BY Amanda A. Taylor
The Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling within the UTRGV College of Education and P-16 Integration has been granted accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Program (CACREP).
This national accreditation means that students in this UTRGV master’s curriculum, upon completing the program, will be able to teach counseling or become licensed practitioners.
The CACREP Board of Directors decided during its July board meeting that the Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling specializations, under the UTRGV Master of Counseling program, had earned national accreditation.
Preparations for accreditation were initiated in fall 2014, one year before UTRGV opened, and started the process of conducting the self-assessment of programs CACREP requires to ensure that all professional standards are met.
“In the fall of 2014, faculty started developing syllabi for courses and started planning what required course offerings would be needed, based on the 2016 standards that were being published by CACREP,” said Dr. James Whittenberg, UTRGV assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and CACREP liaison and testing coordinator.
“In fall 2015, we received our first UTRGV students, and that first cohort began taking courses that would meet all of those standards,” he said. “It’s wonderful, because federal counseling jobs require a licensed counselor to have graduated from an official CACREP program – which opens up more opportunities for students.”
The 60-hour Master of Education in Counseling program has two specializations: school counseling and clinical mental health counseling.
All coursework for these specializations is the same, except for the student’s final year in the program, when a course in School Counseling and Guidance is needed for the School Counseling track, and a specialized class in Mental Health is required for the Mental Health Counseling track.
“Students who are in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling specialization, as long as they have the TEA-required two years of teaching experience, could still apply for the School Counseling certificate after graduating,” Whittenberg said. “The same could be said for students graduating in School Counseling, as they could apply to be a licensed professional counselor intern with the state, and then become a (licensed professional counselor) LPC.”
The UTRGV Department of Counseling applied for CACREP accreditation in April 2017, submitting results of the self-assessments to CACREP in form of a 63-page self-study report, along with supporting evidence of 86 appendices.
After earning the review of an on-site team visit of all counseling programs at UTRGV campuses, CACREP determined that all 190 standards had been met and granted the UTRGV counseling programs national accreditation.
“This is a robust program of very good quality, which is exactly why it earned CACREP accreditation,” said Dr. Alma D. Rodriguez, interim dean of the College of Education and P-16 Integration. “This program is designed to prepare our students to become highly competent counselors who could potentially work in schools or out in the community, depending on the track they choose. This really opens doors and allows students more options for their future careers.”
The CACREP accreditation will last through October 2026, when accreditation standards must be reviewed once again. If all standards are met and faculty continues to meet guidelines, the program will continue under CACREP accreditation for another eight years.
“I want to commend the faculty of the UTRGV Counseling Department for their hard work and all their efforts, which have paid off,” Rodriguez said. “Our UTRGV students are going to benefit from this national accreditation that they’ve achieved.”