Mercer University is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and other international sites approved by the Commission that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degrees. The Commission also accepts applications from other international institutions of higher education. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097 or call (404) 679-4500 for questions about the accreditation at Mercer University. The Commission should only be contacted if there is evidence that appears to support an institution’s significant non-compliance with a requirement or standard.
The School of Medicine Master of Family Therapy Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE).
For the most current information on Mercer University’s accrediting bodies, please refer to the catalogs or online at oie.mercer.edu/accreditations/accred-list.
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)
Accreditation is a voluntary process whose major purpose is to ensure quality in a marriage and family therapy program. All accredited programs are expected to meet or exceed all standards of accreditation throughout their period of accreditation. The integrity of an institution and the program is fundamental and critical to the process of accreditation. Accreditation standards are regarded as minimal requirements for quality training. All accredited programs are free to include other requirements, which they deem necessary and contribute to the overall quality of the program and prepare graduates of the program for licensure.
Programs must continually evaluate themselves in relation to their institution’s mission and their own program mission, goals and educational objectives. Accreditation standards, like other aspects of accreditation, are part of a slowly evolving, continuous process. In the long view, there are continuing conversations among accreditors, training programs, trainees, trained professionals, employers, and consumers from which the standards and other aspects of accreditation evolve.
The Commission has the ability to change standards as needed to meet the evolving needs of the profession. In Version 11 Standards, the Commission made a philosophical shift from input-driven standards to a more outcome-based evaluation. The Commission is earnestly interested in, and actively seeks, all comments and suggestions for modification and improvement to these standards and the process. Vested parties maintain the common goal: the best training, the most competent professionals, and the best service to the public that is realistic and available. The objective of the standards is to assure, as much as possible, that individuals trained in accredited programs are competently trained to become marriage and family therapists at the entry and doctoral levels.
The standards apply to the training of marriage and family therapists and are based on a relational view of life in which an understanding and respect for diversity and non-discrimination are fundamentally addressed, practiced, and valued. Based on this view, marriage and family therapy is a professional orientation toward life and is applicable to a wide variety of circumstances, including individual, couple, family, group, and community problems. It applies to all living systems; not only to persons who are married or who have a conventional family.
The Commission believes that a great area of concern for our profession and accredited programs is the inclusion of racial diversity in our training contexts and in the student body of our programs.
The Commission also seeks to enhance the diversity of our programs in terms of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, physical ability, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status, without disregarding the rights of religiously affiliated institutions and institutions outside of the United States. Religiously affiliated institutions that have core beliefs directed toward conduct within their communities are entitled to protect those beliefs. All institutions are exempt from those standards that would require them to violate the laws of their states or provinces.
Graduates from COAMFTE accredited marriage and family therapy programs are trained to be clinical mental health practitioners. COAMFTE adopts the Standard Occupational Classification of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics which states that MFTs are qualified to “diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, whether cognitive, affective, or behavioral, within the context of marriage and family systems. [They] Apply psychotherapeutic and family systems theories and techniques in the delivery of professional services to individuals, couples, and families for the purpose of treating such diagnosed nervous and mental disorders.”
As a marriage and family therapist, all training is relational, related to context, and culturally sensitive, whether contact hours are relational or individual, whether diagnostic procedure is traditional or relational, and whether a presenting problem is explicitly related to a marriage, a family, or to neither.
The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is a specialized accrediting body that accredits master’s degree, doctoral degree, and post-graduate degree clinical training programs in marriage and family therapy throughout the United States and Canada. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) officially recognizes the COAMFTE. CHEA is a non-governmental organization that works to foster and facilitate the role of accrediting bodies in promoting and insuring the quality and diversity of American post-secondary education. CHEA regularly reviews the policies and practices of COAMFTE for continued recognition.
The COAMFTE is made up of nine (9) Commissioners — seven (7) professional members and two (2) public members. Professional Commission members must be senior marriage and family therapy educators or clinicians. Public members represent the interests of the general public and are not professional marriage and family therapy educators, supervisors or practitioners. In selecting Commission members, every effort is made to maintain a balance with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, and geographic location. The Commission must also reflect a balance regarding academicians and practitioners as well as training contexts (master’s, doctoral, and post-degree).
Purpose of Accreditation
Specialized accreditation of marriage and family therapy programs is a public service that aims to:
- Encourage programs to continue their own self-study and development; and
- Indicate that programs are meeting established standards and their own stated objectives.
This specialized accreditation is both a process and a condition. The process, or the act of accrediting, entails assessing a program’s operations through compliance with specified professional standards developed by a national consensus of professionals in the field. The condition, or the state of being accredited, provides a credential to the public which attests that a program has accepted and is fulfilling its commitment to educational quality.
The COAMFTE works cooperatively with its parent organization, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), state licensing and certification boards, and the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). The COAMFTE program educational standards often serve as the foundation for the development of individual credentialing requirements. The accreditation process is a voluntary process that requires self-study by the program, an on-site review by a selected group of peers, and a review and decision by the COAMFTE to determine compliance with accreditation standards. Once a program has become accredited, it is required to submit annual reports demonstrating continued compliance with standards. Accredited programs are reviewed at least every six years.
Benefits of Accreditation
In fostering quality assurance and program improvement, the COAMFTE’s accreditation process benefits the public, programs, students, and the profession.
- To the public and consumers, accreditation provides assurance that the program has undertaken extensive external evaluation, and meets standards established by the profession.
- Accreditation serves programs by providing a stimulus for self-evaluation and a cost-effective review mechanism which strengthens the reputation and credibility of a program because of the public regard for accreditation. Accredited programs become eligible for funding under several Federal grant programs.
- Students can be assured that the appropriate knowledge and skill areas will be included in the course of study that are necessary for entry into a chosen field and that the program demonstrates financial stability. An accredited degree assures a prospective employer that the student has undertaken a superior course of professional preparation. An accredited degree also allows students to apply for Clinical Membership in AAMFT through the accelerated Accredited Program Track in the absence of state licensure.
- The MFT Profession benefits because specialized accreditation contributes to the unity of the profession. It brings together practitioners, teachers, and students in the vital activity of setting standards for the education of entry level professionals, and of continually improving professional preparation, education, research, scholarship, and clinical practice.
Scope of Accreditation
The COAMFTE’s scope of accreditation includes three types of programs:
- Master’s Degree Programs provide students with broad areas of theory and practice in marriage and family therapy. These programs provide entry level educational requirements for independent clinical practice in the profession. They are designed to prepare individuals for beginning a career in marriage and family therapy by providing basic didactic and clinical skills, as well as professional development and socialization.
- Doctoral Degree Programs prepare students for academic careers, research, advanced clinical practice and supervision. The doctoral curriculum includes advanced instruction in marriage and family therapy research, theory construction and supervision.
- Post-Graduate Degree Clinical Training Programs provide clinical education in marriage and family therapy to trainees with a master’s or doctoral degree in MFT, or in a closely related field. A program may allow for specialized training in a particular modality or treatment population.