More and more seminaries and denominations are requiring clinical pastoral education in hospital settings. Whether it is required for you or not, I HIGHLY recommend CPE for all future pastors and church program staff members. Here are a few things a CPE student can hope to take away from their experience:
1) Cultural Sensitivity Training
Hospital chaplains are required to serve all patients, to the best of their abilities, regardless of their cultural, ethnic, or religious background. Clinical Pastoral Education is not about proselytizing; it is about pastoral care. Do you know the communication styles or superstitions of various Asian cultures? Or death and burial rituals for Gypsy clans? What about offering sacraments for Catholic families or chanting resources for Buddhists? What about the needs of Hindu or Muslim patients? At the end of CPE, you will be well-versed on providing care for patients of all types while also maintaining integrity and honoring your own faith tradition.
2) Self-Development and Awareness
CPE students will choose a learning or spiritual theme that they would like to explore during their term based on their personal lives. This learning theme will be explored in relationship to self, to the group, and to the hospital patients and staff. Throughout the experience, Chaplains will reflect and work on themselves with the assistance of individual supervision and group process. The learning environment will be a safe place to share about the truth of one’s life. Examples of learning themes might be: “living with guilt”, “taking risks”, “accepting change”, “seeking hope”, etc. Additionally, the group process and verbatim process with help serve as a venue for building self-awareness as well as giving and receiving constructive feedback.
3) Pastoral Care Skills
Death, grieving, denial, anger, and mourning will all be regularly encountered in your patient, staff, and family visits. In CPE, you will learn how to provide compassionate care for an individual or family in crisis that will hopefully leave them walking away with a sense that they mattered and that they were cared for.
4) Confidence for Practical Ministry
As students near the end of their seminary programs, some begin to realize that while they have learned a lot of theory they still are lacking in many key practical skills. Some are paralyzed by fear of failure and worry that they are unprepared for ministry. However, one of the best outcomes of CPE is confidence for practical ministry. In this learning environment, one will be well equipped to take authority when necessary, facilitate discussions, discover resources, lead prayers, manage multiple crises, and more. All of my colleagues left CPE feeling much more prepared to be spiritual leaders wherever they went. As a young person, this was especially valuable for me as I often struggled with wondering if older adults would recognize me as a leader or person of wisdom in their midst.
What are your questions about Clinical Pastoral Education?