Staying The Course
In the last issue of the CACREP Connection, I identified the three strategic initiatives guiding the work of CACREP. This column will include a progress update on these initiatives, as well as a discussion on the onus of being the standard bearer for counselor education and the ways in which CACREP promotes professional identity and works toward unifying the profession. For progress on strategic initiatives read more>
Onus of being the standard bearer
For 30 years CACREP has been steadfast in developing and revising counselor preparation standards to meet the changing needs and demands within the counseling profession and society at large. The rigor of CACREP’s standards development and revision processes, which include extensive opportunities for input from stakeholders, has earned external recognition of CACREP by state licensing boards, the majority of which require the CACREP curricula as the guide for meeting academic requirements for licensure and by the highly respected Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent non-profit organization that advises policy makers. While the recognition by state licensing boards and the IOM increases the CACREP’s stature, it also mandates that the rigor of the standards and of CACREP’s review processes be maintained. CACREP takes seriously its responsibility to protect the public and believes that to do this requires that counselors must have clear and strong professional identities. CACREP’s unwavering position on the importance of professional identity has engendered public scrutiny and challenges.
Increased public awareness of mental health issues and political decisions, such as the recent withdrawals of troops from war zones, also requires CACREP to be conscientious in its standards revision process. Do the core curricular standards include the requisite knowledge areas and skill-sets for the populations seeking counseling services? Are our current specializations adequate given the social and political changes? Do we need to consider the inclusion of new knowledge areas and specialty preparation?
Opportunities for promoting professional identity and unifying the profession
CACREP has been consistent in its position of recognizing that the scope and practice of counselors vary, thus, necessitating a core as well as specialization knowledge-bases and skill-sets depending on the populations served and work-settings. The hallmark of the 2009 CACREP Standards is the fostering of a counseling professional identity in graduates of accredited programs by faculty and supervisors who themselves hold a counseling professional identity. Bobby and Urofsky (2011) speak to opportunities that counselor training programs can make available to students in fostering this identity. Davis and Gressard (2011) delineate how specific CACREP standards promote professional identity taking into account the developmental stage of the counseling profession. Counseling professional organizations are doing their part too.
CACREP continues to collaborate with counseling professional organizations that share the belief and value of having a counseling professional identity and seek to unify the counseling profession. Professional organizations like the American Counseling Association, the National Board for Certified Counselors, and Chi Sigma Iota are working with CACREP on specific projects designed to enhance and highlight professional identity.
It is becoming clearer that being a CACREP-accredited program is significant for programs because:
- CACREP is the only accrediting agency in the Counseling profession accepted as a hiring credential by the federal government.
- CACREP programs prepare graduates for passing demanding licensure exams.
- CACREP accreditation increases the employment opportunities for graduates seeking employment in federal agencies such as the VA or TRICARE health systems.
- CACREP enhances the portability of credentials for graduates who must relocate.
- CACREP assists programs in recruiting qualified graduate students.
While the Board and staff of CACREP are diligent and vigilant in implementing a high quality standards-setting process that insures the relevancy of counselor preparation, we cannot do it alone. CACREP welcomes participation from faculty and students in our accredited programs in achieving our strategic initiatives in the best interest of the counseling profession. If you are ready and willing to be involved, please call the CACREP office and be an advocate for the counseling profession.