University counseling programs lauded with highest national ranking

After nearly losing national accreditation during The Great Recession, the College of Education programs receive four, eight-year accreditations offering a telling comeback story

Photo of students - two standing and three sitting - in front of the William Raggio Building on campus.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Counseling and Educational Psychology just received an eight-year accreditation from CACREP.

University counseling programs lauded with highest national ranking

After nearly losing national accreditation during The Great Recession, the College of Education programs receive four, eight-year accreditations offering a telling comeback story

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Counseling and Educational Psychology just received an eight-year accreditation from CACREP.

Photo of students - two standing and three sitting - in front of the William Raggio Building on campus.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Counseling and Educational Psychology just received an eight-year accreditation from CACREP.

Four counseling programs housed in the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Reno were recently granted eight-year accreditations by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. These programs are the only face-to-face Counseling and Educational Psychology programs accredited by CACREP in Nevada.

The four programs, Clinical Mental Health Counseling (M.A. degree), Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling (M.A. degree), School Counseling (M.A. degree) and Counselor Education and Supervision (Ph.D. degree) were all granted an eight-year accreditation through Oct. 31, 2024.

"It's an honor to get the eight years; it's the best accreditation decision CACREP awards to programs," Brenda Freeman, professor of counseling and educational psychology at the University and the UNR CACREP liaison, said. "Nationally, CACREP accreditation is an indicator of excellence."

According to Freeman however, the accreditation process with CACREP was no easy task. In fact, the counseling department expected to receive only a two-year accreditation but instead was granted eight. This "particularly matters for counseling because in some states if a student does not graduate from a CACREP-accredited program, it is difficult for them to become licensed to work in the state," Freeman said.

Prior to these accreditations, the counseling programs within the College of Education have faced nothing short of a rocky road. In 2006/2007 many of the faculty within the program were cut, being reduced from seven members to only two.

However, because of a strong faculty team and additional resources and administrative support, the program was able to make the adjustments required to meet current accreditation standards. Relying on out-of-state recruitment and funding via six assistantships, the program was able to gain more faculty resources and eventually return to six faculty positions; which put them back in the desired CACREP 1-to-12 faculty-to-student ratio.

Riding this wave of success, the counseling department was able to open an additional new program: Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Across the nation, CMH is aligned, Freeman said, with graduates often finding work in the criminal justice system, juvenile justice system, V.A. Centers, community counseling centers, and residential treatment programs.

But even with an additional program and the department on the rise, accreditation with CACREP took some extra effort. The board bases their accreditation decisions on an extensive review of several self-study documents, a visiting team's report and the institution's response to the visiting team's report. In order to receive an eight-year accreditation, more than 200 standards must be met.

"We had four infractions but had 90 days to get them resolved," Freeman said. "You must have no unmet standards to receive the eight-year accreditation decision."

Part of the change that allowed the department to gain accreditation was a drastic, intentional focus on program assessment and research, Freeman said. CACREP requires a comprehensive assessment plan and requires faculty to be heavily engaged in research to gain an accreditation. Because of this, an emphasis was placed on the faculty encouragement of doctoral students to publish before they graduate, and a tremendous faculty effort in program assessment.

"I don't feel like we have many barriers with what we can do," Freeman said. "A two-year accreditation would mean staying the course and working on deficits, but an eight-year allows us the creative freedom to reevaluate the mission, courses, and program strengths."

Using their eight-year accreditations to their advantage, Freeman said the department has multiple goals for the future, including focusing on strategic planning as a department; tracking demonstrated skill sets at a level of proficiency; creating a stronger conceptual model; increasing the focus on diversity.

The counseling department is also considering new specialization areas such as Play Therapy and Infant Mental Health.

"We would not have been able to pursue these plans without an eight-year accreditation," Freeman said, "The program always had a good reputation but now we're seeing larger applicant pools and are able to select very well qualified applicants."

Adding to the program's accolades, the University recently ranked 29th out of the top 45 most affordable doctoral degrees in counselor education, according to bestcounselingdegrees.net.

For those interested in more information about CACREP and the University accreditations, contact Brenda Freemen at brendafreeman@unr.edu.

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