Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Clinical Pastoral Education is a supervised ministry experience that is a requirement for ordination in the PC(USA) and many other denominations.

CPE brings theological students and ministers of all faiths into supervised encounters with persons in crisis in order to develop pastoral identity and skills, interpersonal competence, and enhanced abilities for theological reflection. Clinically trained, certified supervisors provide educational leadership in CPE. A full unit of CPE is a requirement for ordination in the PCUSA and many other denominations.

In preparing for the vocation of ministry, CPE is an essential building block for one's pastoral identity and skill building. 

Essential Elements of CPE

  • Practices of ministry with persons in a specific context.
  • Detailed reporting and evaluation of that practice.
  • Pastoral supervision by an ACPE-certified supervisor.
  • A small group of peers in a common learning experience.
  • Individual contracts for learning.


CPE must be done with an institution accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). A directory of ACPE accredited institutions may be found at Accredited institutions can be found throughout the United States. 

Students often consult with classmates to get recommendations for CPE sites; most students note that the most important factor in selection is student compatibility with the site supervisor, along with ordination committee preferences.


CPE may be done either through intensive, full-time summer placements, or through part-time placements spread out over longer periods of time.  Many students complete a CPE unit during the summer, in between academic classes to allow for the intensive amount of time required each unit.

Most commonly, students complete CPE after their second year of seminary or the summer after graduation.  Some students have chosen to complete CPE for a part-time semester-long unit while taking a lighter load of classes.  When a student decides to complete CPE often depends on denominational or local requirements for ordination and ordination timelines.


To apply, students must submit an application to the center(s) of their choice. Many centers have an application fee. The center will then contact you for an interview after reviewing your application. Application forms and more detailed instructions are also available at

There is no official deadline for CPE applications, but programs can be competitive and fill quickly so early applications are best.  For summer units, students often apply as early as October or November of the previous year. 

McCormick students can obtain academic credit based on their CPE experience by taking I 312 CPE.

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