Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs: Promoting Quality in Counselor Education

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs: Promoting Quality in Counselor Education

Article excerpt

Much has changed in the profession of counseling in the 30 years since the original incorporation of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) in 1981. Thirty years ago, counseling was an emerging profession struggling to forge a separate identity from other helping professions. Only five states licensed professional counselors, and CACREP accredited only a handful of programs that had been "grandparented" in from the early accreditation work of the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. Today, all 50 states license professional counselors, CACREP accredits 600 programs at more than 260 institutions of higher education (IHEs), 14 states mandate recognition of licensed professional counselors by health plans under insurance vendorship laws (American Counseling Association Office of Professional Affairs, 2010), and counselors have gained recognition as independent providers in several large federal programs, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and TRICARE. CACREP, as the primary specialized accreditor for the counseling profession, has been an influential participant in the growing recognition and professionalization of counseling. Although most counselors and counselor educators now automatically think of CACREP when they hear the term accreditation, fewer know about what CACREP actually does and the larger accreditation environment in which CACREP operates. This article offers an overview of CACREP and accreditation and addresses some of the primary issues confronting CACREP, counselor preparation programs, and, in some instances, U.S. higher education as a whole.

* Overview of Accreditation in the United States

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation, as it exists in relation to higher education, is a quality assurance and enhancement mechanism for educational institutions, colleges or schools, and/or academic programs. A central factor in accreditation in the United States is that it is a form of self-regulation, consisting of intensive self-study and an external peer review process. Both of these accreditation-related activities occur in relation to a public set of standards of quality, policies, and procedures developed by an accrediting body through consultation with its respective higher education and professional communities (Council for Higher Education Accreditation [CHEA], 2006b).

Who Accredits?

Unlike many other countries, the United States does not have a ministry of education or other centralized authority exerting national control over IHEs and assuming responsibility for quality control. Although there is a federal department of education, it is not intended to function in such a capacity over higher education. A certain degree of control over IHEs is maintained by the states in which the IHEs are operating, but generally institutions are afforded a fair degree of independence and autonomy (U.S. Department of Education [USDE], 2011). "To ensure that education provided by programs and institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality" (Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors [ASPA], 2002, para. 2), the IHEs and related groups developed the self-regulatory process of accreditation.

In the United States, there are different types of accreditors, each focusing on different segments of higher education. These accreditors are private, nongovernmental organizations.

Regional accreditors accredit entire IHEs. The majority of the IHEs accredited by regional accreditors are degree granting and nonprofit. Currently, there are six regional accreditors, each accrediting IHEs in a respective region (New England, Middle States, Southern, North Central, Northwest, Western) consisting of a particular cluster of states.

National faith-related accreditors (e.g., Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation, Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools Accreditation Commission) similarly accredit entire IHEs. …

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