Professional or specialized accreditation is the process whereby a college or university professional program (e.g. counseling) voluntarily undergoes review by an accrediting body such as the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or its corporate affiliate, the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). CACREP, along with CORE, evaluate graduate education programs in professional counseling against the preparation standards developed and endorsed by the counseling profession. The purpose of establishing standards for graduate education in counseling is to promote excellence in each program’s curricular offerings and to prepare competent counseling practitioners. CACREP and CORE are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) which oversees the practice and procedures of over 60 academic accreditation bodies.
Government sanctioned credentialing is usually called licensure and is based on the legal concept of the regulatory power of the state. This power holds that the state has the right and obligation to pass laws and take other such actions as it may deem necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. Passage of a state licensure or credentialing law for a given profession restricts or prohibits the practice of that profession by individuals not meeting state-determined qualification standards, and violators may be subject to legal sanctions such as fines, loss of license to practice, or imprisonment.
Separate from state laws and regulations, voluntary certification from independent professional certification organizations for counseling and a host of specializations within the counseling profession have been created to establish recognition of those practitioners as having met the minimum standards of education and supervised clinical experience as set by the profession. Certification is not required; rather it is strictly voluntary. This certification attests to the fact that the holder of this certification has met the standards of the credentialing organization and is therefore entitled to make the public aware of this as further documentation of his or her professional competence. In and of itself, however, this certification is not a practice credential but rather a professional credential in that it does not give the holder permission to practice. That permission is given only by the governmentally sanctioned entity. The two leading certification organizations for the counseling profession are the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).
State Professional Counselor Licensure Boards
State School Counselor Certification/Licensure Agencies
Professional Associations and Certification Organizations
State Licensure Boards that have Adopted the ACA Code of Ethics (PDF) (2014)
AASCB National Credentials Registry Information
Statistics on Mental Health Professions (PDF) (2011)
A National Review of State Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program Licensing Requirements and Certification Standards for Substance Abuse Counselors and Prevention Professionals (SAMHSA) (2005)