ERIC Identifier: ED347470
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Bobby, Carol L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
CACREP Accreditation: Setting the Standard for Counselor
Preparation. ERIC Digest.
To accredit is to recognize as outstanding, provide with credentials, or
vouch that standards have been maintained or met. These statements can be found
in most dictionary definitions of the word "accredit." In the U.S., this word
has been used to represent a unique process of voluntary, nongovernmental review
of educational institutions and professional preparation programs. The process
varies from most other countries where quality assessment is a governmental
function. Here it has historically been a self-regulating practice of peer
The two major types of accreditation in the United States are known as
institutional and specialized. In higher education, institutional accreditation
is granted by regional and national accrediting commissions which look at entire
institutions such as universities or colleges. Specialized accreditation is
awarded to professional programs housed within institutions or to free-standing,
professional institutes offering training in a particular field of study.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
(CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council on
Postsecondary Accreditation (COPA), was created by the American Counseling
Association (ACA) and its membership divisions to provide a nationally-based
standards review process for the counseling profession's graduate-level
preparation programs. Although independently incorporated in 1981, CACREP views
its mission as synonymous with the goals of ACA--to advance the counseling
profession through graduate education standards which promote quality education
program offerings. CACREP accreditation is seen as a means of strengthening
credibility for the counseling profession.
THE ACCREDITATION PROCESS
There are five basic stages to
the CACREP accreditation process. Each stage represents a specific level of self
and peer review for purposes of constructive feedback regarding a program's
compliance with the standards.
In Stage One, a program embarks on a process of self-examination. Program
faculty review the program's objectives, curricular offerings, clinical
instruction facilities, institutional support, faculty credentials, policies,
and other organizational support materials against the requirements embedded in
the CACREP Standards. Based upon this self-review process, the program may plan
for changes which will increase compliance with the standards.
Following the self review, a program may enter Stage Two of the CACREP
process by writing a report which addresses how the program meets each
individual standard. Documentation must be provided to support the narrative.
Submission of this report with an application form allows for the initial peer
review of the program by a subcommittee of the CACREP Board. Feedback is
provided to the program, and the program may be requested to either withdraw the
application, provide further substantiation, or prepare for Stage Three of the
review process--the on-site visit.
The on-site visit is conducted by a 3-4 person team of professional
counselors and/or human development specialists who have been trained by CACREP
to validate the self-study data. The typical visit includes: (1) a thorough
review of the self-study report; (2) interviews with faculty, students,
graduates, deans, clinical supervisors, and other administrators; (3) actual
visits to both on-campus and off-campus facilities such as the library, computer
centers, practicum and internship sites, and other laboratory or resource
centers; and (4) a review of departmental files and supplemental information. A
minimum of 2-3 days is reserved for the visit. At the conclusion, the team
submits a detailed report of the on-site review to the CACREP Board of
Directors. This report is also provided to the program for further feedback and
for an opportunity to respond to the relative accuracy of the information
Stage Four is the rendering of accreditation decisions by the CACREP Board.
Once again a subcommittee of the Board reviews all materials generated in the
process to date. The subcommittee prepares recommendations for Board
deliberations and decisions. Accreditation decisions are rendered in the
*Accredited: a status awarded to programs which
satisfactorily meet the standards; awarded for a 7-year period.
for a 2-year period: a status awarded to programs which substantially meet the
requirements for accredited status, but which need to address minor
deficiencies. Conditions are attached to the accreditation which must be
addressed within a time frame.
Denial occurs when the evidence indicates that a program is not in substantial
compliance with the standards. The program is notified of the decision through
correspondence with the institution's president or other official designee. In
the event of denial, a program is given the right to appeal within a 30-day
period following receipt of the notification letter.
The final stage of the CACREP process is the submission of interim reports
and annual surveys. Their purpose is to document further and continued
compliance with the CACREP Standards during the 2-7 years of awarded
accreditation. The Board reviews this information and provides continued
feedback to the program.
EVALUATION OF CACREP
Program accreditation in counselor
education has been the theme of many journal articles. Publications have focused
on issues of need for an accreditation program (Stahl & Havens, 1978;
Stripling, 1978), concerns generated by increases in program requirements (Cecil
& Comas, 1986; Vacc, 1985), faculty characteristics in CACREP programs
(Miller & Sampson, 1984), the impact of CACREP's clinical instruction
requirements (Pate, 1990; Randolph, 1988), and the governance structure of the
CACREP Board as the body responsible for implementing the standards revision
process (Engels, 1991; Weinrach, 1991). Research on the relevance of the CACREP
Standards (Vacc, 1992) to counselor preparation as judged by representatives
from both accredited and nonaccredited programs indicated the existence of a
positive degree of content validity of the standards. Additional survey research
assessing program representatives' perceptions of whether specific standards
hindered the seeking of CACREP accreditation (Bobby & Kandor, 1992) revealed
few, if any standards, to be deterrents to achieving accreditation.
CACREP policy also dictates that a comprehensive review of the standards be
conducted every 5 years. A committee is appointed to conduct the review which
requires dissemination of drafts to its various publics--counselor educators,
practitioners, students, and the general public--for comment and suggested
revisions. A minimum of two drafts over a period of 2 years are prepared for
public review before a final adoption of new or revised standards is completed.
CACREP Standards are responsive to the needs
of the profession and the needs of our society. In recent years, society has
recognized the "graying" of America, been plagued with a growing drug problem,
and witnessed crises associated with family violence, divorce, and unemployment.
For the profession to remain responsive, appropriate preparation is imperative.
CACREP has been in the process of reviewing specialized training standards in
areas such as marriage and family counseling, gerontological counseling, and
CACREP accreditation is a powerful tool for
self-evaluation and improvement of counselor education programs. The standards
provide the guidelines for master's and doctoral level preparation accepted
nationally by the counseling profession. Inherent in the accreditation process
is continuous evaluation and responsive feedback so that programs and the
profession remain current with the problems faced by entering professionals.
Bobby, C. L., & Kandor, J. R. (1992).
Assessment of selected CACREP standards by accredited and nonaccredited
programs. Journal of Counseling and Development, 70, 677-684.
Cecil, J. H., & Comas, R. E. (1986). Faculty perceptions of CACREP
accreditation. Counselor Education and Supervision, 25, 237-245.
Engels, D. W. (1991). Some questions and concerns about counselor preparation
accreditation and standards revision. Counselor Education and Supervision, 31,
Miller, G. M., & Sampson, J. P. (1984). A profile of counselor educators
at Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
institutions. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC/CAPS.
Pate, R. H. (1990). The potential effect of accreditation standards on the
types of students who will enter counselor education programs. Counselor
Education and Supervision, 29, 179-186.
Randolph, D. L. (1988). The enemy is us. Counselor Education and Supervision,
Stahl, E., & Havens, R. I. (1978). The case for ACES program
accreditation. Counselor Education and Supervision, 17, 180-187.
Stripling, R. O. (1978). Standards and accreditation in counselor education:
A proposal. The Personnel and Guidance Journal, 56, 608-611.
Vacc, N. A. (1992). An assessment of the perceived relevance of the CACREP
standards. Journal of Counseling and Development, 70, 685-687.
Vacc, N. A. (1985). CACREP-accredited programs: Survey results. Counselor
Education and Supervision, 24, 384-390.
Weinrach, S. G. (1991). CACREP: The need for a mid-course correction. Journal
for Counseling and Development, 69, 491-494.