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.
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:
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.a – Integrity of Process
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.b – Counseling Program Identity
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.c – Use of Program and Degree Titles
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.d – Equivalent Program Requirements
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.e – Graduate Level Coursework
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.f – Core Faculty
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.g – Curriculum Content
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.h – Duration of Practicum
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.i – Program Experimentation and Innovation
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.k – When CACREP Standards Conflict with State/Local Laws
- Policies Governing Timelines 2.b – On-Site Scheduling Requirements
- Policies Governing Recognition of Graduates 5.c – Dual Degree Programs
FAQs Related to the Self-Study Process:
- What does it take to become a CACREP-accredited program?
- We think we have a good program. How do we know if we are ready to apply for CACREP accreditation?
- How long does the CACREP accreditation process take?
- Upon what criteria will the accreditation decision on our program be based?
- Does CACREP accredit online programs and, if so, are there separate Standards?
- Does CACREP have approved consultants?
- Ours is a newly developed counseling program. When can we apply for CACREP accreditation?
- Who initiates the accreditation 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:
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.m – Electronic Submission
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.n – Programs with Time-limited Cohorts
- Policies Governing the Pre-Application and Application Review Stages 1.o – Programs offered at Multiple Sites
FAQs Related to the Application and Self-Study Document:
- Does CACREP have a candidacy status for programs prior to the actual accreditation review?
- The Clinical Standards for Practicum and Internship specify a minimum number of Direct Service hours. What is meant by Direct Service?
- Where can I find the course requirements for a CACREP accredited institution?
- What subject areas comprise the counseling curriculum?
- What is a self-study report?
- Our program operates at more than one campus location. Can we submit one application for all sites or do we need to apply separately for each site?
Submitting your Application Materials
Applying for CACREP accreditation consists of submitting a completed application and a Self-Study Document via our submissions portal. In addition, the program should submit the application fee payment via mail. The electronic application includes a signature pages, with the ability to include electronic signatures of the institution’s president/CEO, the College’s or School’s dean, and the chair of the Department or Academic Unit.
Please note the following consideration in applying for accreditation:
- The submission should contain both the Self-Study Document and a completed application form, including the supporting tables and documentation (Application Form Section 3).
- Application fees may be paid by check or money order made payable to CACREP.
- The check or money order should be mailed to the CACREP office: CACREP, 500 Montgomery Street, #350 Alexandria, VA 22314.
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:
- Policies Governing Timelines 2.a – Accreditation Process Timeline
- Policies Governing Fees 6.a – Nonrefundable Fees
FAQs Related to the Submitting Your Application Materials:
- How do I submit required documents for accreditation review?
- How many copies of the self-study should I submit?
- Where do I mail the self-study?
- Can the self-study report be submitted online?
- How much does CACREP accreditation cost?
- Does CACREP accept credit card payments?
- Is the application fee refundable if we choose to withdraw our program from the review process or if a site visit is not authorized?
- Are the fees the same for a reaccreditation review?