Addiction-Specific CACREP Standards in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs: How Are They Met?

By Iarussi, Melanie M.; Perjessy, Caroline C. et al. | Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Addiction-Specific CACREP Standards in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs: How Are They Met?


Iarussi, Melanie M., Perjessy, Caroline C., Reed, Shelley W., Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling


In 2009, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) included training standards specific to addiction for clinical mental health counseling programs. This study surveyed CACREP-accredited program coordinators to determine how addiction-specific standards were addressed.

Keywords: accreditation standards, addictions counseling, CACREP, counselor training

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For the past 30 years, counselor educators have discussed the best way to include alcohol and drug abuse training in the professional counseling curriculum (Buckalew & Daly, 1986; Morgan & Toloczko, 1997; Whittinghill, 2006). Noteworthy changes to the counselor education curriculum reflecting these discussions did not formally occur until recently. Beginning in 2009, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) added an addictions counseling track and an increased emphasis on addictions within the curricula of clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) programs. This move answered the call for many counselor educators who indicated an increased need for more student preparation in the areas of substance abuse and addiction (Morgan & Toloczko, 1997; Salyers, Ritchie, Cochrane, & Roseman, 2006; Whittinghill, Carroll, & Morgan, 2005). The present study reflects the findings of how CACREP-accredited CMHC programs adhere to the 2009 Standards.

Historically, educational requirements to be an addictions counselor were minimal compared with those for pursuing a graduate degree in community mental health counseling (Mustaine, West, & Wyrick, 2003). To practice as an addictions counselor, emphasis was placed on personal experience and education that could be met through workshops and seminars (Mustaine et al., 2003). A graduate degree was not necessary to treat those with addictions and, even as recently as 2006, 45% of states did not require a college degree to qualify as an addictions counselor (Kerwin, Walker-Smith, & Kirby, 2006). This requirement continues to change because of managed care's requirement that services rendered are using empirically based treatment approaches taught during graduate programs (Kerwin et al., 2006).

Over time, addictions counseling began to develop as a specialty of the counseling profession (Mustaine et al., 2003), which resulted in many graduate counseling programs offering substance abuse classes, both as requirements and as electives. Alarmingly, researchers discovered that approximately 26 counselor education programs offered an addictions counseling master's degree without existing curriculum standards in place (Whittinghill et al., 2005). McDermott, Tricker, and Farha (1991) indicated a need for specialized training in substance-related issues. Because of inadequate training standards, counselors were often unwilling to identify, treat, or refer persons with substance abuse issues. McDermott et al. discovered a "paucity of models for the training of counselors to work with these problems" (p. 87). As a result, practitioners and the public recognized the increased need for specialized training in addictions within graduate counseling programs, warranting the addition of an addictions counseling track and addiction-related standards for CMHC programs in the 2009 CACREP Standards.

A review of the literature indicates a burgeoning interest in what CACREP-accredited CMHC programs regard as important curriculum standards to include in an addictions course and what is lacking within the existing curriculum (Madson, Bethea, Daniel, & Necaise, 2008; Morgan & Toloczko, 1997; Morgan, Toloczko, & Comly, 1997; Salyers et al., 2006; Whittinghill, 2006; Whittinghill et al., 2005). In anticipation of the CACREP revision that included addiction-related standards, Mustaine et al. (2003) surveyed a number of CACREP-accredited programs to determine their needs regarding addictions courses. …

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