About Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

You may find that your chosen degree requirements reference something called Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE.  What is this and do you have to take it and, if so, how?

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is an accredited program that operates much like an apprenticeship, giving you hands-on ministry experience in a clinical setting. You will work under trained supervisors and be exposed to challenging ministry situations in which you must integrate personal, theological, and pastoral skills. CPE began in 1925 as a form of theological education that combines academic learning with that gained in clinical settings, such as hospitals and health care facilities, hospices, psychiatric and community care facilities, geriatric, veterans’ and rehabilitation centers. It is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), and recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education through the U.S. Department of Education.

CPE is one of the best ways to get hands-on supervised experience in the work of chaplaincy and professional spiritual care. It is a spiritually- and emotionally-stretching experience, one that will lead you to confront important questions about suffering, death, theodicy, and meaning, while you integrate them into your own life path. It is also an incredibly rewarding experience that will help prepare you for the challenges of real-life ministry, as you grow into your identity as spiritual care provider.

Cherry Hill Seminary gives academic credit for CPE done at a site accredited by ACPE.  CPE is usually offered in single units, where 1 unit is a minimum of 400 hours. CHS gives 6 credit hours for 1 unit of CPE. Because CPE is so time-intensive, you should not take other classes during this period. Some people spread this work over 2 semesters in order to receive the full 1 unit.  Before doing CPE, you must successfully complete:

  • P5301: Introduction to Chaplaincy at CHS
  • C5101: Ethics and Boundaries

It is your responsibility to locate a program in your locale and apply to do CPE.  A list of ACPE accredited sites may be found at www.acpe.org. CPE opportunities tend to be competitive, so consider applying early and, if possible, to more than one site. The CHS faculty member who taught your introductory class will usually write you a letter of recommendation and be your CHS contact and faculty advisor during your CPE work. Once you have been accepted at the CPE site and are ready to begin, fill out the form located on our web site, under For Students/Materials, and enroll in CPE. You will be meeting with your CHS faculty advisor once a month as you do CPE. When you have completed your CPE training, you must follow these steps to receive academic credit toward your CHS degree:

  • Make a payment to CHS for the number of credit hours for which you are applying (6 credits for 1 CPE unit). Tuition rates are posted online under For Students, and you may contact the CHS office for assistance. Current rates apply.
  • Send a copy of your CPE supervisor’s final evaluation letter, documenting your completed CPE hours, to the CHS Office (our address is in the website footer below)
  • Send your CHS faculty advisor a 4500-word theological reflection paper from your experience of CPE.

In the event that you cancel or withdraw from your CPE program, the usual policy on Drop/Add or Withdrawal from a CHS course apply.  Check your degree requirements in the Student Catalog. If you have more questions, contact your CHS department chair or advisor.