Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education

Online Training to become a registered Pet Chaplain® or Earth Chaplain™
2233 The Circle, Raleigh, NCOpening at 8:00 AMOpen today until 5:00 PMOpening at 8:00 AM tomorrowOpening at 8:00 AM on MondaySorry, we're closed
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Training Program Overview

The Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education is a nonprofit organization that trains individuals and groups in pastoral care to support people who grieve the loss of animals and nature.

Pastoral care is a proven model of emotional and spiritual support that can be found in all cultures and religious traditions. The work of our chaplains is non-denominational. We work with all grieving people, respectful of all spiritual beliefs and practices, including atheist and agnostic. We believe that bereavement care should mirror the spiritual and emotional needs of grieving pet owners as well as people who grieve the loss of food animals, service animals, wild animals, endangered species and natural places.

The grief support provided by a trained chaplain uses many of the same tools employed by clinical grief counselors. But a chaplain brings something more to the table: the skill and knowledge to address a griever's spiritual questions. Often death leads to a spiritual conversation. As James Herriot, British surgeon and author of All Creatures Great and Small, observed, "If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

Many people are in deep spiritual and emotional need. That's why it's important to study and become fluent in the language of veterinary and environmental pastoral care. We grieve for animals and the planet, and we often grieve alone. In Western culture, such losses are disenfranchised, which means they're ignored or trivialized, so grieving people lack social acknowledgement and don't receive the social status of "the bereaved." Our grief-care training is focused on the unique needs of people who experience the loneliness, isolation, and alienation of disenfranchised grief.

In our program, you'll study the latest theories on grief, bereavement, mourning, the human-animal bond, and the human-earth bond. You'll gain insight into the experience of human-animal attachment – biophilia – and attachment to place – topophilia – and related cultural influences on human beliefs about death, loss and spirituality. You'll also learn practical grief interventions. Our trainers will teach you how to take a calm and confident pastoral lead in potentially stressful and emotional social circumstances.

The 8-week program includes online lectures in combination with reading and writing assignments and a weekly two-hour video conference in which participants discuss the topics and share their personal experiences working with grieving people. Class size is very small – no more than six participants per class – so you can be sure to get personalized attention.

You'll also discover new friendships and the bond of a shared calling with your classmates. When you finish the program, you can choose to add your contact information to the AVPE registry of chaplains, and you'll be able to participate in an online discussion forum with other practicing chaplains.

Our staff members have more than 20 years combined experience in hands-on pastoral care for grieving people. The founder, Dr. Robert Gierka, holds a doctorate in adult education with a specialization in anthrozoological bereavement as well as decades of experience as a practicing chaplain.

The principles and techniques taught in the training program extend beyond companion animals – a pastoral approach we call earth chaplaincy. Many people fear the threats to life on Earth posed by global warming and the destruction of the air, water, soil, sacred places, wild animals and global life systems. This is deep grief that hangs about all of us everywhere, unacknowledged. Acknowledging our individual and collective grief is an important step in accepting, engaging, and hopefully addressing these environmental challenges.

When you're barraged daily by bad news, it's easy to become paralyzed by negativity, fear, anger and despair, or escape into magical thinking or a "hamster wheel" of meaningless, frenetic activity and trivial pursuits. We believe that an active, pastoral role of Pet Chaplain® or Earth Chaplain™ ministering to human grief and loss, with care and respect for others – the Earth and all life – is powerful, positive and effective. And we believe knowledge is power. As Marine Biologist Sylvia Earle said, “Knowing is the key to caring, and with caring there is hope that people will be motivated to take positive actions.”

Whatever pastoral path you may choose – a chaplain to people and pets or people and planet – this training program is provided free of charge, because pastoral care is our passion. We are now accepting applications for our spring cohort beginning February 3, 2019. Admissions are limited, and applications are carefully reviewed to ensure a high-quality, engaged cohort.

To learn more or apply to our online training program, read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Thank you for your interest.

Dr. Rob Gierka, Pet Chaplain®
Founder and Program Director
Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education
Disclaimer: Chaplains supply the Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education (AVPE) with information about their education, professional experience and character. The AVPE reviews, but does not routinely verify information supplied by chaplains for posting on the AVPE web site. The AVPE conducts cursory reference checks on chaplains. The AVPE recommends that parties contact chaplains directly to review their qualifications with them.

Copyright © 2018 Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education Inc. All rights reserved. Pet Chaplain® and Pet Chapel® are registered service marks.

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