What Is Clinical Pastoral Education?

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) was begun in 1925 as a form of theological education that takes place not exclusively in academic classrooms, but also in clinical settings where ministry is being practiced. CPE is offered in many kinds of settings. Hospitals and health care is just one of the many options.

CPE was developed as an interfaith professional education for ministry. The goal is to bring theological students and ministers of all faiths (pastors, priests, rabbis, imams and others) into supervised encounters with persons in crisis. Out of the intense involvement with persons in need, and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs of those to whom they minister. From theological reflection on specific human situations, they gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping persons, they develop skills in interpersonal and interprofessional relationships.

CPE serves as a part of one's preparation for parish ministry, chaplaincy, lay ministry, teaching, and counseling. A student's learning may be focused toward integration of theological, psychological, and pastoral insights into pastoral functioning for parish work. Or it may be designed with a career goal of chaplaincy or pastoral counseling.
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