Frequently Asked Questions

What kinds of CPE programs does the MGH Spiritual Care department offer?

MGH offers a 3 unit, 12-month CPE residency program, a summer intensive CPE unit, and extended CPE units.

The MGH CPE programs are accredited by The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.,

I am a seminarian, a theological student, or a layperson. What does one unit of CPE prepare me to do?

CPE serves as a part of one’s preparation for parish ministry, chaplaincy, lay ministry, teaching and counseling. Your learning contract will be tailored to your individual learning needs. An overall goal of CPE is the integration of theological, psychological, and pastoral insights into pastoral functioning in the setting of your religious community. One unit of CPE does not prepare you for professional chaplaincy.

I am a healthcare provider. How would CPE be beneficial for me?

CPE programs are available for healthcare providers. The individualized learning contracts and the overall program design are geared towards clinicians’ integration of spiritual care giving in clinical practice. By the end of a CPE program you will be able to

  • initiate, deepen, and terminate relationships with meaningful closure 
  • follow patients’ lead in conversations pertaining to spiritual and existential issues
  • learn to pick up patients’ non-verbal and verbal cues
  • perform individualized spiritual assessments
  • become more versatile in moving between a clinical and a relational stance
  • balance professional boundaries with human connection
  • appropriately draw on your own life story
  • offer a healing relationship that can be transformative for others

My career goal is to become a healthcare chaplain.

Becoming a certified chaplain isn’t an overnight process. It requires graduate-level theological education, at least four units of clinical pastoral education, ordination or commissioning by one’s faith group, ecclesiastical endorsement/support, and demonstrated competency in functioning as a chaplain. Once you have fulfilled these requirements, you are ready to apply for certification. You will then appear in front of a committee that will review your application. The entire process takes up to twelve months. For detailed information visit the websites of the major certifying bodies: The Association of Professional Chaplains, The National Association of Catholic ChaplainsNeshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains.

Do I have to be ordained to become a certified chaplain?

No. You can be ordained or commissioned, depending on your faith group’s requirements.

What is the difference between Level I and Level II CPE?

Level I CPE outcomes guide the learning during the first, second, and occasionally the third unit. In order to move to Level II a student needs to demonstrate that he/she has consistently reached the Level I functioning and is beginning to work on Level II outcomes.

In order to be certified I need four units of CPE, right?

Certification after four units of CPE is not an automatic process. Any candidate for certification needs to demonstrate pastoral functioning consistent with the Common Standards. Some students reach this level in four units, others prefer to take additional units of CPE.

Can I get academic credit for participating in CPE?

Yes, some divinity schools offer academic credit for the first unit of CPE. Others do not. You may want to inquire about this. Some divinity schools also offer academic credit for advanced CPE at MGH.