Monthly Archives: June 2014

Shouldn’t ACES Support All Counselors?

Shouldn’t ACES Support All Counselors?

Counselor Educators Should Lead Our Profession toward Inclusive and Creative Solutions for Ensuring Quality Training

On February 27, 2014, Dr. Robin Lee, President of the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), issued a statement entitled “ACES’s Position on Educational Standards” that was widely circulated in counselor education circles.

The statement grew out of the “20/20 process” to envision the Counseling profession’s future, initiated by American Counseling Association (ACA) and American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB), and attempted to address one of its main concerns: the inconsistency in state requirements to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC).

In their statement, ACES advocated for uniform licensure standards (in both curriculum and field work) to support licensure portability and guarantee consistency of training. Specifically, they recommended, “Graduation from a clinically-focused counselor preparation program accredited by CACREP (or an approved affiliate of CACREP) that includes a minimum of 60 semester credits (or 90 quarter hour credits) of curricular experiences.  Within those 60 semester credits (or 90 quarter hour credits), students must complete a practicum of at least 100 hours and an internship of at least 600 hours.”

 Unfortunately, if implemented, this solution will disenfranchise the majority of licensed counselors and current students, since currently and historically a minority of counselors and graduate programs have been affiliated with CACREP. Contrary to their stated intention, the ACES proposal would actually diminish portability for the majority of the profession — all of those except CACREP graduates.

The ACES statement disregards the interests of counselors who did not graduate from CACREP schools. The anticipated harm to be experienced by these members of our profession is cast as inevitable in the interest of collective professional development:

“Moving toward a unified standard and licensure portability would represent major growth for the profession.  We also recognize that growth often involves loss, and this process may create challenges for individuals and programs as we try to move forward.”  http://www.concernedcounselors.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/ACES-Position-on-Educational-Standards-for-Licensure.pdf

While ACES recommends “liberal grandfathering” language to allow licensure for graduates of CACREP-unaffiliated programs, grandfathering is not a long term solution for the many qualified training programs (and their graduates) that do not choose to become, and/or are not eligible for CACREP accreditation, because of CACREP’s narrowing scope of eligible programs, including the restriction that new core faculty members must hold counselor education degrees.

The Coalition of Concerned Counselors is disappointed that ACES does not support all counselors and all quality counselor preparation programs. The heart of the counseling profession is empathy, tolerance, and the creative development of solutions. There is a place in our profession for all counselors, CACREP and CACREP-unaffiliated, Counseling and Counseling Psychology; and the mission of our professional associations should be to find that inclusive place. The ACES position, when stripped of its patina of higher standards and consistency, argues that the majority of our profession should be marginalized and disenfranchised to allow a “uniformity” based on credentials of a minority to prevail.  

The great irony in this proposed solution is that licensure standards in many states, including Maryland, exceed (and have always exceeded) CACREP standards. (Maryland, for example, has always required 60 graduate credits, including at least one 3-credit course in each of 14 content areas, as opposed to the eight “core curricular” areas required by CACREP’s 2013 Clinical Mental Health Counseling standards).  A far more elegant and fair solution to the “uniformity problem” for current students and licensed clinicians alike would be for ACES to develop model licensure language based on that of states with the most comprehensive licensure requirements.

The Coalition of Concerned Counselors is not against CACREP standards, which have indeed provided important criteria for training in Counselor Education-based programs in a variety of specialties, including mental health counseling. We do object to using CACREP standards to narrow the opportunities of those from all other programs! 

A newly emergent set of standards (MCAC) developed for psychology-based LPC training programs, is comparable CACREP’s but includes additional training in biological foundations and social justice, and other program accreditations may well emerge as our profession continues to meet the complex mental health needs of a nation. No one of these training models should be touted as superior to another absent relevant sound research.   

Our profession strives for evidence-based interventions, and the accumulation of evidence on the relative strengths of different training models should be vigorously encouraged and supported by ACES.  In this way, we will deliver the highest level of care to the public.  Conversely, the public suffers when artificial barriers restrict access to mental health services and choice of practitioner.

In our opinion, state licensure and graduate program accreditation serve different functions and are best kept separate.  It is the responsibility of licensing boards to protect the public interest. In so doing, boards specify and enforce minimally required standards for practice.  It is the responsibility of researchers and educators to continuously develop and promote efficacious interventions and the highest standards for training.  It is important that these continuously evolve together, as new understandings of mental health needs emerge, and research accumulates on effective treatments.  To restrict or lock training programs into a single model, taught by faculty trained only in that model, will stifle diversity of perspectives, types of research, and the creativity that is necessary to the continued development of the profession.

Unlike psychologists and clinical social workers, LPCs graduate from a variety of regionally accredited masters and doctoral level programs leading to graduate degrees in counseling, clinical community counseling, clinical mental health counseling, counselor education, counseling psychology, school psychology, pastoral counseling, and rehabilitation counseling, among others.  These graduates are all eligible to apply for LPC licensure, but must meet a state’s uniform licensure standards.  Furthermore, professionals with a master’s degree in a different counseling specialty often later elect to become LPCs.  For example, many experienced school counselors go on to do additional training and become LPCs.  We believe that the public is well-served by this diversity of training and experience in the mental health counseling field, assuming that practitioners meet the requirements established legislatively by their respective states. It may be well and good for states to strive for national uniformity in their licensure standards, and this will likely facilitate portability, but the uniformity should occur at the level of licensure and not in a student’s original selection of the master’s program.  Licensure should be what unifies and identifies the mental health counseling profession.

Are All the 2014 NBCC Foundation Scholars from CACREP Schools?

Some weeks ago we were wondering if the NBCC Foundation scholarships had a CACREP requirement.  When we asked a NBCC customer service representative, we could not get a clear answer.

If NBCC scholarships were restricted in this way, it would raise a question of fairness, since one group of counselors would be receiving preferential treatment over another. NBCC, like ACA, is a counseling organization that includes members of many counseling backgrounds, both CACREP and CACREP-unaffiliated, who loyally contribute dues each year unaware of any differential treatment of students from their alma maters.

The NBCC Perspective column (pages 64-65) of this month’s June 2014 Counseling Today seems to answer our question.

EVERY SINGLE 2014 WINNER IS FROM A CACREP SCHOOL

When we searched the NBCC website for specific criteria, we found that its preferential treatment of CACREP students was not as subtle as we thought, but clearly articulated in the requirements for their scholarships. Here are the requirements for the minority scholarship, as an illustration:

Be enrolled in good standing in a master’s-level counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Applicants must carry at least six credit hours during the current semester and have already completed at least 18 credit hours.

• Possess substantial experience with ethnically, culturally and racially diverse communities.

• Commit to providing counseling services to underserved or minority populations for at least two years after graduation.

• Commit to applying for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential prior to graduation.

Obviously, NBCC is practicing preferential treatment toward one group of counseling students – those from CACREP schools — which is inconsistent with their mission as a neutral certification organization.

It is unfair and discriminatory for counseling students from CACREP-unaffiliated schools to be cast as political pawns, used to emphasize a perspective that is not unanimously held by our profession–that CACREP is the singular accrediting body. NBCC’s policy penalizes these students for their choice of graduate program, irrespective of whether they have other qualities such as minority status, economic disadvantage, or superior academic achievement that should recommend them for a NBCC scholarship.

This raises a series of interesting questions for us:

Since graduation from a CACREP-accredited program is currently not a requirement to sit for NBCC examinations, nor is it currently a requirement to become a mental health counselor in any state, why is NBCC using it as a primary criterion to select scholarship recipients? Is promoting CACREP accreditation more important than supporting counseling students who may be disadvantaged or members of minority groups?

Question: Why is NBCC offering scholarships only to CACREP students?

NBCC examinations are marketed to CACREP and CACREP-unaffiliated counselors alike for attaining national certification after their graduate training. In fact, CACREP-unaffiliated counselors wishing to continue as TRICARE providers are directed to take NBCC’s National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), which leads to national certification as a mental health counselor.  All counselors take these exams, but only CACREP students are allowed to compete for scholarships offered by the organization.

Counseling students in both CACREP and CACREP unaffiliated schools regularly apply to become Nationally Certified Counselors, which involves a significant application fee and yearly dues to NBCC.  On one hand, NBCC supports students unaffiliated with CACREP by providing this pathway to the NCC.  Yet, it is concerning that NBCC accepts their dues (without regard to the accreditation of their school) but then channels its scholarship support to only those who are attending a CACREP school. Use of their fees for a political purpose that acts against their own interests violates an inherent trust that accompanies their affiliation with NBCC.

NBCC should be a neutral party, but it is clearly taking sides in a complex political issue within our profession.

NBCC’s partisanship also discounts the value of CACREP-unaffiliated schools, many of which are among the nation’s leading graduate programs, including a number at Ivy League and nationally ranked schools. Their students should be equally entitled to scholarship support from NBCC.

If NBCC is the impartial regulator of certification exams across our profession, and readily accepts dues from students and graduates of both CACREP and CACREP-unaffiliated programs, they must be politically neutral and stand above organizational politics. The Counseling profession deserves higher standards from those who purport to maintain our standards.

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We invite counselors and the public to take a closer look at the issues, sign-up to take action and receive newsletters and alerts, and to read the many documents in our document library outlining the lack of organizational leadership in appropriately addressing this crisis.  You can also find FAQs, the latest blog entries, proposed solutions, and more at http://www.concernedcounselors.org .

About The Coalition of Concerned Counselors (CCC): CCC is a growing confederation of individual counselors, client rights advocacy organizations, counseling associations, and professional graduate programs created in order to educate counselors and the public on the growing threat of CACREP restrictions on counseling practice.

About Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors of Maryland (LCPCM): LCPCM is a 501c6 advocacy organization for the rights of clients and the development and equity of professional counselors.

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Online Staff Help Wanted

The Coalition of Concerned Counselors is looking for help with getting the word out!

We are looking for volunteers interested in the following kinds of online writing and advocacy:

1. Personal Stories:  Persons willing to submit a short personal impact statement about how CACREP accreditation policies have impacted you or a situation with which you are very familiar in an unfair way.  Examples might include being denied a license, a job, or access to an insurance panel.  You should be willing to have your name attached to the story.  Selected entries will be posted to concernedcounselors.org in the blog or a personal stories section of the website, and may be further distributed in electronic newsletters and listservs.

2. Local News:  Know about something going on in your state?  Have a tip about licensing and CACREP-related events?  Please send it to us!  We need to know what is going on.  If you would like the item to appear on our website or in our newsletters, please write a short draft article for us – we have very limited writing resources so it’s more likely to get published if we don’t have to write it up.

3. Guest Blogs:  Please submit any guest blogs on the topics of licensing, national exams, CACREP, or related topics.  We are in general need of authors.

4. Distribution:  Do you have access to an electronic newsletter, Yahoo Group, listserv, or other distribution source that would welcome our news updates?  Please contact us if you would be willing to pass along periodic articles from us to your lists.

For more information, questions, or to respond – please contact:

inquiries@concernedcounselors.org