Clinical Pastoral Education - Louisville VA Medical Center
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Louisville VA Medical Center


Clinical Pastoral Education

Page Index


What is Clinical Pastoral Education?
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is interfaith professional education for ministry. It brings theological students and ministers into supervised encounters with persons in crisis. Out of an intense involvement with persons in need and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop a new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs for whom they minister. From theological reflection on specific human situations, students gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping persons, students develop skills in interpersonal and inter-professional relationships. CPE is designed for people at various stages of life, for example, clergy seeking continuing education, laity wanting to explore and develop themselves as spiritual caregivers and seminarians preparing for ministry. The CPE programs include the following essential elements.

  • A small group of peers interacting in a common learning experience
  • A process conception of learning
  • Specific clinical practice of ministry to persons
  • Detailed reporting and evaluation of that clinical practice
  • Expectations to allow for the reflection and practice of ministry to occur
  • Written and oral verbatim reports of ministry experience
  • Selected readings and reporting
  • Personal learning contract for professional growth and development
  • Individual supervision by a certified educator
  • Final evaluations for each unit

The Individual Learning Contract
The CPE participant's contract is developed around the following learning goal categories.

  • Pastoral Reflection - reflection on one's self as a person and pastor in relationship to persons in crisis, the supervisor, and peer group members, as well as the curriculum and institutional setting.
  • Pastoral Formation - focus on personal and pastoral identity issues in learning and ministry.
  • Pastoral Competence - deepening of competence in pastoral function, pastoral skills, and knowledge of theology and the behavioral sciences.

CPE in the Context of the Louisville VAMC
The Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center opened in 1952 and is accredited by The Joint Commission.  The Veterans Health Administration recognizes that spiritual and pastoral care must be integrated into a total program of health care provided to Veterans and made available to those who desire such care. Chaplains are integral members in key patient treatment teams to provide a holistic treatment of the health and welfare of Veterans entrusted to our care.


Emphasis of the CPE Program
The Clinical Pastoral Education program at the Louisville VAMC educates persons to be effective pastoral caregivers to the veterans, families, friends and staff to improve their health and well-being. We integrate a wide array of clinical experiences with vigorous reflection. Students have opportunities to participate in diverse clinical experiences, including the following: individual care, group work, crisis ministry, interdisciplinary teams, etc. Students reflect on their personal stories, religious heritages, theological understandings and knowledge of the behavioral sciences as these influence the ministry they provide. Students explore ways to be different and to function differently as ministers to improve their pastoral care. We teach persons knowledge and skills so they can provide effective spiritual and emotional support in a variety of settings.

Instructional Philosophy
We are committed to the development of compassionate and competent spiritual caregivers through an action/reflection/action model that uses the student’s personal identity, family history, social location and spiritual orientations. Learning to hear deeply the spiritual and religious dimensions of life in moments of loss and grief helps adult learners articulate their own pastoral theology. This reflective process increases self-awareness and develops pastoral skills. By employing a multicultural and multi-faith perspective in an experiential learning environment, each student can develop a unique style of ministry based on the new insights fostered. The goal of our program is to value the experience students bring with them and to mentor each student’s distinctive path towards growing their pastoral heart while learning the art of spiritual care. The curriculum emphasizes experiential learning with attention to visitation skills, reflective listening, spiritual assessment, grief and loss counseling and non-directive ministry. Educational methodologies include the following: case studies (in a verbatim format), one-on-one education with the Certified Educator, mentoring by staff chaplains and interactive learning within the peer group. It also includes leading religious services once each week.


Instructional Programs
The Louisville “Robley Rex” Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) offers a four-unit residency during the federal fiscal year calendar from October 1 through September 30.  The residency includes a stipend, health benefits, sick leave, annual leave, and federal holidays.  One unit of Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) accredited Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and a Master of Divinity degree are strongly preferred for all applicants.  Students may also complete units in the residency in an unpaid status as interns. 
The goal of the residency is to prepare students to become Board Certified Chaplains within the VA system.  The core curriculum consists of the following four units focused on: 1) Pastoral identity and how students have come to understand themselves as pastoral care givers through a life-long process of development; 2) Grief and loss through engagement of themes of loss, dying, and death with attention to students’ own grief dynamics.  Students explore what meaning they give to their experience along with possibilities they discern for new meaning; 3) Trauma and Moral Injury that explores cultural, social, and religious perspectives that shape how we recognize and give meaning to traumatic events.  Students also explore the betrayal, abuse of power, and violation of values related to Moral Injury and the impact on Veterans; 4) Chaplaincy and Mental Health Integration as a foundation for the multidisciplinary and holistic care of Veterans struggling with mental illness.  Students examine their assumptions and theological worldviews around mental illness.  They also engage the concept of diagnosis as it applies to mental illness, and how diagnosis relates to the ability of caregivers to provide pastoral care to the mentally ill.

How to Apply
Complete an ACPE CPE application form. From, go to Resources > Forms & Applications. All materials need to be written at a graduate school level of quality.

Regarding the application essays:

  • Reasonably full account of your life (how did persons and events in your life influence who you are today?): 5-7 pages (single spaced)
  • Spiritual growth and development: 3-5 pages (single spaced)
  • Description of your work: listing is sufficient
  • An account of a helping incident or verbatim (what does it show about your current view of ministry?): 2-3 pages (single spaced)
  • Impressions of CPE (what do you want to learn?): 1 page (single spaced)

Send completed application in one of two ways:

By email attachment to

By mail:

Chaplain Fred Ehrman, ACPE Certified Educator
Louisville VAMC, Chaplain Service Office
800 Zorn Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206

Upon receipt of the application, the applicant may be invited for an interview appointment.


Statement of Accreditation
The Louisville VAMC is accredited to offer CPE (Levels I/II) training by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. One West Court Square, Suite 325, Decatur, GA 30030 (404) 320-1472. ACPE CPE is Trademarked by the ACPE.


Contact Info


  • Louisville VAMC, Chaplain Service Office
    800 Zorn Avenue
    Louisville, KY 40206

Contact Number(s)

  • 502-287-4908

Hours of Operation

  • 8:00am - 4:30pm