By James Stafford, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Graduate School of Counseling has been recognized by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) with the accreditation of its Marriage, Family & Child Counseling degree. This is the second UMHB counseling program to earn this classification.
“When CACREP came in 2012 to review our Clinical and Mental Health Counseling program, they were so impressed with the Marriage and Family program that they encouraged us to submit it for accreditation,” Dr. Marta Garrett, director of UMHB’s Graduate Counseling Program, said.
There are only 15 universities in the state of Texas that offer an accredited master’s program in counseling. UMHB is one of only two Christian universities to offer such programs. With this recognition UMHB becomes the only Christian university in the state to offer students a choice of accredited programs.
“Everyone involved with the program is so excited because when we had the one accredited program, it attracted people,” Garret said. “People who knew they needed accreditation would come here.”
“Some who might have been interested in the Marriage and Family track felt stuck picking the other one so their degree would be accredited,” Garrett said. “Now our students can make the choice that best fits their career goals.”
CACREP accreditation is a signal of quality to prospective students. It also has significant implications for graduates when they begin practicing. Three federal agencies have made graduation from a CACREP accredited program a requirement for independent practice in counseling. This means that just being a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) will no longer qualify a counselor to work with any patient affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs or TRICARE, and only LPCs with a degree from a CACREP accredited program will be able to be employed as a Fully Functioning Army Substance Abuse Program Practitioner through the Army Substance Abuse Program.
“In this part of Texas many of our patients are going to be affiliated with the military,” Garrett said. “That means that one of the largest areas of work as a mental health professional is federally funded dollars, and, after 2017, you’ll have to have an accredited degree to work with the federal government.”
The value of this recognition applies not just to current and future students in the program but also to graduates going back to July of 2013. UMHB faculty and staff contacted each of the students who had graduated in that time to inform them of their new and unexpected accreditation.
“The return on investment for their degrees just went through the roof,” Garrett said. “It is quite possible that they now have a 50 or even 100% higher income ceiling than before this announcement.”
In order to become accredited, a counselor education program must fulfill certain requirements or standards with regard to institutional settings, program mission and objectives, program content, practicum experiences, student selection and advising, faculty qualifications and workload, program governance, instructional support, and self-evaluation.