What is CPE?

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is an experiential training program in pastoral/spiritual care using an action/reflection model of learning, supplemented with teaching sessions and reading. Participants explore how to be present to others who are experiencing distress and how to offer grounded spiritual interventions informed by self-awareness and best practice.

It consists of a minimum of 400 hours of learning made up of:
♦ 200 hours of placement (of which 100 hours is actual face-to-face pastoral/spiritual care)
♦ 90 hours of group work
♦ 10 hours of individual supervision and
♦ 100 hours of reflection, reading and preparation of written/oral material.


ACPEWA currently has one registered CPE Centre – the Perth Community CPE Centre (piccpe7@gmail.com).

 Many participants in WA complete just one CPE program before engaging in a pastoral/spiritual care role. CPE is also required by some churches for formal ministry accreditation or ordination.  Some people return for a second or third CPE program to deepen their self-awareness and further enhance their pastoral skills. There is after all only so much one can learn in a single 400 hour CPE program. As CPE uses an individual, experiential learning model, each participant is able to work to enhance their competency and meet their individual learning goals. In other places eg Victoria and the USA, employers usually require multiple units of CPE for paid roles.
Some ACPEWA Educators are accredited as Adjunct Lecturers for CPE with the University of Divinity ((Melbourne). Participants can enrol in CPE with University of Divinity to gain credit 48 points, the equivalent of two subjects. University of Divinity offers the possibility of three units of CPE (Level 1 (Foundational), Specialist and Level 2(Advanced)) It is up to applicants studying with other academic institutions to enquire about what academic credit may be granted for CPE.

While the courses offered vary between our centres and our educators, there are basic elements which are present in all of our programs.

During Orientation, participants are presented a Handbook which contains relevant information about the clinical context, course requirements, administrative structures, assignment guidelines, policies and procedures, learning outcomes and much more.  Group norms are set, relationships begin to form, individual learning goals are set, and the learning process begins.

Pastoral Encounter Reviews are at the heart of the CPE learning model.  These are analytical and reflective documents which participants present to their peers and supervisor.  Paticipants reflect on the impact of their attitudes, values and assumptions on the care they provide, while learning theoretical principles related to the practice of pastoral and spiritual care.

Case Studies are a more in depth analysis of the care provided by the participant over the course of multiple visits and interventions.

Reflection Papers are individualised assignments geared towards encouraging participants to practise further reflection and analysis related to some particular learning issue, theoretical principle, or the impact of some personal attribute or behaviour on their professional practice.


Pastoral Labs offer participants the opportunity to see their practice through the eyes of their peers and supervisors and to see themselves on video.

Open Agenda Group, is an unstructured time for group supervision with peers and the educator.  The group time is an opportunity to reflect on success and struggles encountered within CPE and the placement, to engage in collegial relationships, to work on individual learning goals or the ACPEWA learning outcomes and to experience and learn about group processes and dynamics.

Individual Supervision is a time for one-on-one reflection with the educator.  Often this includes reviewing a specific example of professional practice, but may also include exploration of any issue related to the integration of personal and professional identity, reflection on the learning process, or addressing struggles encountered in the course of providing care.

Teaching seminars, or didactics, are the most academic part of the program and include the presentation of theoretical models and concepts related to the practice of pastoral and spiritual care. Sometimes these seminars are led by others with specific knowledge or experience of a topic.

Reading Reviews require participants to conduct research on a topic through engagement in a journal or website article on a topic related to the practice of pastoral or spiritual care.

Because our supervisors continually seek to refine their practice and to meet particular needs of their students, a variety of other components may be offered during certain CPE units.  Please contact a CPE Centre for more information about what will be included in upcoming units.