Members of the CPE faculty ascribe to educational theories that consider students to be lifelong learners. We consult with CPE students as they craft their goals for CPE. In the early stages, we assist the students as they discern the skills and abilities that they bring from previous life experiences, education, and training. Drawing upon what the students already know, we will work with the students to develop spiritual caregiving styles that are uniquely theirs. Using the resources of the program, students have the opportunity to define and refine what ministry or spiritual care means to them and what it will look like.
Will there be confrontation in the CPE program?
Over the years we have found that many people who want to provide spiritual care are quite gifted at offering support; it is a natural part of being compassionate. Most people are also good at helping others to clarify the issues that they are facing and the decisions they need to make in a crisis. CPE will help students to hone those skills. However, in addition to support and clarification, it is vital that spiritual caregivers be prepared to confront others—to speak the truth, even when it is uncomfortable, with a spirit of caring and a desire to help the other. Confrontation is not something that most people enjoy; yet it is an essential tool for spiritual care, and CPE teaches this skill as well. As CPE students provide care to patients, families and loved ones, staff members, and their peers, they experience many opportunities to practice all of these skills, and we provide structured seminars and real-time facilitation so that students can learn how they can extend support, clarification, and confrontation empathically and effectively. Hence students can expect that they will be confronted on occasion and that they will need to confront others; but at the same time we equip students to offer and receive critique, and we do whatever we can to assist them as they learn.
What does the chaplain offer to patients?
The primary way the chaplain relates to the patient is to provide spiritual support. When a chaplain first meets a patient, an important action of the chaplain is to make a spiritual assessment of the patient. All too often the assumption is that “spiritual” equals “religious.” In this CPE program, we teach a model of spiritual assessment that consists of a spiritual diagnosis and a spiritual response or intervention fitting that diagnosis. We also expose students to other paradigms of spiritual assessment that students can utilize to complement the model we teach.