Master of Arts in Counseling faculty Jean Kilnoski, Courtney East, Arden Szepe and Andrea McGrath stand outside the program's offices on Doane's Lincoln campus location.
Master of Arts in Counseling faculty (L-R) Jean Kilnoski, assistant professor of practice and clinical placement director; Courtney East, assistant professor and MAC program director; Arden Szepe, assistant professor and CACREP liason; and Andrea McGrath, assistant professor, stand outside the program's offices on Doane's Lincoln campus location.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a nationally recognized accrediting body for clinical mental health counseling education, has granted accreditation to Doane University’s Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) program. Because of delays to portions of the process due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the accreditation is backdated to Jan. 14, 2020, and grandfathers in all graduates of the program starting from that date.

Doane’s program is now one of just five counseling programs in Nebraska accredited through CACREP.

“I’m so proud of where this program is today,” said Dr. Courtney East, national certified counselor (NCC), and MAC program director and assistant professor. “It’s an honor for CACREP to recognize it.”

The MAC program first started offering courses in fall 1995, with seven students in the first graduating class in May 1998. To date, there have been 753 graduates of the program, which is taught at Doane’s Lincoln campus location.

The process to work towards CACREP accreditation was first approved by Doane’s Board of Trustees in 2009 — which feels like a much longer period of time than it actually is, in terms of developing an accredited program. There’s a team approach required when seeking accreditation. A program needs to have the right faculty at the right times, students willing to participate and strong community partners.

“The journey is truly meaningful to us,” East said. “It’s amazing that there was so much buy-in that long ago to shape this program, that faculty, students, administration and our community partners held that long-term vision and commitment to make the program what it is today.”

Accreditation through CACREP is not required for mental health counseling licensing in Nebraska, but is widely recognized as a standard of excellence for counseling education. For students completing the program, it means they graduated from a program that has thoroughly prepared them for careers in mental health counseling.

But the accreditation goes beyond simply measuring the strength of a curriculum and ensuring that students meet basic requirements. What sets Doane’s MAC program apart, East said, is the philosophy shared by faculty on mental health counseling and how they train students.

“What I really love is that we take a reflective approach to teaching, and really want students to build a firm foundation on their own identities during their journey to becoming counselors,” East said. “All of our faculty value the cultivation of relationships, of encouraging our students to grow in ways that are meaningful to them. Our program is academically and emotionally tough so that as students graduate, they’re more than prepared to serve our communities, especially with growing need for mental health services.”