Even a cursory review of CACREP’s online directory reveals hundreds of programs housed in public and private institutions. While many institutions offer traditional “brick and mortar” counseling programs, an increasing number of institutions host online programs, hybrid programs, and/or programs housed at multiple campuses. We’re seeing widespread innovation in program delivery and curriculum, with new models of counselor education emerging each year. There are multiple facets contributing to the rapid changes we are seeing in counselor education, including advances in technology, changes in the economics of higher education, and major shifts in the expectations of degree-seeking students; not to mention increasing state and federal requirements around graduation from accredited programs!One benefit of serving on the CACREP Board of Directors is that I get the opportunity to review master’s and doctoral counseling programs from across the country. Participating in this review process is a great way to see how other programs operate; offering a perspective on our profession that I lacked prior to my time with CACREP. I am continually appreciative of the quality, creativity, and diversity evidenced in the programs reviewed. Each program brings with it a specific mission and vision for training counselors and/or counselor educators, and each program implements the CACREP Standards in ways that speak to uniqueness and diversity. All of this is accomplished while maintaining academic rigor and instilling in students a clear sense of what it means to be a professional counselor.
For CACREP, rapid change and innovation is exciting…and challenging! It’s exciting to see programs leverage new delivery methods and technologies, offering counselor education to increasingly diverse populations — and growing the profession in the process! However, as programs identify new methods for delivering counselor education, the CACREP Board is often challenged to evaluate and re-evaluate traditional conceptions of higher education.
A few examples of questions we face:
- “What is the role of faculty in counselor education? Particularly in cases where programs implement program advisors, success coaches, instructional design teams, etc…that parse out traditional faculty roles into multiple areas of responsibility.”
- “What are the profession’s expectations around residency? How much direct contact should students have with faculty? How do changes in residency impact mentoring opportunities with faculty and the development of counselor identity in students?”
- “What role should prior learning assessments and competency-based learning have in counselor education?”
Challenging as some of these questions may be, I am optimistic about the future of counseling and counselor education. Why? Because these questions speak to a profession that is vibrant and growing. I would be far more concerned if we weren’t challenging ourselves and adapting to changes in higher education or if we lacked the kind of diversity in our programs necessary to build the profession. Our willingness to innovate and be different give us strength.
It is a great time to be a counselor and a counselor educator!