In the 1920’s Richard C. Cabot conceived of clinical pastoral education (CPE) as a method of learning pastoral practice in a clinical setting under supervision. Anton T. Boisen enlarged the concept to include a case study method of theological inquiry — a study of “living human documents.” William S. Keller began supervising theological students in case study methods, believing pastoral practice was complete only as it addressed contributing social conditions. As CPE developed, other leaders integrated knowledge from medicine, psychology and other behavioral sciences into pastoral practice. See our website for more information.

ACPE formed in 1967 after some forty years of experience, development, and practice of clinical pastoral education by several organized but uncoordinated groups. The groups merging to form ACPE included the Council for Clinical Training of Theological Students, the Institute of Pastoral Care, Inc., the Lutheran Advisory Council on Pastoral Care, and the Southern Baptist Association of Clinical Pastoral Education. Thus ACPE became the standard setting, accrediting and certifying resource agency in the field of clinical pastoral education. It accredits institutions, agencies, and parishes as clinical pastoral education centers to offer programs of clinical pastoral education and certifies supervisors to conduct these programs.

ACPE accredited centers offer clinical pastoral education as part of theological education; training for pastoral ministry; training for institutional chaplaincy; training for pastoral counseling; training for certification as a supervisor of clinical pastoral education; and training for other specialized ministries. Theological schools give academic credit for clinical pastoral education according to the credit system of each school.