occurrences in ministry. The ability to evaluate one's own ministry, strengths and growing edges, is a valuable asset to one's ministry.

It is normal for a student to feel anxious about providing ministry in unfamiliar settings and to parishioners, patients, families or clients in unfamiliar contexts. For some, fear may compound this normal anxiety. A student may worry about saying or doing "the right [or wrong] thing." He or she may be overly-concerned about what others think. She or he may not be knowledgeable about the milieu, the interdisciplinary relationships, the illness/spiritual challenge or the institutional structure, culture and hidden rules. The student may focus on "doing ministry right" rather than "learning to minister." The "doing ministry right" perspective works against the aims of Clinical Pastoral Education. The "learning to minister" perspective encourages the development of insight into and understanding of oneself as a minister and acquiring effective ministry skills. In CPE, instead of viewing mistakes as faults or failures, the CPE learning process sees each encounter, regardless of how well or ill conceived, as an opportunity for learning.

In CPE, learning to "trust the process" is a spiritual practice that has theological implications. To the extent possible, CPE students are encouraged to stretch themselves and risk experimenting for the sake of their growth and learning. We trust that the supervisory and peer-review process as well as the student's commitment to learning will assure quality of care for the population being served.

Getting the Most Out of Clinical Pastoral Education
Participation in Clinical Pastoral Education requires that students invest substantial time, effort and money. In view of their investment, students naturally want to get the most out of their experience. By following these few guidelines, students can insure they reap the maximum benefit from the CPE program.

  • Be an active participant in the groups, seminars and lectures provided through the curriculum.

  • Identify learning issues to discuss with your peer group and request time to discuss them in the structured groups and seminars.

  • Regularly visit your ministry site population in accordance with the ministry service agreement and in line with SFTS CPE policies and procedures.

  • Coordinate and initiate consultation with your ministry site coordinator and other significant staff at your ministry site. Seek consultation from your supervisor, peers, SFTS faculty and SFTS CPE Professional Advisory Council members.

  • Be accountable in attending seminars, in preparing and submitting written assignments on time. Be accountable in completing assigned readings. Let your Supervisor know if you are not able to submit work on time or attend a seminar so that another agreement can be established. CPE is a group learning process. You will be accountable to your peer group as well as your supervisor. You will also be accountable to your ministry site coordinator and the population you serve.

How does Clinical Pastoral Education Benefit the Community?
Some of the outcomes that the student, the supervisor, the seminary, the ministry site and the community might expect from a program of Clinical Pastoral Education:

  • Spiritual leaders better equipped to respond in emergency and crisis situations.
  • Spiritual leaders more competent to consult with other professionals and to make referrals as indicated.
  • A diversity of faith group leaders with developing ability for interfaith, interdisciplinary, multi-cultural dialogue and spiritual care.
  • Persons offering caring ministries with greater awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and how their personal history impacts their care-giving.
  • Lay persons and religious leaders with enhanced skills in listening, caring, making spiritual assessment, integrating theory and practice, and pastoral counseling.
  • Leaders skilled in crisis intervention, conflict management, grief process and group dynamics.
  • Greater community awareness of mental illness, substance use disorders, domestic violence, and of resources available for addressing these problems.
  • Community leaders who are informed on cutting-edge concerns in social structures and ethical deliberation: end of life decision-making, access to healthcare, organ donation, child and elder care, poverty, war, homelessness, procreation choices, education, justice issues, cultural competence, etc.
  • Spiritual leaders better equipped to lead worship, provide meaningful rituals and attend to the sacramental needs of the community in which they serve


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