Is counseling a single profession, or is it made up of several professions? This is not a new question, nor is it unfair to ask. It has been posed many times over the years, and there is not 100% consensus on the answer. The question was first posed in 1949 when there was a call made at the Council of Guidance and Personnel Associations conference for "one national voice speaking for the guidance and counseling profession" (Simmons, 2003, p. 9). This call led to the creation of a unification committee, consisting of four separate national guidance associations, which joined together to create the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA) and is now known as the American Counseling Association (ACA). More than 50 years later, the issue of unification was still being broached as delegates to the joint initiative known as 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling, cosponsored by ACA and the American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB), struggled with the issue of whether counseling could present itself as a single and unified profession. In 2009, ACA reported on its website that the 20/20 delegates who represented 30 specialized practice or interest areas of counseling, such as school, mental health, or rehabilitation counseling, had agreed in their statement of seven principles that sharing a common professional identity is critical for counselors and that presenting counseling as a unified profession is beneficial.
The history of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs' (CACREP's) organizational and accreditation structure is likely one of the reasons why struggles with this question continue. This article examines the structure and history of CACREP relative to the issue of viewing counseling as either a single profession or as a field consisting of specialized professions. It also focuses on how CACREP's development of specialty standards, which are additive to the core program area requirements, has played a role in keeping the question alive. Finally, the article includes recommendations regarding how CACREP and other counseling organizations can assist counseling in viewing and presenting itself as a single and unified profession.
* The History of CACREP's Structure
The evolution of the CACREP Standards and CACREP's accreditation structure cannot be separated from the history of the counseling profession. This is because CACREP, which was established in 1981, grew out of the work of several divisions of the aforementioned APGA. This work occurred during the 1960s and 1970s, but others (Stripling, 1965; Sweeney, 1995; Van Hoose, 1978) indicate the development of accreditation standards was discussed as early as the 1940s. Specifically, the creation of the counselor preparation standards that became the first set of CACREP Standards was primarily accomplished by the Association of Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), but included specialty area work completed by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). Furthermore, the decision by ACES to move forward with the development of accreditation standards was heavily influenced by the fact that other helping professions were already beginning to develop specialty program standards, affecting the ability of counseling to develop a clear and distinct identity as a profession. As early as 1953, the American Psychological Association began accrediting doctoral-level counseling psychology programs. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, founded in 1954, was accrediting school counseling programs and the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), established in 1972, began an accreditation process specifically for the specialty of rehabilitation counseling (Sweeney, 1995). Accreditation had already begun in counseling specialties, but counselors were not necessarily carrying it out.
A review of both the title and content of the "Standards for the Preparation of Counselors and Other Personnel Services Specialists" (1977) reflect the specialty perspective from which the CACREP structure and history has evolved. …