What is clinical pastoral education?

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is a unique interfaith experience, open to people of all faiths. ICPT offers CPE to spiritual professionals and theological students seeking professional growth and development in clinical pastoral settings. CPE students learn through action-reflection instructional methods and supervised practice in real-world settings to provide pastoral services to persons in crisis.


Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is provided through four levels, or units of hands-on learning, clinical supervision, and academic study. CPE is specifically designed for students who are chaplain or pastoral care interns, or ministry students at the bachelor’s level or higher who wish to become more effective at the ministry of presence and spiritual care.  


You will learn how to listen to understand rather than listen to respond. Specific modules will address such important topics as: Asking Seriously Curious Questions, Cultural Competency and Sensitivity, Staff Care, Effective Communication, Group Counseling Dynamics, HIPAA Compliance, End of Life Care, Advanced Care Directives, and much more.  


Each CPE Unit builds on the previous module. Each will include 100 hours of academic instruction and 300 hours of clinical work. Hours can be earned in a variety of settings as an intern, staff member, or a lay volunteer. Each semester is 12 weeks long. 


Students include both clergy, such as Ordained Chaplains and Pastors, and non-clergy, such as lay volunteers and college or seminary students who wish to serve people in their congregations and surrounding community.  


Obtaining all four levels of CPE may, along with the appropriate level of accredited education and experience, provide you with opportunity to become Board Certified in Chaplaincy or Pastoral Care. 


See our description of possible certification levels by clicking here.

What will you learn in cpe?

4 Units: Lectures, learning modules, and student collaboration creates an effective learning environment. The learning topics, expectations, and outcomes are described below for each unit. Join us for a truly life changing experience. 

CPE Unit 1

Course Learning Modules:

  • Cultural Competence, Inclusion, and Vulnerable Populations
  • Living with Heartbreak: Grief, Loss, and Bereavement

Key Lecture and Discussion Topics:

  • Story formed: Be genuinely interested in knowing the person as they are
  • Avoid prescribing, telling, instructing, fixing: You can't fix them!
  • Pastors versus Evangelists versus Chaplains. What's the difference? 
  • Ministry of presence. Effective listening to understand rather than to respond
  • Chaplains go deep, Head verses Heart questions
  • Seriously curious questions
  • Why Pastors and Evangelists have a hard time becoming an effective Chaplain
  • Group Project: Knowing your community through study of population demographics
  • Appropriate application of teaching from the learning modules

CPE Unit 2

Course Learning Modules:

  • Powerful communication techniques
  • Values, Obligations, and Rights: Healthcare ethics
  • When it's time to say goodbye: Introduction to spiritual care at end of life

Key Lecture and Discussion Topics:

  • Group dynamics and communication roles of group participants
  • Creating a positive environment for effective group discussion (Family, Friends, Team, etc)
  • Going deeper into effective communication: Nonverbal cues, listening skills, asking questions
  • Moving from small talk to deep talk: Away from fact gathering to emotion sharing
  • Group Project: Understanding the dynamics of group behavior and learning how to manage group conversations
  • Connecting life and trials to faith and spirituality

CPE Unit 3

Course Learning Modules:

  • When care is tough: Supporting the staff and interdisciplinary team
  • Talking about what matters: Advance directives and planning

Key Lecture and Discussion Topics:

  • The importance of community, a referral network, and working with volunteers
  • There will never be enough paid chaplains, so build a village - no Lone Rangers
  • Listening to understand, going much deeper, the art of the question, be the Chaplain
  • Keepers of the Sacred Presence
  • Contribute to the professionalism of Chaplaincy
  • Group Project: Download and complete your state specific Advanced Care Directives and discuss the challenges and difficult decisions to grapple with
  • An easy way to demonstrate effectiveness to management is staff retention

CPE Unit 4

Course Learning Modules:

  • What to do with information: Confidentiality and HIPAA compliance
  • What we hear and say: Spiritual assessment and documentation

Key Lecture and Discussion Topics:

  • Think like a supervisor: Teach others the craft of Chaplaincy
  • Build on the subject of recruiting and coordinating volunteers: It takes a village
  • Build a professional referral network: Don't get in over your head
  • Know your faith and worldview. Do not be unequally yoked to an organization whose beliefs, practices, and expectations conflict with your own. Compare Codes of Conduct. Choose wisely
  • Get out of your head and move into your heart
  • Use of note taking in assessments. Document your work. Make it habit
  • Group Project: Define the terms "Pastoral Diagnosis," and "Spiritual Care/Assessment." Create a custom spiritual assessment document for use in your unique Chaplain setting. The final document should be limited to no more than two pages, front and back. Include all pertinent information you deem to be important, a section for notes, a section for specific diagnosis, plan of care, and the spiritual assessment process you wish to follow as drawn from the material contained in the course. 
  • Improving the profession