Fundamentals of Clinical Pastoral Training (FCPT)

FCPT is what we used to call Clinical Pastoral Orientation (CPO). It is a Mini-course that follows the pattern of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Program: The Fundamentals of Clinical Pastoral Training (FCPT) is a short-form version of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). CPE is centered within the context of patient care, utilizing the concept that persons (patients) are “living human documents” for learning. It’s purpose is to extend pastoral care services to patients/clients, while offering its participants the opportunity to develop a framework for ministry and particular pastoral and relationship skills.

A normal Full Unit of CPE involves 400 hours of total work, made up of approximately 100 hours of group, instruction, and supervision time, and 300 hours of practical ministry, and reflection time. FCPT, on the other hand, is made to fit more comfortably into a Bible School or seminary course. As such, it normally involves about 100 hours of total time, about equally split between practical time and instruction time.

Supervision/Facilitation: Because FCPT utilizes the basic principles of CPE, a supervisor/facilitator should have completed at least one full unit of CPE. Additionally, he or she should have received basic instruction in the unique aspects of FCPT,

Structure: The FCPT program has three distinct, yet related and concurrent phases or components. They are: DIDACTIC, CLINICAL, and INTERPERSONAL. The didactic phase offers seminar-type discussions and lectures for understanding personality development, emotional factors in crisis and illness, and the dynamics of human relationships. In the clinical phase of the program, the trainee works directly with patients and is able to put to use both the didactic experience and his/her own theological training in person-to-person relationships. The trainee is urged to apply his/her theological components as seeking to minister to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people.

The interpersonal dimension of the program tries to help the trainee integrate this training experience into his/her own personality and unique style of ministry through one-to-one and one-to-many relationship-building experiences.

Objectives: The goal of FCPT is to facilitate the process and development of personal and professional identity and to assist the growth of professional competence as a minister. Specific objectives are:

  • To become more aware of oneself as a minister and aware of the ways that one’s ministry affects persons.

  • To develop an understanding and the ability to utilize the clinical method of learning.

  • To develop the ability to utilize the peer group for support, confrontation, and clarification in a way that will assist one to integrate personal attributes into pastoral functioning.

  • To use individual supervision for personal and professional growth and for developing the capacity to evaluate one’s ministry.

  • To become aware of how one’s attitudes, values, and assumptions affect one’s ministry.

FCPT as Learning: The FCPT experience offers a unique learning opportunity. It focuses on “learning by doing” with an inbuilt evaluation process at all levels. On of the major contributions to the trainee is the development of self-evaluation skills which can be applied to personal and professional functioning.

The FCPT program is viewed as an educational process in which the trainee helps create his/her own learning. The many relationships, which include patients, peers, and the supervisor, provide a crucible where the didactic, clinical, and interpersonal experiences are mixed together. Each ingredient is distinct, with its own viability, but necessary to the whole. The trainee is encouraged to move from observer to participant to peer, with the ultimate goal of becoming his/her own pastoral identity and authority. The trainee is thus able to claim peership within the context of the health care team as a professional and specialist in pastoral care.

Clinical Setting: The hospital setting (as well as similar institutional settings, and the parish setting) provides the opportunity to encounter persons who are facing a variety of life crises. Functioning as members of the Pastoral Care team, FCPT trainees will have access to all patients and family members. In the process of ministering to these persons, the trainees will be confronted with such critical questions as:

  • What is the meaning of pain and suffering?

  • How can I cope with death?

  • Why has God done this to me?

  • What is the significance of faith?

In providing pastoral care to patients, the trainee will discover a great deal about his own faith and doubts, his own ability to establish meaningful relationships, and his own needs and aspirations. Hopefully, he will be able to see how a person enables healing to occur and foster health (well-being), OR contributes to brokenness and disease. The focus is to evaluate these interactions from a theological perspective in order to effect healing and reconciliation.

Interpersonal: FCPT trainees participate in group interaction and one-on-one interaction. Part of this is to assist the Action-Reflection process that leads to theological and professional, and personal insight.

Learning Contract: The trainee will prepare a learning contract in cooperation with the supervisor, which will list the goals, objectives, and needs of the trainee. Each trainee should have a Personal Goal, a Professional Goal, and a Theological Goal.

Learning by Doing: As previously stated, the FCPT progress is primarily that of “learning by doing.” It is experientially based, helping the trainee to discover what she has learned, how the learning has taken place, and to what extent it can be helpful to the student and others. Key elements to this process are observation and modeling. The trainee is encouraged to develop the skill of observation and then to take what has been observed and create her own style of ministering. Each person encounted in the FCPT process forms some kind of model for the trainee, as in turn, she becomes a model for others.

How Does This Work?

FCPT groups may vary, but are likely to work approximately like the following.

Each FCPT group will consist of approximately 4 to 8 trainees with one supervisor.

If the course is 8 weeks long, for example, that means that each trainee must log in 12.5 hours per week. This may break down weekly as:

-4 hours meeting as a group.

-1 hour meeting one-on-one with supervisor

-5 hours doing pastoral care work in hospital or church/community setting.

-2.5 hours taking care of reading assignments, journaling, and writing up case studies.

The group time would have several aspects

-Lecture and presentation of reading reports.

-Case presentations of trainees (Clinical case conference)

-Group work relations

While FCPT is commonly more “book-driven” then Clinical Pastoral Education, in part because of its typical Bible school setting, the focus is still placed more on practical ministry, case study, and group interaction.

Reading Materials

This book may serve as reading material for FCPT. Other books and articles, however, may be used as well. Books chosen should be of an introductory level, similar to those used for an Introduction to Pastoral Care & Counseling Class, or first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. Materials that help provide a foundation for pastoral care or for effective hospital visitation are especially appropriate. It is the role of the facilitator to choose the appropriate materials, and different materials may be assigned to different trainees.


The facilitator should have completed at least one full unit of CPE, and preferably two. The experience of CPE assists in facilitating a program that utilizes a similar structure and philosophy as CPE. Additionally, the facilitator needs to meet the standards and credentials of the associated Bible school or seminary to teach for the course to be recognized by the school.

Although FCPT is not a certified program with CPE credentialing organizations, it is used and recognized by some to prepare trainees for CPE. As such, it is good if facilitators are recognized by such organizations. That is, FCPT, ideally, would be provided in a place where CPE is also carried out.


Requirements may vary from facilitator to facilitator, and school to school. However, some standards are needed to ensure some level of commonality.

Much of the requirements draw from the CPE system. This is, in part, why it is important that the facilitator has done at least one full unit of CPE.