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Clinical Pastoral Education: What You Need to Know

What is a typical day in CPE?

In the summer during the mornings, CPE students meet for group time, instructional presentations, discussions of case studies, and reflections. In the afternoon, the students visit hospital patients in the role of chaplains. During the Extended program students meet for group time, instructional presentations, discussions of case studies, and reflections one day a week in the morning and afternoon. Students visit hospital patients on days they arrange with the supervisor based on the flexible nature of the Extended program.

What is individual supervision?

Students meet with a CPE supervisor for about an hour a week in the summer unit and every other week for the extended unit during which they discuss ministry events, personal issues, and theological questions.

What is a learning contract?

Each CPE student develops learning goals around pastoral reflection; pastoral formation; pastoral competence or pastoral specializations.

How many CPE sessions can I miss?

Students are expected to attend all CPE activities. If a student anticipates missing more than two days, a conference with the supervisor is required.

Will I be doing rotations or serve on a particular hospital area?

Students have clinical assignments to specific hospital services. On their on-call shifts, students gain experience in all areas of the hospital. 

How are the hospital Staff Chaplains involved with CPE students?

The staff chaplains act in the role of "preceptors" for the CPE students. They help with orientation, shadowing, and mentoring.

What does CPE prepare a person to do?

  • CPE develops skills for pastoral care for people in parish work, chaplaincy, lay ecclesial ministry, teaching, counseling, and other forms of ministry. 
  • Many theological schools require CPE as part of their field education practicum, contextual education, or supervised ministry internship. 
  • Religious communities and diocese require CPE as part of their formation programs. 
  • Many denominations require CPE as an element in their ordination track. 
  • Professional Chaplains' organizations require four units of CPE for board-certification as a chaplain. 

Can one receive academic credit for a CPE unit?

Yes, if you are enrolled as a student in a seminary or graduate school of theology, and if your school grants credits for supervised practice or field work, you can get anywhere between 3 to 6 credits (depending on the school). However, if one is not enrolled as a student in an academic program, one cannot obtain academic credit. 

How is the confidentiality of a CPE student protected?

CPE students are protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which protects the privacy of adult student education records. Student CPE evaluations are kept on file for ten years. The evaluations can only be released with the student's written permission. 

How many overnight on-calls....etc?

Each CPE program at UVM Medical Center has an on-call requirement. There is an on-call requirement of  two overnights and one weekend per month, all included in the required hours for the program

How do I apply?

To be considered for the Clinical Pastoral Education program, please download and print our application and reference forms. Mail your completed application to:

Clinical Pastoral Education Faculty
Rev. John T. Crabb, SJ, CPE Supervisor
Spiritual Care Department
Baird Building, Level 2 Room 225
111 Colchester Avenue
Burlington, VT 05401 

Be sure to set up an interview either with the UVM Medical Center CPE Director or if out of state and unable to make an interview in Vermont, arrange with a certified ACPE or NACC supervisor in one's home locale. Have that supervisor conduct the interview and send a written report to the Director of CPE at UVM Medical Center.

When should I apply?

You may check the dates for each of our programs on our Program Calendar. We receive many applications, and decisions are made on a rolling admission basis for each CPE unit.

How long does it take to find out if I am accepted?

Generally students can expect to wait several weeks for an answer.

Do I have to be ordained to do CPE?

No, you do not. UVM Medical Center CPE has seen seminarians, lay men and women, religious sisters, nurses and social workers enrolled in our program. Some will enroll in CPE as a requirement from their ordination body. Others desire to follow a career as a chaplain. Still others sign up for CPE for a personal growth experience or to discern a ministry direction.

I want to be a chaplain or a pastoral counselor. Do I need CPE?

The Association of Professional Chaplains, the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and the National Association of Jewish Chaplains and other organizations certify chaplains. The American Association of Pastoral Counselors trains and certifies pastoral counselors. Some CPE is required as a prerequisite. You should contact these organizations directly about their requirements.

Related Websites

  • Association for Clinical Pastoral Education Inc. (ACPE) - is a multicultural, multi faith 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.
  • National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) - is a professional association for certified chaplains and clinical pastoral educators who participate in the healing mission of Jesus Christ. The association educates, certifies and supports those who serve the church and society.
  • Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) - serves chaplains in all types of health and human service settings. They provide publications, continuing education opportunities and support such as an online discussion forum and professional resources.
  • National Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC) - strives to enhance the skills of Jewish Chaplains in order that they might provide quality Jewish religious and spiritual care.