ACPE is the premier, Department of Education recognized organization that provides the highest quality CPE programs for spiritual care professionals of any faith and in any setting. We do this through a rigorous accreditation and certification process for centers and educators that provide CPE. The depth of our training enables students to realize their full potential to strengthen the spiritual health of people in their care as well as themselves.
ACPE is also the professional home of a growing number of spiritually integrated psychotherapists and pastoral counselors. ACPE supports Psychotherapist and Practitioner members through continuing education programs, networking, and leadership development. These opportunities for formation and community enrich spiritual care providers’ work of contributing to the healing and wholeness of their clients.
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) began in 1925 as a form of theological education that takes place not exclusively in academic classrooms, but also in clinical settings where ministry is being practiced. ACPE certified CPE is offered in many kinds of settings: in hospitals and health care including university, children's, and veterans' facilities; in hospices; in psychiatric and community care facilities; in workplace settings; in geriatric and rehabilitation centers; and in congregational and parish-based settings. The textbooks for CPE include in-depth study of "the living human documents." By "living human documents," we mean both the people who receive care as well as a study of ourselves, the givers of care. Through the practice of ministry and the reflection thereon with supervisor and peers, the experiential learning that is CPE takes place.
Among the 2,300 members that make up the ACPE are almost 300 ACPE Accredited CPE Centers and about 600 ACPE certified faculty members (called ACPE Certified Educators), 370 licensed or certified pastoral counselors (called ACPE Psychotherapists), and nearly 300 members who are in the licensure process or are interested in spiritually-integrated psychotherapy (called ACPE Practitioners). There are also Theological Schools Members and Faith Groups/Agencies who are partners with ACPE in seeking to provide excellence in theological education. Other groups of ACPE members are Spiritual Care Professionals, Students Affiliates, Individuals Members, Retired Certified Educators, Retired Members, and ACPE Networks.
Since ACPE formed in 1967 (as a merger of four CPE organizations), nearly 200,000 units of ACPE certified CPE have been offered to about 75,000 individuals from the United States and many other countries internationally. Approximately 9,000 units of ACPE certified CPE are completed annually. CPE students come from many different ethnic and cultural groups. Individuals from many faith traditions -- Protestant, Roman Catholic, Judaism, Islam, Orthodox Christian, Native American religions and Buddhism -- have taken ACPE certified CPE.
ACPE is nationally recognized as an accrediting agency in the field of clinical pastoral education by the U.S. Secretary of Education through the U.S. Department of Education.
Like CPE, spiritually integrated psychotherapy finds its roots in the growing concern for the “care of the soul” during the 1920s. Interest in training clergy to provide counseling and psychotherapy services in congregational and community-based settings—distinct from the clinical environment—crystallized in the 1950s and led to the founding of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) in 1963. Through formation and education, for decades AAPC nurtured mental health practitioners who sought to draw on spiritual wisdom when providing care for clients and communities and equipped faith leaders with an awareness of spiritually-sensitive therapeutic competencies. Until 2015, AAPC accredited pastoral care training centers and certified fellows, diplomates, and pastoral counselors.
In 2015, AAPC discontinued its certifications because of changes to state licensure requirements. The association continued to provide continuing education and mentoring and prioritized the cultivation of anti-racist multicultural competencies as an association and as individuals. In 2019, the AAPC Board voted to dissolve, and the membership of both AAPC and ACPE voted in historic numbers in favor of consolidating. A Psychotherapy Commission was formed to govern the onboarding of former members from AAPC and to provide leadership and vision for supporting psychotherapist and pastoral counseling members. Both the distinctions between the vocations of spiritually-informed mental health providers and CPE educators and their shared commitments to spiritual care and education provide generative fodder for future learning and growth.