CPE Frequently Asked Questions and Additional Information - Patient Care Services
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CPE Frequently Asked Questions and Additional Information

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Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) FAQs - Information for CPE Residents

What is Clinical Pastoral Education?

  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is interfaith professional education for ministry. The textbooks for CPE include in-depth study of the living human documents. By living human documents, we mean both the people who receive care as well as a study of ourselves, the givers of care.
  • Through the practice of ministry and the reflection thereon with Certified Educator and peers, the experiential learning that is CPE takes place. It brings theological students and ministers into supervised encounters with persons in crisis. Out of an intense involvement with persons in need and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop a new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs for whom they minister.
  • From theological reflection on specific human situations, students gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team proces

What are the Accreditation Requirements for VA CPE Programs?

  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) programs are established in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) according to VHA Educational Relationships, VHA Handbook 1400.03. The guidelines of the Supervision of Associated Health Trainees, VHA Handbook 1400.04, Education of Associated Health Professions, VHA Handbook 1400.08, and the annual program announcements for the trainee support in associated health professions.
  • VHA policy requires that CPE programs be accredited by a national accreditation body officially recognized by the U. S. Department of Education. "The Office of Academic Affairs recognizes these nationally recognized accrediting agencies for associated health and nursing programs are designated by the United States Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
  • The list of ED-recognized accrediting agencies for associated health professions education programs is found at Accreditation in the United States *.
  • The list of specialized and professional accrediting organizations published by Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is found at CHEA.org*
  • CPE Programs in the VHA are accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. (ACPE). The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education is nationally recognized as an accrediting agency in the field of clinical pastoral education by the U.S. Secretary of Education through the U.S. Department of Education and by the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Academic Affiliations. (ACPE)

The Essential Elements in CPE Include:

  • The actual practice of ministry to persons
  • Detailed reporting and evaluation of that practice
  • Pastoral Supervision by a CPE Certified Educator
  • 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

The Individual Learning Contract.

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

  • Pastoral Reflection - reflection on one's self as a person and pastor in relationship to persons in crisis, the Certified Educator, 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 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 parish ministry. 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 Certified Educatory CPE, working toward certification as a CPE Certified Educator. In Certified Educatory CPE the student learns the theory and practice of supervision and has the experience of supervising CPE students under the guidance and with the consultation of a CPE Certified Educator.
  • 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 have graduate degree programs that combine academic study and Certified Educatory CPE.

Who is Eligible to Enroll in CPE?


  • A US Citizen
  • Pass a government background check
  • A Bachelor’s degree completed in a school officially recognized by the Department of Education
  • Ability to speak and write fluently in English
  • Have the physical ability to visit patients and navigate Medical Center grounds
  • An individual who, through a written application and an admissions interview, has demonstrated the ability to participate in CPE - usually one who has successfully completed at least one year of theological school.
  • Such other requirements or education and experience as a specific CPE Center may require.

First Year Residency: (4 Units of CPE) (In addition to those qualification listed above:)

  • Have completed a Master of Divinity degree, or equivalent level, completed in a school officially recognized by the Department of Education.
  • Individuals who have completed at least one unit of ACPE CPE will be given priority consideration.
  • Individual who have two years of ministry experience after the completion of the Master of Divinity may be given priority consideration

Second Year Fellowships: (4 Units of CPE) (In addition to those qualification listed above)

  • (Second Year Fellowships involve specialized, intensive training in one of the following areas: Mental Health, Substance Use Treatment, Palliative Care & Hospice)
  • Have completed a one-year residency in an ACPE CPE Center (4 Units)

Certified Educator Education:

  • An individual who wishes to enroll in Certified Educatory CPE must have completed a minimum of four units of ACPE CPE, Level I and Level II Outcomes, and demonstrated readiness to pursue Certified Educator Education. The application process begins by creating your portfolio for Certified Educator Education with the national ACPE, following the guidance found in the ACPE Certification Manual. Following the guidelines, the applicant would also begin the process of applying for Certified Educator Education with ACPE CPE Centers accredited to offer programs of Certified Educator Education. (ACPE Certification)*

How May I Enroll in CPE?

  • Complete the application and mail it to the CPE Center to which you wish to apply.
  • ACPE - Application Form Page*
  • Arrange for an interview with a CPE Supervisor or other person approved by the center to which you are applying.

 Any CPE Supervisor, Regional Director, or CPE Seminary Liaison Professor is available for consultation concerning opportunities. 

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