Trinity College, Faculty of Divinity, University of Toronto

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and Pastoral Counselling Education (PCE)

As part of the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College MDiv programme, all students are required to complete one Basic Unit (full year, two credits) of training to become pastoral care professionals.

The two streams — Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and Pastoral Counselling Education (PCE) — represent different forms of Supervised Pastoral Education (SPE), each having similar and different educational and service goals. Each stream can eventually culminate, if a student pursues three further units plus additional training, in a Specialist Certification in Pastoral Care or Counselling.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) trains individuals to become chaplains and spiritual care providers in a variety of healthcare and institutional settings, such as hospitals, hospices, high school and university chaplaincies, the military and prisons, to name a few.

This form of care focuses on theory and practice relevant to forming professional pastoral care providers, and generally operates on a platform of shorter pastoral visits than PCE, lasting anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, or more. Those in CPE training are often expected to be mobile in the sense of going to where the client is, whether that is at the hospital bedside or psychiatric ward, home hospice care, nursing home visits, school chaplaincy office, prison blocks or cells, military field or office settings, depending on the context and need of clients, and the expectations of one’s placement or employer.

The timelines for units of training vary considerably depending upon one's internship site and supervisor. These units may be short-term summer units, semestered units or intensive year-long internships. As with pastoral counsellors, after completing two Basic Units of CPE, followed by two Advanced Units, plus a period of additional training, some individuals may wish to pursue Specialist Certification in Pastoral Care.

Pastoral Counselling Education (PCE)

Pastoral Counselling Education (PCE) trains individuals to become pastoral counsellors. Professional practice in this role generally operates on a 50-minute therapeutic hour in office settings such as at a counselling agencies, church rectories, or private practice. Pastoral counselling most frequently takes place in one-to-one sessions, but may include couples and families, depending upon one's of training and experience.

Pastoral counselling is integrative of secular forms of psychotherapy in combination with pastoral and spiritual care. Like CPE training, the origins of its beginning were almost exclusively in terms of Christian pastoral care in church and mental health settings, but more recently have been expanding to include counsellors from a wider range of faith traditions, who may choose to work in either secular, mono-faith or multifaith contexts in a wider range of settings. PCE offers an enriched theoretical approach psychotherapy theory and practice.

The formation of counsellors involves a broad range of recognized evidence-based psychotherapeutic modalities such as relational psychodynamic psychotherapy and family systems therapy used in conjunction with pastoral and spiritual care.

To become a Specialist in Pastoral Counselling one must complete two units of Basic Training, followed by two units of Advanced Training, plus a Specialist Process Year, and application process. Pastoral counsellors are always required to work under supervision until Specialist Certification is achieved, in order to practice autonomously, which usually involves a minimum of five years of training. Agency positions and private practice work is generally not undertaken until the student is working at the Advanced level of training.

As with pastoral/spiritual care/chaplaincy training, pastoral counsellors may be ordained or lay members of a particular faith community, and may serve in either secular or faith-based counselling contexts. Whether lay or ordained, ongoing endorsement from one's faith community is expected.

Further Information

For more information, please see the Toronto Centre for Pastoral Counselling Education.