Why CACREF Accreditation in Eating Disorder Treatment

Trees in the forest

CACREP standards make sure counseling programs teach students the skills they need to become therapists. Read about why that matters for eating disorder treatment.

CACREP Accreditation & Eating Disorder Treatment: What’s CACREP? 

The Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) has been around since 1981. CACREP sets standards for master’s and doctoral degrees in counseling and related fields around the world [1]. Programs that meet CACREP standards can become accredited. This accreditation ensures that counseling programs provide high-level education to individuals who are studying to become therapists.

CACREP Accreditation & Why It Matters in Eating Disorder Treatment

Even though CACREP accredits schools and not individuals, seeking a therapist who attended a CACREP accredited school can be helpful. If a therapist graduated from a CACREP accredited school, then their school met appropriate educational standards. This means their education taught them the necessary knowledge and skills necessary for the counseling profession [1].

Eating disorders are a mental illness. Even though eating disorders can lead to medical issues, they are fundamentally a mental health issue. For this reason, eating disorders treatment usually includes therapy from a mental health professional.

This is true throughout different treatment facilities. Whether someone is hospitalized for an eating disorder or they see a therapist weekly, psychotherapy is a standard aspect of eating disorder treatment. For this reason, a therapist with appropriate education and training directly influences the quality of eating disorder treatment someone receives. CACREF standards can help make sure that schools are providing the education that better prepares therapists to treat eating disorders [1].

CACREP Accreditation Standards

There are several different standards that CACREP requires schools to meet before becoming accredited [1]. There are specific standards for clinical mental health counseling programs. These include the following:

  • Foundations- There are several foundational skills for mental health counselors. Some examples include knowing different approaches to counseling and understanding how to do assessments.
  • Context & Mental Health- CACREP refers to this as “contextual dimensions” [1]. This basically means that CACREP expects counseling programs to teach students how mental health can be impacted by different contexts, such as culture, political factors, or trauma. This helps therapists to be able to better understand each person and all the unique factors that influence their mental health.
  • Practice- CACREP accredited counseling programs teach their students different ways to assess and treat different mental health issues [1].

These standards help enhance the quality of education that a therapist receives and means that they have the skills needed to start treating mental health issues [1].

Woman and view

What Else Do Therapists Need to Treat Eating Disorders?

Getting a master’s degree is the first step therapists take to provide mental health counseling. In America, each state has different legal requirements that a therapist has to meet in order to legally provide therapy. These requirements often center around how long they have to be supervised before practicing independently or what state exams they have to pass.

Just because someone has a degree in counseling doesn’t mean that they are qualified to treat eating disorders, though. America also has national ethical standards for therapists. One of these standards explains that therapists should not provide therapy for an issue they don’t have adequate training in.

For many therapists, even CACREP accredited programs don’t prepare them to treat eating disorders. These clinicians may get trained through an eating disorder treatment center or pursue training independently.

While seeing a therapist who graduated from a CACREP accredited school is a step in the right direction, it isn’t the end all be all. Ask a therapist how they were trained to treat eating disorders and how long they have been practicing.

This can give you a clue in to how qualified they are to treat these complex mental health conditions. Asking these types of questions can help you find a therapist who is able to provide safe and effective care.


[1] CACREP. (2021). Understanding accreditation. https://www.cacrep.org/accreditation/

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published May 6, 2021 on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on May 6, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC