Perceived Benefit of CACREP (2001) Core Curriculum Standards

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the perceived benefit of the core curriculum standards of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2001). A total of 641 individuals, whose names were obtained from a 6% proportional randomized sample of members from the American Mental Health Counselors Association, American School Counselor Association, and Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, responded to this study. Results suggest various perceptions both within and between groups regarding the 8 CACREP core curriculum standards.

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Graduate education is not only beneficial but a necessary endeavor for many people pursuing professional careers (Conrad, Duren, & Haworth, 1998). In the past 20 years, higher education stakeholders have been demanding quality educational standards (Bilder & Conrad, 1996; Horne, Dagley, & Webster, 1993). Given these demands, graduate education must establish quality standards that should be continually evaluated (Osborne & House, 1995). In counselor education, accreditation standards have emerged to ensure quality education and provide qualified counseling professionals (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs [CACREP], 2001; Young, 1983).

CACREP is the largest counseling-related accreditation body, accrediting 389 master's-level programs and 45 doctoral programs ("CACREP Directory," 2003). The CACREP (2001) standards require counselor education programs to include eight core curriculum standards regarding the areas in which master's-level students are to obtain knowledge and demonstrate experience. These core curriculum standards are Professional Identity, Social and Cultural Diversity, Human Growth and Development, Career Development, Helping Relationships, Group Work, Assessment, and Research and Program Evaluation.

Historically, the perception of CACREP accreditation and the core curriculum standards has been favorable (Bobby & Kandor, 1992; Cecil & Comas, 1986; Cook, Berman, Genco, Repka, & Shrider, 1986; Schmidt, 1999; Smaby & D'Andrea, 1995; Vacc, 1985, 1992). Research that reported negative aspects of accreditation included such areas as time spent maintaining accreditation and preparing for self-studies, expense, curricular changes, and the many labor-intensive tasks involved in maintaining accreditation (Schmidt, 1999). To date, however, research has not specifically addressed practitioners' perceptions of the benefits of each specific CACREP core curriculum standard.

The purpose of this study was to explore and compare the perceptions of counselor educators, mental health counselors, and school counselors regarding the verbatim CACREP (2001) core curriculum standards. This study filled a void in the literature by not only including the perceptions of counselor educators and practitioners but also by using the verbatim CACREP standards.

There were two research questions that guided the analysis and procedures of this study. The first research question was, "What are the perceptions of the relative benefits of the eight CACREP (2001) core curriculum standards for counselor educators, mental health counselors, and school counselors?" The second research question was, "How do perceptions of counselor educators, mental health counselors, and school counselors differ regarding the relative benefit of the CACREP (2001) core curriculum standards?"

Method

Sample

Postal addresses and e-mail addresses were obtained through membership lists from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES). The individuals whom we contacted were a randomized subsection of those who held professional membership in one of the three associations. Individuals from AMHCA and ASCA were chosen to participate in this study because they represent counseling professionals who work primarily in mental health settings or school settings. …