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Monday, February 11, 2013

Graduate counseling programs earn CACREP accreditation

UNCP’s Clinical Mental Health Program and the Professional School Counseling Program have earned accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs.

Angela McDonald

Angela McDonald

Mihaela Henderson

Mihaela Henderson

Black Line

CACREP is the nationally recognized training standard for counselor education programs. CACREP notified UNCP in January that its programs have been accredited for two years, renewable for an additional six years.

Graduation from CACREP-accredited programs is required by a growing number of third-party payers such as Tricare, the healthcare administrator that serves the military. Accreditation also allows UNCP-trained counselors to work for or contract with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs with its 9 million veterans, active duty service men and women and their families.

“It opens a lot of doors,” said Mihaela Henderson, who delayed her graduation from the Clinical Mental Health Program so that she would finish with a degree from an accredited program. “I would like to work for DOD, but CACREP accreditation will also help me get into graduate school and earn state licensure and national counseling certifications.”

Dr. Zoe Locklear, dean of the School of Education, said accreditation would aid student success and elevate the region that UNCP serves.

“This is excellent news for the School of Education and the university as we strive to serve our students and the surrounding region,” Dr. Locklear said. “This national accreditation is a resounding affirmation of the quality of our counseling programs. We’re very pleased about this accomplishment.”

Dean Locklear praised the work of faculty and staff, including Dr. Angela McDonald, who is the director of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program and led the accreditation effort.

“Being accredited is very important to counselor education programs and to the profession,” Dr. McDonald said. “CACREP accreditation is increasing in importance in this field.”

A department of UNCP’s School of Education, the Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Professional School Counseling Programs went through a comprehensive self-study and a review by CACREP, which included a site visit.

To bring the program into alignment with CACREP standards, UNCP raised graduation requirements to 60 credit hours from 48. The programs will also decrease class sizes and increase the number of program-affiliated faculty during the initial two-year accreditation period.

Dr. McDonald said student interest in the profession of counseling is growing. From an enrollment of 111 in 2008, there are 160 students enrolled in the spring semester 2013.

“There is a need for this program, and we are attracting a lot of students who are interested in the counseling profession,” Dr. McDonald said. “This program is important for our region, in part because of the presence of Fort Bragg, and the opportunity to meet the mental health needs of soldiers and their families.

“Mental health in the military and elsewhere is getting a lot of attention nationally. The job outlook for counselors in a variety of settings is promising,” she said.

Henderson, who is nearing completion of her degree, is the wife of a military veteran. She said UNCP’s counseling program is filling a void.

“I live in Hope Mills, so UNCP was the closest program to home,” Henderson said. “It’s affordable, and it’s a great program, on the same level as NC State and Chapel Hill.”

Dr. McDonald joined UNCP’s faculty in 2008 and began working on accreditation in 2009. She said support came from colleagues and administrators in the School of Education in the Office of Academic Affairs. Dr. Alfred Bryant, chair of the Department of School Administration and Counseling, said it was a team effort.

“I would like to thank Dr. Zoe Locklear for her full-fledged support of this effort as dean of the School of Education,” Dr. Bryant said. “She was very involved in the campus visit and was very instrumental in the positive outcome.

“Dr. Ken Kitts (vice chancellor for Academic Affairs) was also extremely supportive of this vast undertaking,” he continued. “Dr. Angela McDonald’s efforts were extraordinary. She was the person with the original idea of going for CACREP accreditation and led the effort from beginning to end. It would not have happened without her high level of work.”

The Master of Arts in Education Clinical Mental Health Counseling prepares professional counselors to practice in a variety of settings. The program requires 27 credit hours of core counseling courses, 24 credit hours of specialty area mental health counseling courses and nine credit hours of field placement courses. Students graduate from the program with 700 hours of supervised counseling experience.

The Professional School Counseling Program shares the core courses with the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. It also requires 24 hours of specialty area school counseling courses and nine credit hours of supervised field placement courses.

For more information about UNCP’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, please contact Dr. Angela McDonald at (910) 521-6511 or email angela.mcdonald@uncp.edu.

For more information about the Professional School Counseling Program, please contact Dr. Jeffrey Warren at 910.775.4414 or email jeffrey.warren@uncp.edu.

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