Since starting the reaccreditation process two years ago, the program has received approval by the APA.
The doctoral program in counseling psychology offered by the McKay School’s Department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education (CPSE) has successfully renewed its accreditation.
Aaron Jackson, the program’s coordinator, collaborated with other professionals in the department and beyond to secure accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). Jackson said the program has gone through this lengthy but critical process every seven years since 2000.
“Every significant program on campus, especially graduate programs, [must go] through an accreditation process,” Jackson said. “It’s basically a way of having professionals cross-check one another to see if the programs are the best that they can be.”
Timothy Smith, the CPSE Department chair, said he’s pleased with the work faculty members have put into making the counseling psychology doctoral program a success.
“Our program seeks to provide the highest quality education possible,” Smith said. “Having a working relationship with the APA allows us to remain aligned with national standards and be accountable for ongoing improvement.”
Accreditation for any academic program includes a consistent sequence. Program representatives must write a detailed self-evaluation responding to specific questions and/or requests for particular information from the accrediting organization. Evidence must be included to support its descriptions and claims. A committee of evaluators reviews the submitted document, and then site visitors travel to observe the program and meet with administrators, faculty members, and students.
“After the site visit, the accreditors write their own report and 30 to 40 people make a decision about whether the program should be accredited,” Jackson said.
The initial report Jackson and his team prepared included more than 800 pages of explanations, procedures, claims, supporting data, assessment descriptions, assessment results, lists, definitions, plans for improvement, tables, and other visual representations. Appendices included evidence of program function, including syllabi and other course materials, as well as results of various assessments.
“Preparing the report took about a year,” Jackson said. “But even for our program here, the entire process took a couple of years from beginning to end.”
A unique challenge BYU programs face during accreditation involves its situation as a private religious university. Jackson said this classification presents both advantages and disadvantages for programs in the accreditation process.
“At a religious university, you have to explain your purpose clearly to people who come from secular universities, because they may not understand the value in a religion-based institution,” Jackson said. “In our program, it’s a challenge since . . . [outsiders may] not understand how you can have a religious commitment and purpose but at the same time train competent counseling psychologists.”
Even with the barriers, Jackson said that successfully completing the accreditation process is invaluable for both faculty and students.
“In our discipline, it’d be hard to maintain the program without accreditation,” Jackson said. “Our students want to become licensed psychologists, and it’s hard to be a licensed psychologist unless you go to an APA-accredited program.”
The next time the counseling psychology doctoral program will need reaccreditation will be seven years from now, in 2021.
Writer: Shazia Chiu
Contact: Cindy Glad (801) 422-1922