What is accreditation?

    Major professional organizations have established standards and codes of ethics for the training and practices of members of their professions. Sometimes these standards and codes become the basis for recognition of the professionalism of individuals, educational programs and services. Accreditation by the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS) is a voluntary evaluative process involving a written self‑study and the adherence to established standards of practice. These Standards are articulated by the IACS Board of Accreditation, which are directors of counseling services located throughout the United States and internationally. IACS is the only Accreditation Association, which accredits counseling services on university and college campuses.

    How long has IACS been accrediting counseling services?

    IACS has been accrediting counseling centers since the late 1940s. First as a Committee of the National Vocational Guidance Association's (now the National Career Development Association-NCDA) With the establishment of the American Personnel and Guidance Association (now known as the American Counseling Association-ACA) in 1952, the responsibilities and duties of the NVGA committee were assumed by the APGA Professional Practices Committee and became the American Board on Counseling Services. APGA accepted the Board's plan for the establishment of an independent affiliate and in March 1971, the organization known as the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS) began. In 1993 IACS discontinued its affiliate status with the ACA and became an independent organization.

    Who can apply for IACS accreditation?

    Accreditation is open to university, 4 year college, and 2 year community college counseling services with an FTE (Full Time Equivalent) of at least two (2) professional staff members.

    What is meant by the term Professional Staff FTE.?

    The definition of an FTE. Professional staff member adopted by the IACS Board of Directors is one full-time clinical/administrative position, excluding clerical and trainee staff.

    What is the value of IACS accreditation?

    As demands for accountability increase, professional peer review is vital. IACS Accreditation is intended to advocate for quality counseling services that continue to perform effectively and to show awareness and concern for professional growth. An IACS certificate indicates that a counseling center did not hesitate to open its doors to a team of counseling professionals who reviewed and certified the service as one which meets the highest established standards in the field.

    Who writes the standards?

    The Association’s Board of Accreditation members are directors of IACS accredited counseling centers who volunteer their time to the organization. The Board is responsible for the development and maintenance of standards for the evaluation of counseling services within each of their appropriate counseling settings. In addition, IACS maintains a Board of Directors whose members are also directors of accredited services. This Board directs the affairs of
    the Association.

    How often are IACS Standards updated?

    Standards are reviewed on a continual basis by the accrediting board to make sure they keep abreast with the changing face of counseling centers today. If warranted, an accrediting board can amend the standards at any time; however, the IACS Standards are usually revised every ten years.

    If a counseling center does not meet the IACS Standard regarding the ratio of staff to students, should the service still seek accreditation?

    If your service does not meet the ratio of one FTE staff member for every 1,000 to 1,500 students, this does not mean that it would be automatically excluded from the possibility of attaining accreditation. Certain standards use the word “must” (usually around ethical issues) while others employ the word “should” as is the case with the staff to student ratio.  Most Centers approach this ratio to some degree but many accredited centers do not. In examining this issue, the Board takes into account how closely a site approximates this ratio, the existence of other campus mental health agencies, budgetary constraints, impact on service, etc. Often IACS will recommend and advocate for additional staffing for a center as part of the evaluation review. For additional information, please see the IACS Statement Regarding Recommended Staff to Student Ratios found on the IACS website.

    If we employ student workers at our center, does this prohibit us from obtaining

    IACS accreditation?

    Not necessarily. The Standards state that student workers must be assigned tasks limited to their training that do not compromise the confidentiality of clients. In particular, students must not have access to client files or confidential records and they must not do client scheduling.

    Do the IACS Standards require a specific ratio of professional staff to trainees?

    While keeping in mind that IACS accredits centers/services and not training programs, the Standards do address a number of issues regarding the role, duties and responsibilities of trainees. IACS is more concerned about the overall role of training in Center operations. The Standards note that “While training and supervision are legitimate functions, they should not supersede the primary service role of the agency.” While no specific ratio of staff to trainees is cited, if trainees deliver the majority of the client contact hours, questions arise as to whether or not this unit is a Training Center rather than a Counseling Center.

    Will IACS accredit a university or college counseling service that is merged with the campus health center or other student services?

    Centers may often be merged with health centers or other entities such as career counseling, academic or disability services, etc. There are special concerns that arise for merged centers and these are detailed in IACS Standards under the section on “Counseling Center Mergers”. These concerns typically involve the independence of the Center, role and functions of the Center, and the autonomy of the Director.

    How does a center apply for IACS Accreditation?

    On the IACS website, click on “APPLICATION FORMS”. The link will take you to the IACS Livedrive site ( where the following documents can be viewed and downloaded: Application Submission Checklist and Direction Sheet; IACS Application for Accreditation; Abbreviated Personnel Vita Form; Current Staff Report Form; IACS Fee Schedule; and a copy of the IACS Accreditation Standards.

    How much does it cost to become accredited?

    The initial evaluation fee is currently $750.00. The fee must accompany the application. An additional $750.00 Initial Field Visit Fee will be billed to the center once the center’s application has been reviewed and approved for an on-site visit. For complete fee information, including additional Field Visit Charges for centers outside the continental United States, see the Fee Schedule which is included on the IACS Website.

    Once an application is submitted, what happens next?

    When the materials arrive at the IACS office our staff checks to make sure that all the required documentation is included. They will let you know if additional information is needed. Once the application is found to be in order, it is sent to two (2) members of the IACS Board of Accreditation for what we call a First Board Review. The reviewers fill out a checklist, which is based on the Standards. They send their reviews to the Chair of the Accrediting Board who determines if the center is ready for the next phase of the accreditation process which is the on-site review.

    If the counseling service appears to meet the IACS Standards, then the center is notified via email that the center has been approved for an on-site review. The center's information is passed on to the Coordinator of the IACS Field Visitation Program, who will be in contact with the IACS Executive Director when the field visitor or team (depending on size of Professional staff) has been established. Once again, the center director will be notified, and she/he must contact the field visitor(s) to set up a mutually agreeable date for the visit. An on-site review must be at least one full day in length. Once the visit takes place, the Field Visitor(s) have one month to submit the report to the Chair of the Accrediting Board who in turn sends the report to the center director and requests a written response. Once the written response from the director of the applying center is received, the Chair will then approve the center for what is called the Final Board Review.

    The Final Board Reviewers are two members of the Accrediting Board who have not seen the center’s application materials before, which now include the First Board Reviews, the Field Visit Report and the director's written response to the on-site review. The Board Members send their review forms to the Chair of the Board who makes the final decision regarding the applicant center’s accreditation status.

    Does a center have to pay for all of the field visit expenses on top of the Initial Evaluation Fee?

    The Initial Field Visit Fee is $750.00 and will be billed to the center once its application has been approved for an on-site visit. Centers located outside the continental United States will be charged additional on-site fees (see Fee Schedule) In addition, a center should be prepared to pay the Annual Accreditation Fee once they become accredited.

    Is there more than one type of IACS Accreditation?

    According to the IACS By-Laws, Full Accreditation may be granted a university or college counseling service which fully meets the established Standards. Provisional Accreditation may be granted a center which upon initial review is in accord with the ethical standards and broad criteria for acceptable professional practice, but which does not meet fully the IACS Standards. Probationary Status is granted to a previously IACS accredited center that currently is not in satisfactory compliance with the Standards.

    What is the annual cost of being accredited?

    The current IACS Annual Accreditation Fee is $1600.00. All IACS fees are subject to change without notice and are nonrefundable. The IACS fiscal year runs from April 1st through March 31st. Centers are sent an invoice for the Annual Fee in March.

    Once accredited, how often will a counseling center be reviewed?

    The IACS Board of Directors has recently voted to change how often centers are re-evaluated. The paper review every 4th years will be illuminated. After accreditation or re-accreditation, centers will complete a brief IACS Annual Report Form for six (6) years. Centers will then be re-evaluated  every seven (7) years, which will always include a mandatory Field Visit.  The procedures to put this into practice have not been established yet, so until then, the current procedure will remain in place, which is a paper review only every 4 years and the 8th the re-evaluation will include the mandatory visit.

    What are the costs associated with a center being re-evaluated?

    Currently, a Re-Evaluation Fee of $150.00 must be submitted with the center’s re-evaluation application. The current Field Visit Fee for accredited centers is $1500.00. The number of visitors to a center depends on the size of the professional staff - less than 7 FTE professional staff members (excluding trainees and clerical staff) requires only one visitor. If a center has 7 or more FTE Professional Staff members, 2 visitors are required.

    Does IACS provide professional assistance?

    The Association’s Staff, Officers and Accrediting Board Members are all highly qualified professionals who are willing to assist counseling centers that are sincerely striving to assure quality services.

    How can someone become a Field Visitor for the Association?

    If you are a professional staff member from an IACS accredited center, please contact the IACS office to obtain a Field Visitor Roster Form and additional information on becoming an on-site visitor for the Association. New field visitors are encouraged to attend a Field Visitor Training Workshop presented periodically by IACS Accrediting Board Members in conjunction with professional conferences and conventions.

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