The process has been long, intense and at times grueling, but Heidelberg’s Master of Arts in Counseling program has achieved a milestone – extension of its accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
According to the CACREP Board of Directors, Heidelberg’s accreditation for both the school counseling and community counseling programs runs through March 2019. Previously, the program had received two-year conditional accreditation.
“This took a while, but it was something that was very necessary for us to do,” said Dr. Jo-Ann Lipford Sanders, professor and chair of the Graduate Studies in Counseling program. “Anyone who is in the counseling profession understands how important this is to our programs.”
CACREP accreditation provides recognition that the content, curriculum and quality of the programs have been thoroughly evaluated – both internally and by an outside review team – and meet the highest professional standards.
One of the most significant changes that occurred in the preparation process was the fusing of the two concentrations – school counseling and community counseling – under the graduate counseling umbrella, and the addition of a dual licensure option.
While accreditation affirms the quality of the program and has positively impacted enrollment for Heidelberg, its students may benefit most significantly. Those who enroll and complete graduate work from CACREP-accredited institutions may ultimately have greater success in the job market, Lipford Sanders said.
Research indicates CACREP graduates are better prepared and perform better on licensing exams. State licensing requirements in Ohio are aligned with CACREP’s high standards. In short order, Lipford Sanders said, there will be few jobs available for those who come from non-CACREP programs.
“For our graduates, what this says to the world is that they needn’t be concerned about the quality of education they are getting here,” she said. “When a person graduates with their master’s degree in counseling from Heidelberg, none of the (program’s) credentials have to be checked (during the licensing process).”
And perhaps most importantly, “Employers understand the quality of the education they received.”
The transition into doctoral programs will be smooth. “Other programs want CACREP-approved students. Mental health programs want them,” Lipford Sanders said.
She credits a team effort in bringing the accreditation process to fruition. “It was a team effort from the beginning,” she said, adding thanks to her MAC colleagues Dr. Daniel Cruikshanks, Dr. Megan Mahon and a number of adjunct faculty members on both the Tiffin and Arrowhead Park campus in Maumee for their contributions to the process.
The counseling faculty received unilateral support from the beginning from Heidelberg’s faculty, too, she said. “The easiest part was the faculty buy-in, and that’s often the hardest. It’s been great from the beginning. We’re very appreciative.”