Research Committee Review: “An Analysis of CPE Student Time Usage: The Impact of Training”
By Angela Obu-Anukam, ACPE Certified Educator  |  November 12, 2018

Here is the third article reviewed by the Research Committee for an exploratory study and analysis on the effect of training on the time Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) students spent in spiritual care visitations. The citation for the article reviewed below is Denham, T. E. (1985). An Analysis of CPE Student Time Usage: The Impact of Training. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, 39(1), 49. At the time of this study, Thomas Denham was a Counselor-in-Training in the department of Pastoral Counseling, Baptist Medical Center Princeton in Birmingham, Alabama.

Included in this study are eighty-one students from nine ACPE Accredited Centers in the former Southeast region. The questionnaire which was rated on a Likert scale of 1-6, assessed respondents’ anxiety and confidence levels, training environment and time usage. The respondents who were between their fourth and seventh weeks of a summer quarter were divided into two groups: 47 students in the initial unit (IU) of CPE and 34 students with previous CPE training (PT). Out of the 8 to 40 hours per week available to respondents for visitations, IU group visited for more than 70% of the hours available to them while PT group visited people for less than 69% of their available time. Denham found that majority of IU students indicated “development of pastoral care skills” as primary motive for being in CPE while majority of PT students cited “personal growth” as primary reason for being in CPE. He noticed from his results that “the longer one is in CPE, the less one visits” as students became more focused on personal growth than development of pastoral care skills.

The researcher focused on how motivation for CPE relates to time usage and whether expectations of the CPE process from educators resulted in the shift in emphasis and learning objectives of IUs and PTs. He raised the question whether CPE students did not see patient visitation as a route towards personal growth since it appeared that the bulk of learning in CPE was not from the sick but more from supervisors and fellow students. Denham noted that supervisory time focused on emotional support, developing pastoral relationships and personal growth more than students’ clinical involvement, which resulted in students’ decreased efficiency in time usage. Additionally, the author noted that many supervisors especially those with administrative duties had little or no clinical assignments or involvement with pastoral care and he invited supervisors to educate by example.

Suggestion for Curriculum development: The growing demand for accountability in spiritual care and CPE students’ questions about quantity versus quality are issues often faced by ACPE Certified Educators. The challenge of this article to ACPE Certified Educators is that they endeavor to evaluate students’ time use during supervision and increase students’ involvement on their clinical assignments. Denham invites ACPE Certified Educators to emphasize greater accountability for time usage by clearly delineating clinical expectations (number of visits and time spent) early on, in training and include a weekly report of time usage in pastoral visits during weekly supervision.

An ACPE Certified Educator once said that many supervisors go into supervisory education to avoid visiting patients. I wonder what other educators think about this statement and if that is what this article is referring to. Questions for further research are (1) what is the relationship between pastoral visits and personal growth (2) what is the goal of supervision – spiritual care skills or personal development?

Angela Obu-Anukam is an ACPE Certified Educator and Manager of CPE Programs at Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, TX. She also serves on ACPE’s Research Committee and may be contacted at
Follow Us