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When you decide to choose a licensed professional career as a counselor or therapist, one of the first items on your agenda will likely be to obtain a master's of clinical counseling degree. But before you enroll in any specific program, you’ll want to verify that it holds CACREP certification.

So, what is CACREP accreditation exactly? 

Put simply, it’s an important distinction that indicates that a master’s in counseling program provides an education that reflects the standards of the counseling profession. When you choose a program that’s CACREP-certified, you’re guaranteed to receive a level of instruction and training that are an integral aspect of professional counseling success.

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What is CACREP?

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, or CACREP, is an independent organization that aims to improve the field of clinical mental health counseling and ensure that counselors in training are prepared to practice in a manner that benefits society.1 A primary way it does this is by evaluating and bestowing CACREP accreditation on many types of programs, including:2

  • Addiction, mental health, and rehabilitation counseling programs
  • College counseling, school counseling, and student affairs programs
  • Marriage and family counseling 
  • Career counseling 

Founded in 1981, CACREP recognizes that a licensed professional counselor must be equipped with skills that enable them to adequately serve diverse communities. It bestows accreditation on colleges and universities around the world in accordance with its two central aims:  

  • To ensure that preparatory programs are always improving
  • To enable counselors and other mental health professionals the best care possible

The organization does not exist in a vacuum. Importantly, CACREP works closely with other organizations, such as licensing boards, certification programs, and other accrediting bodies to develop standards and procedures that guarantee excellence.3

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Why is CACREP Accreditation Important?

When a program is accredited by CACREP, you know that it satisfies the professional standards of the field of counseling. When awarding accreditation, the organization performs a thorough evaluation to assess the quality of the program and ensure that its curriculum prepares students to pass state-specific licensing examinations that are required to practice. 

In evaluating the content and curriculum of degree programs, CACREP considers aspects such as:4

  • Formal coursework
  • Skill development
  • Program instruction and leadership 

The agency also evaluates the objectives of various programs and imposes standards regarding admission and advising policies, how programs are governed, and whether the program offers adequate hands-on training. It also provides institutions with methods for self-evaluation.

What Are the Benefits of Joining a CACREP-Accredited Program?

For students, the benefits of choosing a program with CACREP accreditation cannot be overstated. Obtaining a master’s degree represents a significant investment of time and resources, and CACREP accreditation is a good way to determine whether an individual program is worthy of that investment.

In fact, CACREP accreditation signals a number of important qualities about a degree program, such as:

  • Institutional commitment to excellence – CACREP accreditation is not a mandatory achievement for degree programs. Instead, applying for accreditation is a voluntary process that entails a good amount of preparation on behalf of institutions. This is a good indication that a given program and the people who run it are committed to providing quality education.
  • Program quality – A program that receives CACREP accreditation demonstrates that its content and curriculum are in line with the strict standards set by CACREP and the counseling profession. 
  • Professional preparedness – CACREP accreditation ensures that counseling degree programs adequately prepare future certified counselors to develop professional identities and maintain professional standards of practice. 
  • Licensure preparedness – CACREP coordinates with boards and committees that award important licenses that most states require to practice clinical mental health counseling. The agency takes the standards and requirements of these committees into account when bestowing accreditation, so a CACREP-accredited program is more likely to prepare you to succeed when it's time to take licensing exams. 
  • Institutional accountability – CACREP accreditation requires that institutions undergo a self-evaluation process that includes the development of clear goals and objectives for the program which are publicly available.5 This helps assure students and the general public that the institution is rigorously committed to maintaining accreditation standards.

CACREP also awards accreditations to certified counselors on an individual basis. After you’ve obtained your degree and launched your career, you can demonstrate your personal commitment to excellence by applying for accreditation. 

Begin Your Counseling Journey at Alliant International University 

At the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, students who pursue a master’s degree in clinical counseling are immersed in a CACREP-accredited course of study that lays the groundwork for a rewarding career in mental health care. 

Want to know how to get counseling experience? Our program offers quality coursework where you’ll develop skills in all areas of clinical counseling, including diagnosing and treating mental health issues. Then, we augment the classroom experience with valuable real-world experiences that gives you the chance to provide counseling services to those in need.

Are you looking for a degree program that focuses on quality education and training and enables you to become a qualified clinical counselor? Then Alliant International University is where you need to be. Find out more today.


Sources: 

  1. “About CACREP.” https://www.cacrep.org/about-cacrep/. CACREP. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  2. Brandon Galarita. “CACREP Accreditation: Everything You Need to Know.” Forbes. February 28, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/education/cacrep-accreditation/. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  3. “About CACREP.” https://www.cacrep.org/about-cacrep/. CACREP. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  4. “Understanding Accreditation.” https://www.cacrep.org/accreditation/. CACREP.Accessed June 20, 2022. 
  5. “Why Should My Program Seek Accreditation?” CACREP. https://www.cacrep.org/accreditation/why-should-my-program-seek-accredi…. Accessed June 20, 2022.

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