Clinical Pastoral Education

Thank you for your interest in learning more about us. We offer competency-based, transformative education designed to enhance the compassion offered by healthcare professionals, spiritual and religious caregivers, educators, counsellors and others who tend to people during key moments of the human experience. If you or your organisation provides any type of care for people facing sickness or death, danger or opportunity, loss or healing, change or growth, punishment or restoration or any other experience of disorientation, transition, pain or suffering – please read on.

July 2022 Update: Our Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Centre is experiencing a time of transition. Our Clinical Pastoral Educator, Helen Vester, will reduce her hours beginning in August, and will leave the centre at the end of 2022. Therefore we will not be able to offer a CPE course in the second half of this year. However, we are pleased to welcome international CPE Educator Susan Liguori who will run a full-time summer course (31 October – 20 January). That course is filling quickly but there are still several positions available. Looking ahead to 2023, we are in the recruiting process now, seeking expressions of interest from CPE Educators in Australia, Canada and the United States. We will keep this webpage updated. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or to express your interest in upcoming courses.

The CPE experience is designed to enhance self-awareness and compassion of caregiving professionals so that they can more effectively foster resilience and wellbeing in those they serve. The education methods used in CPE were developed in the 1920s and have been continually refined over the past century. There are few, if any, other courses which so effectively blend personal reflection, small group work, theoretical content and practical experience.

Photograph of Michael HertzMichael Hertz, BS, MDiv; Centre Director; ACPEWA CPE Educator; ACPE Certified Educator

"I supervised my first Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) student in San Francisco in 1991 and have been committed to excellence in my professional practice ever since. I maintain my US CPE qualification alongside my Australian CPE qualification. I do what I do because I see the results—deeply compassionate caregivers who are able to care for vulnerable people in a range of distressing situations. I ground my practice in deep understanding of human and personality development, group dynamics, ethics, reflective practice and spirituality—both secular and religious. I seek to create a stimulating and creative learning environment. My deepest satisfaction is witnessing professional development in my students, which I measure in terms of deepened awareness, heightened emotional and relational intelligence and increased capacity to offer compassionate care to people from diverse backgrounds."

Photograph of Helen VesterHelen Vester, B Tech(Hons), Grad Dip Ed, B Theol, MA (Theol Studies); ACPEWA CPE Educator

"I enjoy bringing my pastoral care experience in hospital and prison contexts to my role as a CPE Educator. I am passionate about walking with participants, offering a balance of affirmation, encouragement and challenge as they discover who they are as pastoral people. Within the classroom component of CPE I structure theory with reflection on practice and self, as well as a measure of fun, as we learn together."

Course Formats

Each Royal Perth Hospital CPE course is based on a 400 hour curriculum comprised of 100 hours of group and individual supervision and instruction, 200 hours of professional practice and 100 hours of writing and personal reflection. We offer courses in variety of formats: full time (typically 10-12 weeks), intensive part time (typically 3-5 months) and extended part time (typically 5-6 months). Courses are scheduled at a variety of times to accommodate the needs of our students: weekdays, evenings and weekends.

Distance Learning – Regional Western Australia and Australasian Countries

We are committed to promoting reflective, competent and compassionate practice among Spiritual Care and other health professionals beyond Perth. Teaching seminars, group supervision and individual supervisory sessions are conducted via teleconference, and the 200 hours of practicum are completed at the student’s place of employment. In regional centres within a few hours of Perth, we can provide hybrid courses comprised of virtual and in-person sessions. Eligible students will need to provide a reliable internet connection and an approved on-site clinical supervisor at their practicum location. Contact us for more information or to express your interest in a distance learning opportunity.

The curriculum

Each course follows a detailed timetable beginning with a multi-day induction and concluding with a student-designed graduation ceremony. All necessary course materials are provided in a comprehensive student handbook. The curriculum is sequentially designed to pace the students’ learning and to incorporate content relevant to the emerging learning needs at each stage of the course. Students prepare and present a variety of patient encounter reports, reflection papers, literature reviews and pastoral rituals; they participate in frequent open groups to explore emerging issues of professional identity and practice, role-play seminars, individual supervisory sessions, and mid-term and final evaluations. A comprehensive timetable and student handbook is provided to each student at the beginning of the course.

The Bush Experience

Every Royal Perth CPE course includes a 3-day outdoor education experience led by experienced bush guides. This event is designed to deepen the relationships among the students and supervisors, develop teamwork and cohesion of the peer group, to learn from the natural environment with its millennia of accumulated wisdom related to life, growth, crisis, death and renewal and to apply the lessons learned to the compassionate care of people.

Course Theory

All aspects of the course are designed to facilitate students’ ability to understand, assess and respond to “spiritual distress”; simply stated, spiritual distress occurs when “the way things are is different that the way things are supposed to be.” Our students learn to identify the life-limiting agreements which lead to heightened spiritual distress in the face of crisis, and to offer compassionate interventions in a way which helps to reduce spiritual distress and facilitate healing.

Program Standards, Policies and Procedures

Along with CPE programs throughout Australia and New Zealand, the RPH CPE Centre adheres to a set of standards upon which our faculty and courses are accredited.

As a program of Royal Perth Hospital, the CPE Centre adheres to all relevant hospital and health department policies and procedures. In addition, the CPE Centre adheres to CPE policies and procedures (PDF 230KB).

Staying Connected

Upon graduation and with permission, graduates will be included on our mailing list and will be notified of job openings, upcoming Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) courses, CPE Centre news and upcoming professional development opportunities designed for Royal Perth Hospital CPE graduates. Please let us know of changes to your contact information.

We encourage our graduates to become involved in related professional associations after completing a CPE course:

Academic Partners

We have relationships with a number of local academic institutions which offer recognition for completion of a Royal Perth Hospital Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) course. If you are a student, please contact your academic institution for more information. If you are an administrator of an academic institution and are interested developing an affiliation, please contact us.

For employers

Your patients and clients deserve deeply compassionate care. Yet too often the personal and professional stressors on your staff can limit their ability to provide the warmth and empathy they are capable of offering. Our courses foster the self-awareness, inner resilience and professional competence that caregivers in every discipline need to tend to peoples’ deep personal struggles that arise during times of crisis or transition. Please contact us to discuss how we can help your staff provide the compassionate care your clients deserve.

While it is preferable that our students complete their required clinical work at Royal Perth Hospital, we do offer some students the opportunity to fulfil their clinical practice requirement at their employment site. Surcharges apply. We are now able to offer CPE on your site for up to six employees at a time. These could include members of your spiritual care team, your physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, members of your management team or others for whom training in reflective practice and compassionate care would be valuable. Please contact us for further consultation.


As WA’s first and only institution-based CPE program, we are proud to be a core component in Royal Perth Hospital’s nationally and internationally acclaimed Centre for Wellbeing and Sustainable Practice. The Centre provides care for patients, their loved ones and staff through a team of professional chaplains. Our Wellbeing Professionals and Chaplains provide one-on-one and group care for doctors, nurses, allied health clinicians and support staff, and advocate for systemic changes to enhance the wellbeing across the hospital. Research, publication and conference presentations and international collaboration are key aspects to our mission and vision. Our CPE Centre Director and CPE Educator run CPE courses in a variety of formats. This busy and dynamic environment provides our CPE students many opportunities for learning.


We strive to facilitate diverse student groups, including women and men of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, ages, spiritual perspectives and professional affiliations. We are committed to providing equal opportunity in our admissions process without discrimination based on age, gender, race, national origin, disability, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or family situation.

Last Updated: 06/07/2022