St. Stephen’s College receives $50,000 for Program Development of Spiritual Care Education

St. Stephen’s College is pleased to announce it has received $50,000 USD toward the re-development of spiritual care education in the Province of Alberta.  This project—titled, “Developing an Educational Model for Fully Integrating Clinical Psychospiritual Education into Graduate Theological Education”—will be directed by Dr. Fred Tappenden and Dr. Lorraine Smith-MacDonald.  Half of the funding is provided through the “Moving Forward in Mission” grant program of the Association of Theological Schools, with matching funds from the Alberta Consortium for Supervised Psychospiritual Education (AC-SPE).

“The College is thrilled to host and lead this project of educational development, which will contribute to the formation of spiritual health practitioners for all Albertans.  Clinical Psychospiritual Education (CPE) is the gold-standard in the training of spiritual health practitioners, and St. Stephen’s has a long history at the fore of such education in Alberta.  In addition to helping establish the long-term viability of CPE in Alberta, this project may also provide an educational model that can be translated into other provinces across Canada.”  (Dr. Fred Tappenden, Principal and Dean)  

Clinical Psychospiritual Education (CPE; formerly Clinical Pastoral Education) has been a hallmark of practical theological education for decades.  Over the past fifteen years, Alberta’s educational landscape for the training of spiritual health practitioners has undergone two seismic shifts: (a) in 2008, government funding was cut for hospital-based CPE training programs, and (b) in 2018, Alberta passed legislation for the establishment of a regulatory college for counselling professionals, including many spiritual care practitioners.  Prior to these shifts, CPE programs were rooted in healthcare settings where training occurred within the hospitals without need of formal theological accreditation or regulation.  In the wake of these shifts, there is a growing urgency for CPE to find a permanent educational home within graduate colleges like St. Stephen’s.

Since 2008, a provincial body known as the Alberta Consortium for Supervised Psychospiritual Education (AC-SPE) has provided interim coordination of CPE programming.  The AC-SPE works collaboratively with St. Stephen’s College (Edmonton) and Ambrose Seminary (Calgary) to support the ongoing delivery of CPE.  While there have been many successes during this interim phase, the current program delivery model possesses several limitations related to sustainable governance, fiscal inequalities, and differences of educational delivery.

The funding provided by ATS and the AC-SPE will enable St. Stephen’s to address these challenges.  The project has a single goal: the development of a viable educational model for implementing CPE within St. Stephen’s College and (if appropriate) other Alberta-based theological schools.  To conduct this work, St. Stephen’s will hire an educational consultant who will engage in national and international research of current CPE delivery models.  The consultant will also work closely with a variety of provincial stakeholders, including post-secondary institutions, CASC/ACSS Certified Supervisor-Educators, the Association of Counselling Therapists of Alberta, provincial healthcare partners, community agencies/partners, and national representatives from CASC/ACSS.  

It is anticipated that this project will have a number of tangible outcomes, all of which align with and help to further four of the College’s five strategic priority areas:

  • Educational Creativity: This project will result in an educational model that reconciles the educational difference between graduate theological education and CPE, expands/deepens spiritual care training within the College, and outlines a pathway for establishing a CASC/ACSS accredited program of studies within a graduate theological college, which we expect might be transferable to other Canadian provinces.
  • Community Facing: In addition to deepening many of the longstanding communal partnerships between St. Stephen’s and its healthcare partners, this project also facilitates the development of an educational model for CPE that draws in a variety of non-healthcare community partners, including corporate, inner-city, correctional, military, and civic partners.  
  • Hospitable: This project will deepen and expand the College’s multi-religious educational programming, thus helping to diversify the St. Stephen’s learning community; the project will also expand and diversify the College’s mission-centred faculty.
  • Accessibility: The resulting educational model will fully embed CPE within graduate theological education.  It is expected that the embedding of CPE within St. Stephen’s may lead also to the establishment of new post-master’s programming, and expand enrollment in existing St. Stephen’s degree programs.

The focus of this project extends from—and aligns superbly with—the past and present work of St. Stephen’s College.  The multi-religious and public face of CPE programming is synergistic with the College’s ethos and mission.  For more than 60 years, St. Stephen’s has been engaged in the formation of spiritual health practitioners in the Province of Alberta.  In the 1960s, St. Stephen’s contributed to the development and delivery of the province’s first CPE units at both the Foothills Hospital (Calgary) and the University of Alberta Hospital (Edmonton).  In the late 20th century, the College worked closely with the (former) Pastoral Institute of Edmonton for the development and delivery of Pastoral Counselling Education (PCE).  And, over the past decade, St. Stephen’s has (a) offered a course for the training of spiritual care preceptors, (b) developed a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) stream for the training of CASC/ACSS Certified CPE Supervisor-Educators, and (c) partnered with other graduate colleges to offer a Collaborative Program in Spiritual Care.  Graduates of St. Stephen’s work in Alberta and across Canada as spiritually-integrated counsellors and art therapists, as well as in an array of chaplaincy fields (including healthcare, military, corporate, post-secondary, inner-city, and civic chaplaincy).  

Work on this project commenced on July 1, 2023, and it is expected to conclude by June 30, 2024.

St. Stephen’s College is a multi-faith graduate college located on the North Campus of the University of Alberta, and affiliated with the university since 1908.  Rooted in a provincial act (1927, amd. 1968), St. Stephen’s offers spiritually-integrated graduate training in Psychotherapy, Art Therapy, Spiritual Care, and Theology.  St. Stephen’s is accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, and the College offers degree programs and/or courses that meet the educational standards of the Canadian Art Therapy Association (CATA) and the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care / Association canadienne de soins spirituels (CASC/ACSS).  St. Stephen’s also participates in some UAlberta degree programs and offers undergraduate and graduate courses for the university in the fields of Spirituality, Multi-Faith Theologies, and Creative Arts Therapies.