Clinical pastoral education refers to the interfaith training process in which ministers and theology students from different beliefs learn how to provide care for people in crisis, typically in a medical facility or similar setting. It includes a focus on reflection of past actions to better improve future responses and an emphasis on listening to those in need to provide guidance and support.
Clinical pastoral education is the primary training and accreditation process through which members of different religious organizations learn how to take on the occupation of a chaplain, a role that focuses on offering spiritual and emotional guidance to people during times of distress. Chaplains traditionally operate within hospitals or correctional facilities, performing the file rites of that faith and offering solace to the friends and family members of patients or inmates. The core element of this type of study is not directly on the teachings of any particular faith, but instead on constantly improving the ways in which the chaplain may help those suffering.
This type of education typically begins with classroom sessions that cover basic concepts and procedures involving the type of environment in which the chaplain intern may work. It then moves on to actual visits with people in that environment under the supervision of medical professionals and religious authorities. The students attempt to perform the duties of a chaplain, listing to the issues of those in need and offering guidance and support. The students then learn to reflect on the interaction and identify how to improve for future situations.