Does accreditation really matter?

Marriage and family therapy therapist psychotherapist graduate student masters degree doctorate phd MFT licensed prelicensed clinical social worker trainee intern associate

One aspect of graduate school that confused the hell out of me at first was the issue of accreditation. It was a word that I vaguely knew to indicate a certain program had gotten a stamp of approval--from who, I had no idea, but I could be fairly certain it wasn't just a degree mill.

However, as I researched graduate marriage and family therapy programs in California, I became aware that some programs touted their accreditation as a selling point, while others didn't really mention it. Once I started to look into it, I realized accreditation matters a great deal--sometimes. I'm talking here about accreditation as it pertains to MFT programs, but I imagine the situation is similar for other mental health professions. 

The biggest issue contingent on accreditation is licensure. In general, only graduates from MFT programs with state-approved accreditation status can apply for licensure. In California, there are a few different accreditation statuses that qualify a program (COAMFTE, CACREP, WASC, etc). In other states, however, one MUST have graduated from a COAMFTE-accredited program in order to qualify for licensure. Therefore, accreditation becomes really important depending on where you hope to ultimately hold a license.

So it's wise have a pretty good idea of where you want to ultimately practice when you're selecting a graduate program, and look into that state's licensing requirements. You probably can't go wrong with a COAMFTE-accredited program, for example, but if you are currently in California--where COAMFTE accreditation isn't such a huge deal--and you think maybe you'd like to practice in another state one day, you may want to think twice about attending a school like Pepperdine (which is accredited by WASC).

For more information on accreditation of California MFT programs, check out my breakdown by accrediting body on MFT California.