CACREP Connection Fall/Winter 2020

News from the COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee

It goes without saying that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020 created unique and formidable challenges for counselor education programs. To assist its accredited programs in addressing the immediate impact of the pandemic on students in the midst of their spring clinical experiences, CACREP took several responsive actions including initiating or expanding the use of online program delivery without submitting a Substantive Change Report, permitting students to be enrolled in practicum and internship in the same semester, and permitting excess direct and indirect services hours from practicum to be applied to internship. These actions will remain in effect until June 30, 2021. Additional accommodations made by CACREP this spring in response to financial and travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic included initiating the use of virtual site visits, approving no-penalty extensions for accredited programs approved for site visits through December 2020 or an extension of the 18-month retroactive policy on a case-by-case basis for new programs, and reducing the annual maintenance fee for the next two years.

It quickly became clear that the direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic would continue beyond the spring and into the summer and fall, and following the July 2020 CACREP Board meeting, the COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee was formed to ensure that the Board is able to respond promptly and effectively to ongoing and new pandemic challenges. Since its inception, the Committee has met on a bi-weekly basis with a charge of assessing the constantly evolving impact of the pandemic on academic programs and recommending areas warranting additional responsive action to the full CACREP Board.

An initial effort by the Committee to assess the continued impact of the pandemic occurred in August with the distribution of a COVID-19 Impact Survey to all accredited programs. The Survey was voluntary, and only about 30% of programs responded, but all indications from those programs that did respond were that the impact of COVID-19 has been and continues to be quite profound. Sixty-eight percent of the respondents reported pandemic-related difficulties in meeting multiple CACREP standards and policies. In particular, three-quarters of the respondents reported necessary changes in their delivery methods, over half reported a significant increase in workload for faculty, and up to a third reported impacts on student admissions and faculty hiring and consequent concerns about maintaining required faculty-student ratios. A smaller percentage (20%) reported no challenges with meeting the professional practice (practicum-internship) standards, possibly due to the aforementioned accommodations put in place in the spring to assist programs in meeting those standards.

After nine months and with no clear end to the pandemic in sight, programming changes made by necessity to accommodate pandemic conditions are now becoming the “new normal” in many programs’ operations. To ensure that these changes remain consistent with CACREP expectations and that the programming changes do not negatively affect accreditation decisions in the future, the Committee will soon be requesting a mandatory COVID-19 Special Report from all accredited programs detailing all deviations from CACREP standards and policies that have occurred to date as a result of the pandemic. Accuracy and thoroughness in completing this report will be of utmost importance, as the completed report will become a part of each program’s permanent record with CACREP. In view of the increased workload that we know many are experiencing, we are doing all we can in developing the Special Report format to make it as concise and user-friendly as possible. We anticipate its distribution to all programs in mid-to-late January 2021.

In addition to the many challenges reported by programs on the earlier COVID-19 Impact Survey, it is important to note that those same programs also provided us with a host of creative strategies they had applied in an effort to maintain compliance with CACREP standards and policies under adverse pandemic conditions. As we look toward beginning another calendar year still under pandemic conditions, the need for such strategies will be as great as ever, and we are working on the development of a COVID-19 Resource Page on the CACREP website where programs’ creative ideas can be shared among all programs.

On a final note, the members of the COVID-19 Committee would, on behalf of the entire Board, like to express our gratitude to programs for the amazing work you have done to date and are continuing to do to uphold the quality of graduate education being provided to your students during this unprecedented health crisis. We know that it has been a challenging time on many levels, and without the creative efforts you have made nonetheless to uphold our profession’s established training standards, the loss to students during this time would be substantial. We are especially grateful to those of you who have taken the time to share your challenges and successes with us directly through our earlier survey and in our ongoing virtual Table Talks during each of the ACES regional meetings. It is through open and honest communication that we at CACREP can best know how to support and assist you as the pandemic challenges to academic institutions and programs continue into 2021 and beyond. Thank you!

SRC Updates – An Overview of the Process

To ensure the CACREP Standards are timely, relevant, and reflect current societal needs, every seven years the CACREP Board of Directors appoints a Standards Revision Committee (SRC) to update the existing standards. In fall 2019 the SRC started its work on the next set of Standards, which will go into effect in 2024 (delayed one year due to Covid). Below is a brief overview of the standards revision process.

The CACREP Board of Directors charges the SRC to examine all aspects of the Standards – anything is fair game for revision. The Board also identifies areas that might warrant specific attention based on current trends in the profession or standards that are frequently cited. After receiving their charge, the SRC conducts its work independently from the Board. The final version of the Standards is shared with the Board of Directors, and a vote is taken regarding adoption. After adopting the Standards, the Board might make minor edits, but will not substantially change any of the content.

The CACREP Standards are to be a reflection of the profession. Decisions made by the SRC are data-driven, informed by existing data sources such as published research and the job analysis and role and function studies provided by the NBCC and CRCC as well as by feedback they gather. Additionally, the SRC is intentional about soliciting input from a variety of stakeholder groups, including counselor educators, graduate students, counseling practitioners, employers, and institutional administrators. Feedback from professional and credentialing organizations also is sought, as is input from the CACREP Board.

The SRC determines its own process, including when and how data and feedback will be gathered as well as the types of information they believe will be important to inform their work. In general, their process includes cycles of examining data and feedback, drafting revisions based on that information, and sharing those drafts for public comment. The SRC also might send targeted surveys to certain stakeholder groups or solicit feedback broadly about specific aspects of the standards. They offer numerous electronic and in-person (or virtual) opportunities for stakeholders to share concerns, offer suggestions, and ask questions. Information about their work and opportunities to provide feedback is communicated via multiple outlets (e.g., email, social media) and is available on the CACREP website: https://www.cacrep.org/SRC-2023/.

One of the biggest challenges the SRC faces is determining how to make sense of the abundance of feedback they receive. In many cases, they will receive conflicting feedback, and they will need to make difficult decisions knowing some subset of stakeholders might be disappointed in the end result. Their goal is to keep each other in check, letting the feedback and data drive their work rather than making decisions based on their own opinions or perspectives. Any individual or organization is welcome and encouraged to submit feedback through the identified channels. Diverse opinions and perspectives are critical to the process, and every piece of feedback the SRC receives is reviewed and considered.

Meet Lisa Dunay

A little about Lisa: Lisa grew up in Fort Washington, Maryland and attended college at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!). She describes herself as quiet and focused with a consistently positive and easy-going attitude. She enjoys working in a fast-paced environment that challenges her to find innovative solutions to complete projects with successful results.

 A little about Lisa’s work experience: Lisa has spent the majority of her career producing continuing education programs for healthcare professionals. As part of her role, she’s been responsible for ensuring these programs have been planned in accordance with accreditation standards for continuing education. She also has experience with the accreditation of postdoctoral programs in the medical sciences.

CACREP Fees Adjusted

The new academic year has begun in an unusual manner and programs are being called to be both creative and nimble in their program delivery. The CACREP Board recognizes that the financial impact of this pandemic to programs will be felt for the next few years. Therefore, The CACREP Board has frozen the Annual Dues at this year’s rate of $3800 for 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.

In June 2021 CACREP marks its 40th anniversary as an accreditor in the Counseling profession. To commemorate this milestone and celebrate its over 400 institutions with CACREP-accredited programs, CACREP is giving its accredited programs an anniversary gift – the Annual Dues for 2021-2022 is set at $3385

CACREP and Interprofessional Education (IPE)

CACREP is a member of the Health Professions Accreditors Collaborative (HPAC) which is a group of specialized accreditors in the healthcare field who work on common initiatives, one of which is interprofessional education.  Two publications are available for any CACREP-accredited programs who are interested in more active engagement in interprofessional education:

  • Guidance on Developing Quality Interprofessional Education for the Health Professions. http://healthprofessionsaccreditors.org/ipe-guidance/  This document provides audience-specific information for institutional leaders, departments and accreditors on how to use IPE effectively to improve professional preparation.  The guidance document has been used by many institutions since its publication in early 2019.  With the pandemic upending healthcare education, IPE offers some alternatives that are interesting to consider.
  • A recent article, The Future of health professions education: Emerging trends in the United States, is also available at https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1096/fba.2020-00061 This article by George Thibault, a professor of medicine and medical education, lists several future trends he sees in the education of healthcare professionals.  One is the social determinants of health and the social and humanistic mission of the health professions.  This is one area where counselors are unique to make a difference in interprofessional education.

If anyone has any IPE activities, including simulations, that you have incorporated into your counselor preparation, similar to the Plymouth State University Trauma Exercise (https://www.cacrep.org/news/plymouth-state-university-conducts-interdisciplinary-trauma-exercise/) please let us know.  Contact Jenny Gunderman at jgunderman@cacrep.org