Clinical Pastoral Education

Interdisciplinary Ministry Training

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is an inter-faith professional development program designed to prepare students to provide spiritual care. It brings students (future or current ministers, rabbis, imams and other spiritual care providers) into supervised encounters with people in crisis or health transitions.

Out of an intense involvement with people in need, and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop a new awareness of themselves and the needs of others. From theological reflection on specific situations, they gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping people, they develop skills in interpersonal and inter-professional relationships.

What Do the Essential Elements of CPE Include?

  • The actual practice of ministry to people
  • Detailed reporting and evaluation of that practice
  • Pastoral/Spiritual Care supervision
  • A process conception of learning
  • A theoretical perspective on all elements of the program
  • A small group of peers in a common learning experience
  • A specific time period
  • An individual contract for learning consistent with the objectives of CPE
  • Pastoral reflection, formation, and competence are stressed in the student’s learning activities.

What Might Be Included in the Individual Learning Contract?

  • Pastoral Reflection – reflection on one’s self as a person and a pastor in relationship to people in crisis, the Certified Educator and peer group members, as well as the curriculum and institutional setting
  • Pastoral Formation – focus on personal and pastoral identity issues in learning and ministry
  • Pastoral Competence – deepening and unfolding of competence in pastoral function, pastoral skills and knowledge of theology and the behavioral sciences
  • Pastoral Specialization – focus on the student’s desire to become competent and knowledgeable in a particular area of ministry (oncology, urban ministry, parish ministry, hospice ministry, etc.)

What Does CPE Prepare You to Do?

CPE serves as a part of preparation for parish ministry, chaplaincy, lay ministry, teaching and counseling. A student’s learning contract may be focused toward integration of theological, psychological and pastoral insights into pastoral functioning for parish work. The contract also may be designed with a career goal of chaplaincy or pastoral counseling. CPE develops the capacity for the pastoral/spiritual care of individuals, families and systems.

Some students, after completing several units of CPE, choose to enroll in Certified Educator CPE to work toward certification as a CPE Certified Educator. In Certified Educator CPE, students learn the theory and practice of supervising CPE students under the guidance and with the consultation of a CPE Certified Educator.

Many theological schools require one unit of CPE as a part of a theological degree program. Other schools accept a year of CPE as the required intern year of ministry for a theological degree program. A number of theological schools which are members of the ACPE have graduate degree programs which combine academic study and Certified Educator CPE.

What Are the Different Types of CPE?

ACPE offers Level I and Level II CPE, as well as Certified Educator CPE. The levels are taken in sequence, and outcomes for each level must be completed before moving to the next level.

CPE is usually offered in single units (10-12 weeks) or in a year-long program (three to four consecutive units). Some centers have other part-time options. The center of your choice can explain the options available at their location. St. Cloud Hospital offers a fall unit from September through December, a spring unit from January through May and a summer unit from June through August.

Where Can I Find More Information?

The St. Cloud Hospital CPE Program is administered through the Spiritual Care department, located in Woods Lobby of St. Cloud Hospital. It is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education | ACPE, Inc., 1 Concourse Pkwy, Suite 800, Atlanta, GA, 30328.

For more information about our program or for an application, you may contact the CPE Certified Educator at or 320-251-2700, ext. 54621.

For more information about CPE, visit

Nondiscrimination Policy

The St. Cloud Hospital/CentraCare CPE Center does not discriminate in admission or administration of its program or activities on the basis of age, gender, race, national origin, religion, creed, color, marital status, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, ancestry, veteran status or any other characteristic protected by the federal , state of local law. In addition, the center provides reasonable accommodations for otherwise qualified disabled individuals.