Don W. LockeNearly 25 years ago, I wrote an editorial for the CACREP Connection newsletter titled “Fish or Cut Bait.” Recent communication and activities related to the possible proliferation of groups desiring to accredit professional counseling programs is of concern to me, so I feel compelled to write a sequel to that long ago editorial. Up front, let me state that I am a longtime supporter of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and served as vice-chair of its board in the late 1980s. Since that time, I have been proud to follow the professionalism of the staff and the Council as the organization has matured and grown to be viewed as one of the leading nationally recognized accrediting bodies. CACREP is responsible for addressing the preparation of professional counselors at the master’s level and the training of counselor educators at the doctoral level.

When I wrote my original editorial in the 1980s, there were 67 institutions with CACREP-accredited programs; today there are 596 programs accredited in 264 institutions. Standards have been reviewed and remain consistently under review. Revised and additional standards were implemented in 2001 and 2009. Another standards review process is currently under way for projected implementation in 2016. CACREP was initially recognized as an approved accreditation organization by the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation in 1987, and again in 2002 by its successor, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

While serving as the team chair for visiting groups to universities small and large, private and public, I have been impressed with the national reputation CACREP has earned with academic vice presidents and provosts. These individuals, who are responsible for the quality of the academic programs at their institutions and involved with accrediting groups from many disciplines, are knowledgeable concerning CACREP Standards and aware of the efforts to achieve creditability that have been more than 25 years in the making. Our profession is indebted to the years of effort of many professional counselors who have worked within the CACREP structure to ensure that past, current and future professional counselors are prepared to serve the clients who enter their offices.

As I have indicated in several of my previous columns, we as professional counselors have become a force to be considered. Some 120,000 folks now claim the designation of counselor. We are approaching 50,000 members in ACA. With licensure for professional counselors now secured in all 50 states, additional pressure is being applied to how best to determine the quality of the training of the individuals who will receive those licenses. Graduation from a CACREP-accredited program is quickly emerging as one of those guidelines.

It has been brought to my attention that some individuals and groups seem to have developed differences with segments of existing CACREP Standards or appear to have allegiances to disciplines that are proposing alternatives to CACREP. I sincerely hope these groups or individuals will work within the CACREP structure and process to resolve those issues rather than attempting to create or support a separate entity. Those efforts, in my opinion, will only dilute much of the progress that has been made to unify professional counselors over the past 30 years and create unnecessary divisions within our profession.

As an academic dean, I have to make decisions regarding institutional investments of time and money. When it comes to accreditation of programs, I seek clear and recognized groups to review our programs. I do not hesitate to support the counselor education programs at my institution when CACREP is presented because of the reputation it has earned. I am convinced that other deans and academic vice presidents share that opinion. When it comes to accreditation for professional counselors, it is time to “fish or cut bait.” CACREP is the group to choose, support and work within if changes are deemed appropriate.

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