Frequently Asked Questions
Here you’ll find answers to some commonly asked questions. If you don’t see your question, please feel free to contact us or give us a call at 703-823-9840.
Accreditation by International Accreditation of Counseling Services (IACS) is a voluntary, peer review, 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, the members of which are directors of counseling services located throughout the United States and internationally. IACS is the only organization that accredits counseling services on university, 4-year college, and 2-year community college campuses.
IACS has been accrediting counseling centers since the late 1940's, originally as a Committee of the National Vocational Guidance Association (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. In 2019, IACS changed its name to International Accreditation of Counseling Services to better reflect its mission.
Accreditation is open to university, 4-year college and 2-year community college counseling services with at least two (2) FTE (Full Time Equivalent) professional staff members.
The IACS‘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 organization.
Standards are reviewed on a continual basis by the Board of Accreditation to ensure they remain current 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 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 considers 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.
Not necessarily. The Standards state that student workers must be assigned tasks limited to their training that do not compromise the confidentiality of clients. Students must not have access to client files or confidential records and they must not do client scheduling.
While keeping in mind that IACS accredits centers/services and not training programs, the Standards do address several 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 most of the client contact hours, questions arise as to whether this unit is a “training center” rather than a “counseling center”.
No, the director should:
- Have an earned Doctorate or Master's degree from a regionally-accredited university, in counseling psychology, clinical psychology, counselor education, social work, marriage and family or other closely related discipline
- Have a minimum of 5 years’ previous experience as a staff member in a clinical and/or counseling setting, at least one of which should be in an administrative supervisory capacity
- Have had a supervised internship, supervised field placement, or equivalent as part of the requirement for the degree, which included clinical assessment, counseling and crisis intervention, preferably with a diverse college-age population
- Be able to provide evidence of involvement and commitment to educational and professional development
- Must have abilities and attributes that enable effective representation of mental health issues
- Hold appropriate state or provincial licensure or certification (exceptions may be considered on an individual basis). If the director is not licensed for autonomous practice, there must be a licensed or certified professional on the staff with an appropriate degree to assist the director in the delivery and supervision of the clinical activities and services of the center.
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 the IACS Standards. These concerns typically involve the independence of the center, the role and functions of the center, and the autonomy of the director.
Full Accreditation may be granted a university or college counseling service that 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 accredited center that currently is not in satisfactory compliance with the Standards.
The current IACS Annual Dues are $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.
Centers are re-evaluated every eight years, and every re-evaluation includes a mandatory field visit. In the intervening years, centers will complete an IACS Annual Report Form and accompanying materials.
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 for centers with a campus student enrollment of 7500 or less, and $2250 for centers with a campus student enrollment of over 7500. The Field Visit Fee must be paid prior to the visit date.
The IACS Advisory Council, staff, officers, and Accrediting Board Members are all highly qualified professionals who are more than willing to assist counseling centers that are sincerely striving to assure quality services.
Any director of an IACS accredited center needing questions answered about issues affecting their accreditation status, or a director from a university, 4-year college, or 2-year community college counseling center that is interested in seeking advice about their counseling center becoming accredited by IACS is welcome to use this free service.
Visit our Site Visitors page to review the criteria for becoming an IACS site visitor. If you are eligible and interested, please contact IACS staff, and we'll send you a Site Visitor Roster Form and additional information. New site visitors are encouraged to attend a Training Workshop presented by IACS Accrediting Board members in conjunction with professional conferences.
The definition of an FTE professional staff member adopted by the IACS Board of Directors is a full time clinical/administrative position, excluding clerical and trainee staff.