The CASC/ACSS “three step” Certification Process is founded on a belief that those candidates who have accomplished all formal requirements (Step One) and written professionally reviewed/approved papers with the help of mentoring support from an already Certified member (Step Two) will find the face-to-face interview (Step Three) less about scrutiny and/or “passing” and more about having a collegial conversation with professional colleagues who share the same passion and expertise as the candidate. As a result of this vision, a pre-certification mentor role has evolved within our Association. This is a role that is highly respected and valued by the Association, and appreciated for the generosity of time as well as expertise involved. Those involved in oversight of Certification want to encourage and support both successful and enjoyable mentor/candidate experiences. What follows is a sampling of frequently asked questions about the pre-certification mentor role. If additional questions arise, please contact the Certification Chairperson (see Quick Contacts).

What is a pre-certification mentor?
A pre-certification mentor is a consultant selected by a person seeking CASC/ACSS certification. He or she has already been through the process (i.e. must be certified as a Spiritual Care Practitioner, Psycho-Spiritual Therapist, or Supervisor-Educator in either stream, in order to mentor a certification candidate; must be certified as a Supervisor-Educator in order to mentor a supervisory candidate), and can now assist the candidate in preparing to make application.

What qualifications does a pre-certification mentor need?
A pre-certification mentor needs to be a CASC/ACSS Certified Member (Spiritual Care Practitioner, Psycho-Spiritual Therapist or Supervisor-Educator) who comes from the same learning stream (CPE/PCE) as the candidate for certification.

Are there different models of pre-certification mentoring?
Yes. Two models are named in the Manual. Pre-certification mentoring can occur one-to-one or in a group (and/or by means of a combination of both one-to-one and group mentoring). Each model has benefits and limits.

One-to-One Mentoring – This is when one candidate works with one mentor. Benefits include a personalized focus and pacing in keeping with the needs as well as resources of both candidate and mentor.Limits include having only one person’s experience to draw upon.

Group Mentoring – This is when a group of candidates work with one mentor, who sees each person in the group through their certification process. Benefits include being able to share ones papers with others in the group, get feedback/critique from more than one person, and experience the support as well as energy that a group can offer. Limits include balancing ones personal time frame alongside the pacing set by others in the group, and challenges of scheduling times to meet when there are larger numbers to consider.

Combining One-to-One and Group Mentoring – This is when a mentor either starts one-to-one with several candidates and then moves them into small peer groups as their process develops… or …when a mentor starts with a group and then integrates one-to-one sessions as the process develops.  Benefits include having individualized work combine with group work. Limits include scheduling and pacing in keeping with personal vis-à-vis group development.

Is there a fee payable to the pre-certification mentor?
As with other situations involving consultation time in CASC/ACSS, there is no requirement of a fee payable to the pre-certification mentor other than reimbursement of the mentor’s out-of-pocket expenses (e.g. travel, etc.). In those circumstances where a mentor uses time otherwise devoted to fee-for-service of clients, or when a person’s institutional setting requires that she/he charge a fee for time not spent in primary work activities, payment of a fee may become part of the candidate/mentor relationship. This is negotiated in a professional manner based on the hourly cost of the mentor’s professional time.

What does a pre-certification mentor do?
According to the CASC/ACSS Manual (Chapter 2, Sections II, C, 7, 3 or Section III, D, 10, 3), there are six aspects of a pre-certification mentor’s role.

First, to ensure that the candidate not only knows but also understands the requirements for certification as a Spiritual Care Practitioner or Psycho-Spiritual Therapist.

  • Has the candidate read the details provided in the CASC/ACSS Manual
  • Does the candidate understand each of the three steps in the Certification process?
  • Have the mentor and candidate discussed requirements of the Step One (formal) documents and how the candidate is doing in compiling them?
  • Have the mentor and candidate discussed requirements of the Step Two (professional) papers?
  • Is there clarity about the fact that the Step Two papers for those seeking certification as Spiritual Care Practitioners will be scored using the CASC/ACSS Competency document (posted on the website in May 2011  and included in Chapter 2, Section II, C, 2 of the Manual)? [Note: A parallel update of Standards for Certification as a Psycho-Spiritual Therapist will be implemented in 2012/2013.]
  • Is there clarity that the candidate will need to be able to write about his/her theoretical as well as experiential knowledge (integrative theory and practice paper) and to demonstrate this knowledge in practical ways (case study)?
  • Have the mentor and candidate discussed the fact that there can be no application until all Step Two papers are completed?

Second, to negotiate a schedule of consultative sessions with the candidate(s). This schedule needs to provide adequate time for relational collaboration that will see the candidate(s) through compiling Step One (formal) documents and completing Step Two (professional) papers. A hypothetical overview of consultation sessions might look like the following. (Note: this is only a sample; each mentor/candidate relationship will have its own uniqueness, rhythm, and topics).

  • Session One: Establish basic parameters of the mentor/candidate relationship; discuss frequency of meetings; discuss issue of expenses/fees; review CASC/ACSS certification standards and highlight any questions for future meetings.
  • Session Two: Review Step One and Step Two certification standards. Go over the formal documents requirement and discuss what the candidate has compiled and/or needs to compile. Discuss how far along the candidate is in writing his/her Step Two papers.
  • Session Three: Discuss the theoretical background of the candidate; reading materials with which she/he is familiar; suggested additional readings/resources that might enhance the candidate’s understanding of the ministry specialty.
  • Session Four: Discuss some of the systemic as well as the personal dimensions of the ministry specialty – including such topics as: the political and economic realities of the ministry setting, what it means to have a sound understanding of administration, advocacy, ministry with staff and colleagues, and structural accountability.
  • Session Five: Spend a session in the candidate’s ministry setting in order for the mentor to better understand the candidate’s context in providing the ministry specialty (of spiritual care or psycho-spiritual therapy). [At this point there could be a break period while the professional papers are finalized and reviewed – with use of email for feedback.]
  • Session Six: A time for review and closure; mentor provides candidate with his/her completed “Pre-Certification Mentor’s Checklist and Report”; candidate may wish to ask mentor to be part of her/his Step Two review committee; shared reflection on the consultative experience (benefits, learning, etc.).

Third, to provide the candidate with feedback about written documents:

  • Does the mentor have any questions/concerns about Step One documents?
  • Is the “Integrative Professional Theory and Practice Paper” well written?
    • Is it representative of writing at a Master’s level?
    • Is it between 20 and 25 pages in length?
    • Is it written in keeping with a standard style (e.g. APA, Chicago, MLA)?
    • Does the paper reflect integration of theory and practice?
    • Are there any clinical vignettes?
    • Are the CASC/ACSS competencies in evidence?
  • Is the “Thoroughly Documented Case Study” well written?
    • Is it representative of writing at a Master’s level?
    • Is it between 9 and 11 pages in length?
    • Does it provide information about the candidate’s ministry context and selected patient/family/client?
    • Is there information about the candidate’s approach to spiritual assessment, analysis of patient/family/group dynamics, spiritual care interventions, sensitivity to diversity, etc.?
    • Are there clinical vignettes and verbatim sections?
    • Is there a summary of the relationship in terms of closure/referral and/or continuing involvement, etc.?
    • Is there a reflective assessment of the candidate’s strengths/limits and learning areas within the relationship?
    • Are the CASC/ACSS competencies in evidence?
  • Is the “Autobiographical Statement” well written?
    • Is it representative of writing at a Master’s level?
    • Is it between 6 and 9 pages in length?
    • Does it describe how the candidate’s personal story and life experience inform as well as impact his/her professional functioning as a spiritual care provider or pastoral counsellor?
    • Is there evidence that the candidate’s CPE/PCE has provided her/him with integrative learning (e.g. continuous threads and/or key transitions related to self/other awareness, personal/professional development, integration of both theological/psychological knowledge, etc.)?
    • Are the CASC/ACSS competencies in evidence?
    • Has the candidate convinced the mentor that he/she is able to bring together theory, practice, and self – i.e. able to both “walk the talk” and “talk the walk”?

Fourth, to spend one of the consultative sessions in the candidate’s ministry setting in order to better understand various aspects of the context being written about by the candidate.

Fifth, to review the candidate’s completed documentation – including the candidate’s self-assessment (using the Step Two Report Form – form 2.18 or 2.19) – prior to its submission.

Sixth, to provide the candidate with a completed “Pre-Certification Mentor’s Checklist and Report” (Form 15) – which covers the following:

  • A description of the consultative process, the number and length of the sessions, the length of the process, the format of the process (group or individual);
  • An assessment of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses relevant to the ministry specialty with particular focus on pastoral identity, authority and integration;
  • A recommendation regarding the candidate’s readiness to be certified as a specialist;
  • Comments on recommendations from previous Admitting and Certification reviews.

Who can the pre-certification mentor contact with questions?
It is understood that the mentor/candidate relationship is of a professional and confidential nature. Questions arising for a mentor that pertain to CASC/ACSS Standards, the certification process, details relevant to any of the three Steps, timelines, etc., can be discussed with the Certification Chairperson (see Quick Contacts-ESC). Although unanticipated, if issues arise within the candidate/mentor relationship, benefit may be gained by third party consultation. This may also be with the Certification Chairperson, but can likewise be someone closer at hand and within geographical proximity. The hope is that pre-certification mentoring will provide candidates with supportive consultation by experienced practitioners.

Concluding Comments
As shared elsewhere, the process for Certification is set within a context of collective experiential learning as well as continual improvement. If this resource is helpful, or if improvements are needed, please contact the Certification Chairperson.