Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Some Questions and Answers
We provide a CPSP (College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy)-certified CPE program in the Philippines. Presently, this is done in Baguio City and Manila, with a group in Cagayan de Oro being set up in 2012. We normally do our CPE-Intensive during March-May of each year, with the CPE-Extended programs done other times. We also sometimes do CPE-Intensive at other times of the year as well, depending on supervisors.
1. Is CPE only for chaplains?
CPE often focuses on the hospital or jail setting. Likewise, since the focus is on effective ministry with and to people of different religious backgrounds, it is understandable that it is often seen as being for chaplains. However, what is gained in the CPE environment can be applied in any church or parish environment, as well as many other situations.
2. Who should take CPE?
It is becoming more common that seminaries require CPE as part of the training. This makes a lot of sense since CPE is a great way to develop pastoral skills that would help any seminarian. However, one might argue that you get out of it what you put into it, so taking CPE because one is forced to is less than ideal. Additionally, young adults may not get as much out of it since their life experience is limited. Further, those with limited theological training are also likely to gain less from the experience. Older adults can gain greatly from the experience if they are open to self-analysis and growth.
3. What about laypeople. Can they do it?
Yes. However, since CPE integrates theology and psychotherapy, maturity and a solid theological foundation are important prerequisites.
4. My Religion/Faith is ______________, am I welcome?
CPE is “interfaith” meaning that trainees can come from any faith community. Even some atheists or agnostics have taken CPE although it may be a challenge for them to contextualize the training to their own belief structure. Generally speaking, the interaction/dialogue of people from different faith communities adds to the learning process.
5. Can CPE be used as psychotherapy?
It certainly has been used that way at times, but it is not desirable. First, CPE presumes a certain amount of emotional, mental, and spiritual maturity. For those with deep-seated mental, emotional, or spiritual problems, standard counseling, psychotherapy, and spiritual direction should be used rather than CPE. Second, and more importantly, part of the training process involves group process. Lack of centeredness and maturity can hamper the growth process within the group setting (both for self and others in the group). That being said, personal discovery and growth is a normal part of the training process.
6. Is CPE a training program for developing a set of new skills?
Of course new skills are gained, and some CPE programs focus on pastoral and chaplaincy skills acquisition. However, other programs (including ours) seeks self-analysis as a foundational. We need to understand ourselves to be effective in helping others. Without this, we are likely to be drawn into the problem, to exacerbate the problem, or to be adversely affected by the problems of others.
7. Isn’t CPE “secular”?
Again, it depends on the CPE program. Some focus on standard skills. However, other programs, including ours, focuses on the integration of theology and psychology. Theology is not taught directly in CPE, so it is necessary that the trainee comes in with a solid theological perspective. This perspective will be challenged, however, by the CPE experience. Some react negatively to the idea that psychology has a place in religious work. However, psychology is simply the study of the human mind, both individually and socially. While some psychological theories and methods may discount or even attack a religious or theological understanding of humanity, this is far from universal. Our goal is to allow theology and psychology to interact to lead to a greater understanding of the trainee in relation to self and the divine.
8. Can’t I simply do on-line training or weekend classes?
Generally speaking, no. One unit of CPE is 400 hours (training, reflection, and practice). Practice is done in a hospital, jail, or parish setting (normally). CPE is done in as short as 8-11 weeks, and as long as 26 weeks. For 8 weeks, this involves 50 hours a week. This is a commitment greater than a full-time job. Even with 26 weeks, the commitment is just over 15 hours a week. This is more than just a weekend class. Some CPE programs may integrate aspects of distance learning, but group work is still necessary as well as practical ministry.
9. What about the CPE program at ________ which takes less time and has less requirements?
The term “CPE” (Clinical Pastoral Education) has been used a long time by many groups. As such, some may set lesser requirements. The requirements that we set are based on a CPE program certified by the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Those programs that follow the standards of certified CPE will have requirements equivalent to our program.
10. Sometimes you use the acronym “CPE.” Sometimes “CPT.” “Sometimes CPE/T.” Why?
Our form of CPE follows more closely the system set up by Anton Boisen rather than Richard Cabot. This doesn’t necessarily matter to you. However, Cabot focused on educational structures. Boisen sought to integrate religion and psychotherapy and so focused on clinical training with training supervisors rather than teachers/professors, and trainees rather than students. It is probably more accurate if we called it CPT (Clinical Pastoral Training). However, CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) is the traditional term and more familiar to people and institutions.
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