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USW’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program Embraces CACREP Accreditation

Guest blog by Dr. Carol Brennan, USW Program Coordinator & Advisor – Mental Health

Last week University of the Southwest was informed that our Clinical Mental Health Counseling program had earned accreditation from CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling Related Educational Programs), making USW’s online graduate program one of the very few to have achieved this distinction to date anywhere in the U.S.

The significance of this achievement cannot be understated. CACREP’s accreditation process is particularly demanding and requires an extensive process of study, program development, implementation, and evaluation. Every aspect of a program must be reviewed and all 178 CACREP standards must be met before accreditation can be awarded. 

According to College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dr. Danny Kirkpatrick “CACREP accreditation in our Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program validates what we knew to be true. We have a top-rated program, led by the highest quality faculty, who will prepare the next generation of mental health counselors well for a lifetime of service. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the faculty, the students, and the University for this significant achievement.”

Despite the rigor and intensity of the assessment process, USW recognized that the investment in CACREP accreditation was worth it because it is essential for our students. CACREP accreditation legitimizes a CMHC program in the counseling profession as well as across the country and even internationally. It signifies training in the field of mental health counseling professionals that meets the highest standards. At USW it also reflects and embodies the servant leadership ideals that are the heart of the University’s mission.  

The pursuit of CACREP accreditation began in the summer of 2015. Significant progress occurred when the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program initiated its self-study soon after relocating from the College of Business to the College of Arts and Sciences in the fall of 2018. The self-study was completed the following spring in time for an early summer review at the CACREP Board Meeting. An addendum to provide additional information and documentation of various aspects of the program later was submitted in December of 2019 as requested by the CACREP Board. Following a site visit that was conducted virtually (due to the pandemic) in the fall of 2020, the CACREP Board then met last January to render a momentous decision.

While few not-for-profit private institutions have attained CACREP accreditation to date (22% of those accredited so far fit this designation) the importance of accreditation in the industry has made it essential for job placement. And while most of the students enrolled in USW’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program live out of state, USW now has the only fully online degree CMHC program in New Mexico. Once again, USW leads the way in online graduate education!