View from the Road: Research: Alive and Well in ACPE
By Steve Ivy, Director of Community, Practice, and Member Development  |  June 10, 2019

Over the past five years, ACPE has experienced many new dynamics and relationships. One that I have been directly connected to has been the re-vitalization of leadership and activities around research related to CPE processes and the practices of those we educate. I write “re-vitalization” because one of my first volunteer activities with ACPE in the mid-1980s was on a regional research committee. In recent years, our Board has created an ACPE Research Committee and appointed a diverse group of invested persons who began their work in January 2018, demonstrating a commitment that had not been so evident for many years.

Led by ACPE Certified Educators Judy Ragsdale, Chair and Moses Taiwo, Chair-elect, the Research Committee have worked on projects that are both visible and not-yet-visible. In 2018, the committee conducted a literature review of all known research articles that studied CPE processes and outcomes. The review was published over several editions of This Week@ACPE. Their intent was to inform our membership and encourage research related to our professional activities. If you are an educator that has conducted Ph.D., Ed.D., and D.Min. level research related to your supervisory activities, please let Judy and Moses know. We encourage you to consider publishing your results so that our educational work can be better research-informed.

In the meantime, here are a few highlights on the work the committee has done thus far:

Poster Presentations at the 2019 ACPE Annual Conference 
A more recent visible activity was the Research Poster Presentations at our Annual Meeting in Scottsdale. Certified Educators, Spiritual Care Professionals, and ACPE Psychotherapists responded enthusiastically to the committee’s call for presentations. Their work was well done and deeply appreciated. The committee is collecting information from the researchers and will publish it through This Week@ACPE in the coming months. 

Examining Standards & Outcomes
The Research Committee has invested significant energy in examining Standards and Outcomes related to Level 1, Level 2, and CEC processes with attention to how research regarding spiritual care and education is utilized and taught at each level. They are likely to have significant recommendations out of their concerns and hopes before the end of 2019.

Research Partnerships
ACPE is investing in research partnerships that further the work of education and chaplaincy. You can review the full list of these partnerships by clicking here. The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, a think tank that supports research, teaching, and the provision of spiritual care in a range of settings is the latest of these partnerships. Trace Haythorn is one of the co-founders and several ACPE Certified Educators serve on the advisory group. Our hope is that their leadership toward research into the various expressions of chaplaincy will inform both the what and how of CPE education processes. 

Research Articles of the Month
Perhaps the most remarkable link on the ACPE Research site is the  “Research Articles of the Month” section edited by John Ehman. For many years, John has personally offered to our community the best of research publications that should inform our work as spiritual care providers and educators. 

Research Community of Practice  
Exciting news will soon emerge concerning the Research Community of Practice. This COP began with over 50 participants registered. Unfortunately, this COP has not yet found its traction and has had little engagement. There are renewed efforts to vitalize this COP. If you are interested in research, either educational or clinical, I encourage you to join this COP now so you can be involved early in its activation.

Finally, I want to highlight a recent publication, “Mapping the Chaplaincy Literature: An Analytical Review of Publications Authored by Chaplains and Theologians Between 2000 and 2018,” Journal of Healthcare Chaplaincy (2019), DOI:10.1080/08854726.2019.1593722. Emmanuelle Poncin and colleagues in Lausanne, Switzerland provide a literature review of both theoretical and research publications over the 18-year time period. They identified and analyzed 199 publications that reflected their search criteria. They then utilized an inductive comparative approach to analyze the articles.

Their findings can inform those interested in utilizing research in teaching and practice. Further, they offer helpful suggestions for future directions in chaplaincy research.
  • Publications focused on chaplains’ practices, what ought they to do? = 36%
  • Publications focused on spirituality, human spirituality in illness and as an object of healthcare = 25%
  • Publications focused on research promotion and methodologies = 18%
  • Publications focused on the impact of spiritual care on patients, families, chaplains, and other professionals = 13%
  • Publications focused on healthcare professionals’ including training and referral regarding spiritual care practices = 8%
The authors offer three recommendations for future research and publications.
  • Chaplaincy research should focus more on documenting and improving practices, not justifying them.
  • Chaplaincy research should shift to combining deep theoretical analysis with empirical inquiry.
  • Chaplaincy research would benefit from partnering with research colleagues in other disciplines.
I hope these highlights whet your appetite to study the article. It is well worth your attention.

My hope is that 5 years from now we will be able to review many articles focused on educational research related to ACPE educators and our practices.

Yes, there is much happening around research in ACPE. Many more of us are research-informed practitioners today than 10 years ago. I hope that a few intrepid souls continue to lead the way in demonstrating how research can grow out of and inform our ongoing practices.
Steve Ivy is a Director of Community, Practice, and Member Development at ACPE: The Standard of Spiritual Care & Education. He may be reached at
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