Mini Manual 2: Writing and Submitting the Self-Study Document

The term “self-study” refers to both a process and a product. Program faculty begin the process by examining their program and writing a Self-Study document that explains how their counseling program addresses the CACREP Standards. The Self-Study document is submitted to CACREP, along with a completed application form and application fee, to begin the review process for accreditation. This section of the manual provides information pertaining to the self-study process and applying for accreditation.

Beginning the Self-Study Process

Analyze existing program structures and resources in relation to the 2016 Standards and CACREP policies.
To become accredited, a program has to demonstrate it meets the CACREP Standards. A useful way to begin the process is to analyze the existing strengths and areas of challenge in relation to the standards and policies. Identifying areas of existing compliance, as well as areas where there are concerns or where changes are needed, can help the program faculty determine where to target initial time, effort, and resources. In order to conduct such an analysis effectively, it is important for faculty to be familiar with the standards and policies, especially the policies pertaining to the accreditation process and program structure.

The 2016 CACREP Standards can be downloaded here.
The CACREP Policy Document can be downloaded here.

Consider the Eligibility Requirements. The following three conditions must be met in order for a program to apply for CACREP accreditation:

  • Students must be enrolled in each specialty area included in the application
  • For new applicants, the timing of the application should be based on when there would be students in the final term of their program of study.
    • The institution must hold regional accreditation
  • Specialty area and doctoral programs must meet the minimum number of credit hours specified in the CACREP Standards.


Policies Related to the Self-Study Process:

FAQs Related to the Self-Study Process:

Writing the Self-Study Document

During the self-study process, faculty must spend a great deal of time evaluating the program’s resources, goals and objectives, curriculum, outcomes, and strengths and limitations in relation to the requirements in the CACREP Standards and policies. Once completed, the next step is to compile the results into a comprehensive report that will be submitted to CACREP for an accreditation review. The process that the program faculty use to arrive at a final report will be unique to that faculty and institution, as will be the methods and formats used to explain and document compliance with the CACREP Standards. While CACREP does not mandate a single format for Self-Study Documents, there are certain guiding principles to consider when preparing a document.

  • Provide direct, specific, and comprehensive narrative responses for how the program meets each Standard. If the application includes more than one specialty area (e.g., Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling) or more than one site (e.g., a main campus and a branch campus), the response should differentiate between specialty areas or sites when related differences exist. Otherwise, reviewers will not have the information needed to understand such variations.
  • Select materials to include in the document that demonstrate that each standard is met. This can include materials (e.g., handbooks, survey forms) that describe the processes and procedures of a program and/or that demonstrate that the program has followed its processes and procedures (e.g., supervision logs, survey data).

Organizing the Self-Study Document

The formatting guidelines will assist in organizing of the Self-Study Document. The document should contain significant depth and breadth of information and supporting materials. Multiple reviewers will examine the document closely at several points during the accreditation review process. Careful attention to how the document is compiled and formatted can greatly assist reviewers in terms of understanding the information and in navigating the document.

Please keep in mind that different reviewers will closely read each narrative response and every page of the supporting material provided. In order for reviewers to effectively conduct their review, they must be able to understand the organization of the report and the information in the narrative responses and supporting materials. Given the depth and breadth of the Self-Study Document, it is helpful to explain to reviewers the location and purpose of the supporting materials included for each response. Remember that reviewers do not have the same level of familiarity with the program as the program’s own faculty.

A useful rule in terms of supporting materials is: when in doubt, include documentation. The reviewers cannot assume that a standard is met simply because it says so in the narrative response. The supporting materials chosen to accompany a narrative response should show a clear connection to the information in the narrative response and the specifications in the particular standard. The reviewers will not make this determination on their own, or assume which piece of documentation belongs with a particular standard. It is helpful if internal links are built in to the narrative response which links the documentation in a separate window. This allows the reviewers to access the supporting materials and then return to the narrative responses for the standards.

Because a Self-Study Document represents a program’s details at a specific point in time and are maintained as official records throughout an accreditation cycle, external links to live websites cannot be included for documentation purposes. If documentation for meeting a standard is provided by information that appears on a webpage, it should be provided in a static format through providing a screen shot or saving the website to include in the electronic Self-Study Document, rather than providing a live URL (web address).

Important: Any information relating to student or client identity must be redacted from the supporting materials prior to their inclusion in the document. Failure to do this may result in CACREP returning application materials for revision prior to sending the document forward for review.

Please do not hesitate to contact the CACREP staff with any questions when writing and compiling the Self-study Report.

Policies Related to the Application and Self-Study Document:

FAQs Related to the Application and Self-Study Document:

Submitting your Application Materials

Applying for CACREP accreditation consists of submitting two disks or USB drives each containing a completed application and a Self-Study Document. In addition, the program should submit the application fee payment and the application signature pages, with original signatures of the institution’s president/CEO, the College’s or School’s dean, and the chair of the Department or Academic Unit, separately or with the packet containing the electronic materials.

Download the application form

Please note the following consideration in applying for accreditation:

  • The disks or USB drives should contain both the Self-Study Document and a completed application form, including the supporting tables and documentation (Application Form Section 3).
  • All submissions must include two copies of the disk or USB drives, each labeled with the institution’s name, an indication it is a Self-Study Document, and the date of submission.
  • Application fees may be paid by check or money order made payable to CACREP.
  • The application materials should be mailed to the CACREP office: CACREP, 1001 N. Fairfax Street, #510 Alexandria, VA 22314.
  • An additional 4-6 copies of the disks or USB drives should be prepared and retained by the institution for future provision to the site team members. This could be done at a later date and modified to also include an Addendum to the Self-Study Document should one be required and/or developed.

The program does not need to submit a hard copy version of the Self-Study Document. However, the program should maintain copies of all documents and materials included in the Self-Study Document should any problems develop with the electronic versions submitted for review.

Policies Related to the Submitting Your Application Materials:

FAQs Related to the Submitting Your Application Materials: