The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits graduate-level counseling programs offered by institutions throughout the United States and some international programs. CACREP accredits many programs, including addiction counseling, clinical mental health counseling, family counseling and school counseling.
Most programs must contain at least 48 semester credits or 72 quarter credits. Addiction and family counseling require 60 semester credits or 90 quarter credits. Clinical mental health programs currently require 54 semester credits or 81 quarter credits but will transition to 60 semester and 90 quarter hours by 2013. In addition, there may not be more than ten students for every one instructor for classroom work and a six-to-one student-teacher ratio for practicum courses.
All counseling programs must meet core requirements. Students must receive a history of the profession, understand the ethical challenges and implications of the career and take courses in career development. Programs must educate counselors in social and cultural diversity and human growth and development. Student must learn the dynamics of helping relationship between counselor and patients and understand group work. Finally, students must learn and understand research and assessment methods.
Students must complete at least 100 hours of supervised practicum experience. At least 40 of those hours must be working directly with clients. After the practicum hours are complete, a 600-hour internship is required, with at least 240 hours working directly with clients or groups. Supervisors provide guidance and student assessment throughout the practicum and internship.
Programs that meet the requirements may apply for accreditation. The first step in the process is to write a self-study, a written document that demonstrates how the program meets CACREP standards and requirements. CACREP reviews the self-study and, if approved, CACREP representatives visit the school to review the program in person. The visit will include interviews with students, administrators and supervisors. CACREP reviews the report from the school visit and makes an accreditation decision.
Programs that successfully meet the requirements are granted accredited status valid for eight years. Programs that meet most requirements but need to make minor changes are granted accreditation for a two-year period with conditions. The conditions of the two-year accreditation must be met to obtain full accreditation. Finally, programs that do not meet the requirements are denied accreditation.