The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) has granted accreditation to several of Waynesburg University’s graduate counseling programs. Among the programs are the Masters of Arts in Counseling with a focus in Addiction Counseling, Master of Arts in Counseling with a focus in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and the Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. They will remain accredited until Oct. 31, 2029.
According to the CACREP website, there are at least 416 universities accredited and the process is a “unique peer review system of quality assurance.”
Dr. James Hepburn, director of the Master of Arts in Counseling and Ph.D. in Counseling, Education and Professor of Psychology, said the process to be accredited requires a great deal of effort.
The entire process takes six months and includes the drafting of a document that demonstrates empirical evidence of the program’s merits. After the council reviews the documents, it will conduct a visit on site. This year, the site visit was conducted through a virtual format.
“This year, because of the pandemic, they set up a system that is referred to as a virtual site visit, and we send them all of the materials, we upload all of the materials in a digital format so they can review all of the documentation that we have for internships and practicum and student records and interviews and all of those types of things,” Hepburn said. “The site visit involves their interviews with current and former students, interviews with all of the faculty, interviews with key administration officials and the advisory boards that we have.”
He said that CACREP’s expectations are high, and every single standard has to be met. However, the school is constantly preparing for the process.
“It’s very extensive and rigorous and the requirement is that you have to meet 100% of the standards, it’s not like 90% or 75%. You have to meet all of them in order to achieve the accreditation,” he said. “We are aware of the need to do the self-study, so we are preparing for it all along. And we are setting up our program so that it meets the standards the entire way, so when the time of accreditation comes up we’re not necessarily surprised.”
The CACREP website says that while standards for accreditation are primarily focused on program-specific things, it also considers the institution itself. According to Hepburn, the university’s commitment to the program was important during the process.
“It was important that CACREP have an experience that our administration is behind us 100%,” he said. “They looked at the administration, the administration’s commitment to our program and that was an important piece of this as well.”
Hepburn also said the students played an important role in the process.
“Students are involved in all aspects of the accreditation process, including helping us pull together data and supporting documents, analyzing data, providing suggestions for program improvements during the self-study process and participating in interviews from the site-review team,” he said in a follow-up email. “We benefited from current students and alumni and could not have done this without their support.”
Sarah Bell, Waynesburg’s Career Development Specialist, emphasized the value of accreditation for both students and faculty members.
“I think accreditation is very important from a student perspective just as it is from the faculty and university perspective because if you go to an accredited university and have the counseling degree from a university that is accredited by CACREP, that just holds some weight in the field,” Bell said.
Hepburn said that the benefits of accreditation include standardization because it demonstrates standards and can help make it easier for students to achieve their license.
“They can sit to take the licensee exam, as soon as they graduate from our program,” he said. “They still have to do two years of supervised experience, but taking the exam is a benefit that is offered to them, they can do that actually in their last semester of enrollment here.”
According to Hepburn, it is important that students expect the program to remain accredited.
“I think that our students should expect that we are going to have an accredited program, they should have confidence that we are going to maintain our accreditation, maintain our standards,” he said. “We have a great program, we have tremendous faculty and that really came through.”
Editor’s Note: Sourcing of this article was updated Oct. 1, 2021.