Prospective students and members
CPE is an experience in process education which has been shaped by history and yet remains responsive to the present-day cultural developments which will affect your pastoral formation. The heart of CPE is your ministry with people and learning from that ministry through reflection, discussion, and evaluation with other students and your supervisor. In your CPE experience, you will utilize verbatims (in the form of Pastoral Care Reports), case studies, and other ministry descriptions to present your ministry to supervision. The focus in some seminars will be on what is happening to you, the care giver, as much as on what is happening to the people receiving your ministry. There will be discussions which assist you in understanding theological issues arising from experience. There will be opportunities to learn from behavioral sciences while also reflecting theologically, so you can draw from both in understanding the human condition. You will be challenged to think about groups and social structures as well as individuals in defining your ministry. You also will be part of a dynamic learning group with other students and your supervisor, which will provide opportunities for mutual supervision, care giving, challenge and appreciation.
Where will you be ministering?
CPE is offered in a number of different kinds of settings. In many of the settings, such as general hospitals, mental health facilities, correctional institutions, childrens hospitals, and nursing homes, you will minister to individuals, families, and small groups of people as a chaplain. CPE may, however, be done in any setting where ministry happens. There are a growing number of centers with innovative approaches to ministry. Many centers are being established as Congregational or Community based models in connection with a local church or churches. You may want to clarify with a center the types of ministries which occur there.
A typical day in CPE
CPE units may be either full time or part time. Either schedule will include an equivalent number of ministry and education hours. Some extended CPE units meet one day per week for structured educational sessions, and ministry is performed at other times. A more common day, however, is one in which time is provided for ministry and for several education events. Since the heart of CPE is ministering and learning from the experience, a day's schedule frequently includes a clinical seminar in which a student presents a pastoral encounter to other students and the supervisor for discussion and feedback. Other typical sessions are: didactic seminars in which discussion follows a lecture; discussion of a book or article; exploration of theological concerns; peer group meetings or interpersonal group sessions for mutual sharing, caring, support and relationship concerns are explored; and worship or sharing occasions which provide opportunity for spiritual nurture. Field trips, workshops, and clinical observations may be periodically included. Evaluation experiences with the other students and your supervisor are also part of a CPE program and may be scheduled at the end of a unit to sum up the experience, midway to assess your learning objectives, and, at other times, such as with the other care providers in your ministry area. You will discover that a CPE schedule asks for active investment but also provides time for sharing, reflection, preparation, and relaxation.
The CPE learning environment
If you have never participated in a dynamic, interpersonal, process educational experience, you may be concerned about what it will be like. A foundational task will be for the other students, your supervisor and you to share with each other in such a way that all are cared for, supported, and challenged without being belittled. Furthermore, since an individual best knows his or her own limits, everyone will need to respect others boundaries and work to negotiate appropriate learning relationships. Developing a learning environment that is supportive, stimulating, and safe will make the risks of interpersonal learning and growth work taking.
Beginning the application process
Applications for clinical pastoral education may be obtained from any of the centers, from many seminaries, and from the National ACPE office in Decatur, Georgia. The application form requests information about your name, address, education, and references. You will also be asked to comprehensively describe yourself, your history, your religious development, a helping incident, etc. Your completed application will probably be several pages in length.
The admissions interview
The next step after completing your application is an admission interview. The admission interview provides opportunity for you to ask questions and to discuss whether centers are suited to your educational goals. It also provides time for the interviewer to discuss your application, engage you as a person and learner, and to assess your readiness for CPE. The interview may be held with any CPE supervisor. Many CPE Centers require an interview at their institutions when an application is for a year-long Residency. Seminaries frequently schedule a day when a number of supervisors are available to conduct such interviews. There may be a fee for this interview, and you should inquire about that when making arrangements for it. The admission interview report, prepared by the interviewer, becomes a part of your CPE application and should be submitted along with your application to any center to which you apply if on on-site interview was not required.
You might be requested or prefer to schedule the admission interview with the supervisor of the center to which you are applying, or you may wish to arrange for a separate, informal personal interview there other than the formal admission interview. Such a personal interview enables you to discuss first hand the particular center, its program, and the style of the supervisor or supervisory philosophy of the center. An admission interview report will not necessarily be prepared when you interview at the same center to which you are applying. If you desire one, you should discuss that with the supervisor.
Applying to a particular center
Some CPE programs have established educational and experience requirements which have been found to be prerequisites for a successful CPE experience in that setting. Each center has an admissions policy which describes such requirements. The ACPE Standards (which can be found elsewhere on this website) also require supervisors to respond promptly to applications and to indicate a date by which you will be notified of acceptance or rejection. Some centers require an application fee and others require a deposit to confirm your acceptance. The deposit to confirm your acceptance is usually applied to the tuition for the CPE unit. You should inquire about application fees, tuition, and deposits when making application.