Does Accreditation Matter?
Counseling program accreditation was established to address the need for standardized preparation across the counseling profession. As counseling programs began to emerge, they looked drastically different. Some were education-focused programs training individuals for work as guidance and career counselors. Others were psychology based and were training individuals to prepare for doctoral programs to become psychologists. The curriculum for these "counseling” programs was all over the board in terms of their nature and focus, not to mention the significant lack of uniformity regarding degree requirements. Some programs required an internship, some didn’t. Some were certificate programs with a few courses, others were master’s degree programs with more extensive coursework. There was a clear need for a national standard of training for counselor preparation programs—thus emerged CACREP as a formal accreditation mechanism to increase the quality and uniformity across programs. So, does CACREP accreditation matter?
The answer of course is yes! Finding a graduate counseling program that is accredited by CACREP is important for many reasons. You can be assured that the counseling program has met national standards for preparation set forth by the profession. You know that the program values quality and that they engage in regular program evaluation internally and with external experts to help improve the program. Students in CACREP-accredited counseling programs are afforded many opportunities and benefits solely because they attend an accredited program, including scholarships and jobs. Having a degree from a CACREP program also has implications for certification and licensure. In chapter 6 we will invite you to further explore the reasons for choosing an accredited program; for now just remember CACREP will impact your graduate training, even if you attend a program that is not yet accredited.
You will notice some similarities in the curricula and experiences of CACREP-accredited programs because programs are following the same set of preparation standards. Although CACREP does not dictate the specific courses that students must take, all accredited programs align their curricula with eight core areas at a minimum (Table 3.1). You will find these core areas included within the education requirements for counselor licensure in almost every state.