Your Excellence Is Recognized and Rewarded
All established professions meet certain criteria. These typically include a common body of knowledge, and enforceable ethical standards. Counseling has achieved these. The criteria also include nationally accredited preparation and training and a national examination as prerequisites for licensure. We now have licensure in all states and all states require the passage of an NBCC examination. While we have national accreditation (CACREP), it is not yet required for licensure. This is an anomaly among established helping professions such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, physical and occupational therapy, and social work, which mandate graduation from programs accredited by their specialized accrediting organizations as an eligibility requirement for taking the national examination and becoming licensed. A true measure of a profession occurs when society delegates to members of the profession exclusive authority to provide their services.As a member of the growing family of CACREP-accredited programs your commitment to excellence is to be commended. Now it is being recognized in unprecedented ways that are advancing the counseling profession. Like many emerging professions, counseling has evolved from other professions and specializations and has struggled to form a separate identity. There have been numerous attempts over the past 50 years to identify philosophies, theories, knowledge, skills and practices that are unique to counselors. However, there is always going to be overlap with our sibling helping professions such as psychology and social work. What really distinguishes a profession is legal recognition and legal authority to provide services.
This last measure is being achieved with the recognition of TRICARE and the VA of licensed counselors who graduate from CACREP-accredited programs as approved independent providers of services. It is important to note that without requiring graduation from a CACREP-accredited program it is unlikely that counselors would be recognized by the VA and TRICARE. In fact, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public, recommended requiring CACREP as the exclusive accrediting body for counselor education. In their investigations they looked at other accrediting bodies but concluded that only CACREP can ensure high standards of preparation to protect the public.
It is likely that other federal and state agencies will follow the recommendations of the IOM and the leads of the VA and TRICARE and begin recognizing licensed counselors from CACREP programs as approved, independent providers. This is wonderful news! This affords graduates of CACREP programs increased employment opportunities that counselors have never before enjoyed. Yet there are some who oppose these decisions and want to open the eligibility to anyone holding a counseling license. This is not likely to happen. Licensure requirements vary widely from state to state. Some states continue to license counselors who are not trained in counselor education programs by counselors and who do not identify themselves as counselors. This is one of the reasons that the IOM recommended requiring CACREP.
The decision to require CACREP will be repeated. It is just a matter of time before licensure boards begin requiring graduation from a CACREP-accredited program in order to sit the licensure examination. This will put counseling licensure requirements on par with the other established professions. It will also remove the main obstacle to licensure portability. Be proud that you are in a CACREP-accredited program. Your program’s commitment to excellence is being recognized and is enhancing the credibility of the counseling profession.